House of Lords
Tuesday 24 January 2017
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Durham.
Child Poverty Unit
To ask Her Majesty’s Government why they have abolished the Child Poverty Unit which was sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Education and HM Treasury.
My Lords, tackling child poverty and disadvantage is a priority for this Government, and we are convinced that there is a better approach than the one driven by the Child Poverty Act 2010 income-related targets. This is why we replaced them with statutory measures of parental worklessness and children’s educational attainment—the two areas that can make the biggest difference to children’s outcomes. We will build on these measures through our forthcoming Green Paper on social justice.
My Lords, that does not actually answer the Question. The abolition of the cross-departmental unit is widely seen as downgrading and weakening the government machinery dedicated to the eradication of child poverty. Could the Minister explain how the abolition of a cross-departmental unit co-sponsored by the Department for Education is consistent with the Government’s own analysis of the root causes of poverty as partly lying in children’s educational achievement? Surely their own approach, which rejects what they call a narrow income-based approach, strengthens rather than weakens the case for a cross-departmental unit.
My Lords, I am terribly sorry to say this, but I think I did answer the Question directly. What was the purpose of the child poverty unit? Its purpose was to measure the income-related targets set up by the previous Government. Those targets were a waste of time and we got rid of them. We have now set up something better—the Social Mobility Commission secretariat, based in the Department for Education. As I said in my original Answer, the appropriate measure for these things should be parental worklessness—a responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions—and children’s educational attainment, and those are the two that we will look at.
Have the Government measured in any way the impact on people who fail at school and their relationship to child poverty? Are there any facts and figures so that we can chart whether the policies that the Minister is talking about actually work?
My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord the precise figures he asks for, but what I can say is that we have a secretariat based in the Department for Education looking at these matters, and that goes across the department. If there are any appropriate figures, I would be more than happy to send them to the noble Lord and set out just why, as I made clear in my original Answer, I think that this approach is better than the original measures of child poverty.
My Lords, it is encouraging that the Government have committed to make and measure progress against the root causes of poverty—not only worklessness and educational failure, but also family breakdown, addiction and problem debt. Can the Minister inform this House what progress they have made in developing the additional measures and policies promised?
My Lords, focusing these matters on the Social Mobility Commission secretariat is, I believe, the right way forward. As I also made clear in my original Answer, we will publish a social justice Green Paper shortly. I hope that that will set out what we hope to do, and we look forward to my noble friend’s comments, and those of others, on it. I say again, as I said in my original Answer, that I believe the focus on worklessness and a child’s educational attainment is the proper measure of these matters.
My Lords, the evidence shows that the last Labour Government lifted 1 million children out of poverty. That record is unarguable. The Resolution Foundation has estimated that in 2016 alone, 1 million more children, mostly from working households, have been forced into poverty. How on earth can any Government be proud of such a record, particularly one who say that they are in favour of those who are just about managing?
My Lords, on the measures that the previous Labour Government set forward, we found that in a recession the number of children allegedly in poverty went down, and when incomes were rising, it went up. They were not measuring the right thing. On current measures, using households below average income surveys, we have seen 100,000 fewer children in relative low-income households and 300,000 fewer people in relative poverty. Those figures are before housing costs. We are making progress, and I made it clear in my original Answer that the original measures were not the right way forward and that the child poverty unit was not the right approach.
My Lords, the Minister surely agrees that no child should live in poverty. He might not have any figures but the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that we will see a 50% increase in child poverty in the UK. That is a shocking figure. Perhaps I could be helpful and turn to my area of responsibility: education. The pupil premium has been immensely successful in helping disadvantaged children. Would the Minister let us know, perhaps in writing, whether the electronic eligibility checking system has increased or decreased the number of children who have now been given the pupil premium? I realise that this is not his area.
My Lords, the noble Lord asks me to write to him with those figures and I am more than happy to do as I do not have them in my brief.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that, according to the most recent survey, rent arrears are a serious problem for 85% of new universal credit claimants, which is, of course, a disaster for children in those families? What plans does he have to cut the six-week average waiting time for families to get their rent when they claim benefits, change the system of payment in arrears, particularly for rent, and enable tenants to have the rent element of universal credit paid direct to landlords to prevent these debts arising?
My Lords, these matters were discussed at some length during the passage of the then Welfare Reform and Work Bill last year, and I do not want to rehearse all those arguments. However, I can assure the noble Baroness that some 90% of work benefits were paid on time. We accept that there can be problems with delays for some, and we will deal with that where appropriate. I do not believe it is right that we should start paying benefit direct to landlords. Just as people in work have to pay their rent to landlords, it is right that people on benefit should have the same opportunity.
My Lords, I know the Minister will agree that no child chooses to live in poverty, so when a child is hungry or lives in poor housing, will the Minister and the Government recognise that these are our children, as a society, and that that means we must have good joined-up structures which tackle these issues? Does he also recognise that the abolition of the CPU does not hint at good joined-up structures?
My Lords, I am very grateful to see the right reverend Prelate; in fact I am very grateful to see quite so many most reverend Primates and right reverend Prelates on this occasion. May I assure the right reverend Prelate that we are committed to tackling poverty? We accept that no child has a choice in this matter, but we also say that we have joined-up government on this matter. We have the Social Mobility Commission secretariat based in the Department for Education, which looks at these issues cross-party. We have a social reform Cabinet Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, that includes all the other crucial members of the Cabinet. As the right reverend Prelate and the whole House will know, the Prime Minister herself has made clear her commitment to dealing with such matters.
My Lords, I have one very quick question. The Minister said that when the Government abolished our child poverty targets, they were going to replace them, the Prime Minister then said, with a life chances strategy. We finally discovered in December that it had died before it was even born, the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, notwithstanding. Now the Minister mentions a social justice Green Paper in the new year. Can he tell me two things: when will we get it and what is he going to do in the meantime about the scandal of child poverty in Britain?
My Lords, as I made clear in all the answers I have given, we are making progress on child poverty. We are doing so by using the proper measures, unlike the measures put forward by the previous Government. The noble Baroness asked when we will have the Green Paper: shortly.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their current priorities for the promotion of United Kingdom exports of goods and services.
My Lords, our priority is to put government resources where they can have the greatest impact on UK businesses. The Department for International Trade runs 200 high-value campaigns across a range of markets and sectors. We have a proven framework for analysing where government interventions can add the most value for the benefit of the whole of the UK.
My Lords, surely it is right that, while we should seek to get a bigger share of new and expanding markets in the world, we also need to have an active export promotion strategy with regard to Europe. Will the Minister confirm that being in the single market is no barrier to trading elsewhere, as demonstrated by the fact that Germany exports four to five times as much to China, for example, as we do? Will she also confirm that, while we at present send just under half of our exports to Europe, in some parts of the country that percentage is much higher? In the north-east it is 58%. For our automotive and aerospace industries in particular, which are very heavily integrated in Europe, the European market is going to be vital.
The noble Baroness is absolutely right. I can reassure her that the Prime Minister has been clear: we seek a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union, covering tariff and barrier-free trade in goods and services, offering the fullest possible access to the single market for British companies. In relation to particular areas and sectors, since 2015 the Department for International Trade has carried out extra northern export missions and since 2016, Midlands missions. We have introduced teams to lead investments in the north and the Midlands. We are looking at a whole array of different measures to improve our exporting.
Both the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, and the noble Lord, Lord Price, have told committees of this House that the Government have been conducting an exercise to consider what the costs and burdens on British business would be in leaving the customs union. Now that the Government have their policy to leave the customs union, presumably that assessment has been concluded. Will they publish it so that Parliament is able to consider this before it is asked to vote to trigger Article 50?
I do not have the exact details, but we are looking at all the measures and all the issues moving forward.
Is the Minister aware that her first Answer was deeply encouraging? However, are there not areas where further work needs to be done, particularly, for instance, in revamping the Queen’s Award for Exports, which has not been looked at for decades, or in bringing together the chambers of commerce? Those chambers need to have some form of encouragement to go overseas, particularly in the two or three years ahead.
I assure my noble friend that the Department for International Trade has been engaging widely with individual businesses and trade associations since the referendum and will continue to do so. We are committed to fully understanding the views of stakeholders, limiting uncertainty and ensuring that we build a trading environment that works for everyone.
What percentage of companies in the UK that the Department for International Trade has been dealing with are owned outside the UK so that the key decisions are made in boardrooms outside this country?
I am afraid that I do not have the exact numbers but I will endeavour to write to the noble Lord with that information.
My Lords, are the Government sufficiently satisfied with the uptake by United Kingdom companies on the export finance facilities, and does the Minister believe that the offerings by government are sufficiently robust to act as a tool for post-Brexit export prowess?
The noble Lord asks a valid question. In the last year, UK Export Finance supported the highest number of UK exporters in a quarter of a century, 23% more than in the previous year. However, UKEF is not complacent. The doubling of its capacity announced by the Chancellor will enable even more UK businesses to export. UKEF’s offering is a key component of the UK’s success as a global trading nation.
My Lords, there is time enough for two more questions. We can go first to my noble friend and then to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.
My Lords, services are particularly important to the United Kingdom’s economy, but they by no means always play a prominent part in trade agreements. Can my noble friend assure me that the Government will make it a priority that our services will receive prominence in all trade negotiations?
I agree with my noble friend that services are an important part of our economy. However, we work in a whole range of different sectors and we have market sector priorities; for example, every year we consider which country sector combinations the Government can add most value to. Services are of course a huge part of that. We have to keep it in mind that the UK is the fifth-largest economy in the world. We have leading universities, low tax, low regulation, an economy fuelled by some of the most skilled workers, and the World Bank continues to rank the UK as the highest major economy for ease of doing business, which is one of the reasons so many firms, such as Snapchat, Rolls-Royce, and Nissan, are choosing to invest in the UK.
My Lords, according to the Office for National Statistics, the exports for low-carbon businesses fell by £1 billion between 2014 and 2015. Can we assume that the Government have no interest in promoting such low-carbon businesses?
I can reassure the noble Baroness that we are promoting all parts of our economy.
Taqiyya and Al Hijra
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, as part of their strategy against Islamist terrorism, they will encourage United Kingdom Muslim leaders to re-examine the Muslim tenets of Taqiyya and Al Hijra.
My Lords, as I stated before Christmas, freedom of speech and religion are core values that make our country great. Britain is home to diverse communities, which are free to practise their religion in accordance with the law. The Government’s strategy for tackling Islamist terrorism is firmly based on strengthening our partnership with communities, civil society groups and faith organisations across the country.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness.
I am advised that Taqiyya allows Muslims living outside the Muslim world to be deceptive in their promotion of Islam and that Al Hijra encourages Muslims to emulate Muhammad’s emigration from Mecca to Medina, which he then took over.
Do the Government agree with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who I am glad to see is in his place, who said recently that religious leaders must stand up and take responsibility for extremists who do things in the name of their religion; that in order to defeat terrorism, we need to understand the mind-set of those who perpetrate it; and that it is not helpful to go on claiming that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam?
Is it not time we had an open, national debate about these matters, preferably led by our peaceful Muslim friends?
I most certainly agree with the most reverend Primate, who speaks so much sense on so many things. I also agree that Daesh has nothing to do with Islam. As for the noble Lord’s original Question, both Taqiyya and Al Hijra are very old terms in Islam. We can think of all sorts of terms in all sorts of religions that can seek to misrepresent those religions, and we must take that in context and not allow poisonous twisting of religion to disrupt our society.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, according to the authorities that I have consulted, Taqiyya refers to the Prophet’s flight from Mecca to Medina and is about concealing your own religious beliefs when confronted with the threat of persecution and death? Surely it would be as wrong to criticise Taqiyya as it would be to criticise Jews who concealed their identity in Nazi Germany, or Christians in Raqqa. Is there not a great danger that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will be interpreted as meaning that Islam promotes deceit and lies, and is it not important that he should make clear that is not what he meant?
I totally agree with my noble friend, and as he was asking that question I was thinking about Catholics during the Reformation and Jews during the Second World War. Sometimes religions have to preserve themselves not by denial but by concealment on pain of death.
My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross-Benchers.
My Lords, since the noble Lord is so familiar with the Koran, he will know that it is addressed directly to the believers, and that there are no intermediaries between the Koranic texts and the believers. It is also the case that many of the so-called Muslim terrorists have probably never read the Koran. What is important is not to define terrorism in terms of a faith, but rather to think about why some of the brightest and best young Muslims turn to terrorism, and look at the roots of despair that cause that.
The noble Baroness is addressing her question to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, but I hope I can answer it. We all know that terrorism and terrorist ideals have absolutely nothing to do with faith; they are used to stir up hatred against different faiths. In fact, some of the biggest victims of Daesh have been Muslims.
My Lords, I think the House wishes to hear from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York.
My Lords, first, would the Minister agree that the term Taqiyya came into being at a time of terrible persecution? It did not get invented because people did not want to be difficult or awkward. Of my friends who escaped Amin’s torture, some left dressed as women. You would not say these Christians wanted simply to be deceptive; things have to be read in context. Secondly, the lecture by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was a one-hour lecture in France; he is more than happy to repeat it if your Lordships’ House wants.
I am sure that this House would be very happy and more educated for hearing from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York for putting the whole thing into context. Fleeing persecution is not the same thing as denying your religion.
My Lords, we should leave to one side what appear to me to be blatant attempts to stir up hatred against the Muslim community. Instead, I want to ask the Minister a question on what she said in her Answer about strengthening partnerships with communities. Do the Government agree with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Home Affairs Select Committee that there should be an independent review into the Government’s Prevent strategy, and if not why not?
The noble Lord will know that we regularly review Prevent. In fact, Prevent has been reviewed quite recently, and has been seen to help those who might be targeted by people who wish to put poisonous ideologies into their heads—in other words, the victims of these people—to turn their lives around.
My Lords, given that the meaning of the two concepts has been well laid out before us by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, and their relationship to one another, I wonder whether the intention of the Question is to put British Muslims on notice. Therefore, does the Minister accept that terrorism has no home in any religion and that, in his Question, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is either being naive or it is a wilful act of incitement to Islamophobic prejudice with the presumed intent to insult Islam?
I do not know what is behind the noble Lord’s Question. This is his second Question of the year and perhaps in a future debate he will explain. However, yes, terrorism and religion do not sit together. No religious text promotes terrorism, and terrorism just seeks to twist what our faith teaches us.
Northern Ireland: Legacy Agreement
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by Lord Dunlop on 18 January (HL Deb, col 218) that the “current situation is unsatisfactory”, what action they are taking to implement the legacy package of the Stormont House Agreement.
My Lords, the current situation is unsatisfactory, focusing disproportionately on the 10% of deaths caused by the police and Armed Forces rather than on the 90% caused by terrorists. This Government are committed to implementing the legacy bodies proposed in the Stormont House agreement to ensure a balanced, proportionate and fair approach to addressing Northern Ireland’s past. The Secretary of State has regularly met political parties, victims and their representatives on these issues, and will continue to do so ahead of taking the proposals to a public phase.
My Lords, I am delighted with the response from my noble friend the Minister. Successive Governments, over several decades, sent soldiers, including myself, to Northern Ireland to protect the population from terrorism and violence, be they Catholic or Protestant. Now, some 40 years and more later, old soldiers are being dragged before courts, although there is no new evidence against them. Given the lack of devolved government at the moment, could not Her Majesty’s Government impose the legacy package of the Stormont House agreement—after all, it has been agreed—leading to more proportionate legacy investigations? Secondly, in the particular case of Dennis Hutchins, which my noble friend may not wish to mention, he has been investigated on several occasions—the last time in 2013. He has been told that there is no case to answer, including by a previous Director of Public Prosecutions. Can the Minister perhaps explain how it can be that he is now being dragged before courts at the age of 75, when all his defence witnesses—former soldiers—have died?
First, I recognise my noble friend’s great experience of these matters, having himself served, as he said, in the Armed Forces in Northern Ireland and as a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. We remain unstinting in our admiration and support for the police and the Armed Forces. We clearly want to build consensus on the way forward on how to deal with the past. I do not think that it would be right to impose. We want to build that consensus, and that is what we will focus on in the weeks ahead.
My Lords, in dealing with the past, the Labour Party totally agrees with the Minister that there has to be a consensus. I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that, on balance, party contacts with Ministers during an election could prove too difficult. But the Secretary of State and his team should use the time, along with the Irish Government as guarantors, to prepare for a full reinstatement of Stormont. There is nothing more important than the restoration of Stormont so that the legacy issue can be carried forward with agreement. Does the Minister also agree that the Secretary of State should instigate proposals to facilitate this and be a driver in this process?
Re-establishing a fully functioning Executive after the election is an absolute priority for the Government. As I have said in this House many times before, we will leave no stone unturned to achieve that. Dealing with legacy is absolutely one of those issues where we require fully functioning devolved institutions. We need to build on the discussions that the Secretary of State has already had with the political parties so that we can move forward as soon as we can after the election.
My Lords, amid the political turmoil and lack of decorum in the Northern Ireland Assembly and among its politicians, will the Government ensure their full support for Secretary of State Brokenshire in his responsibility to prevent Barra McGrory being allowed to intimidate and threaten the press, hence hindering people like me by the supposedly confidential instructions he has issued from his office? I point out for the benefit of those who do not know that Barra McGrory is the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions, was a one-time adviser to Adams and McGuinness and was the person who advocated that IRA terrorists should not be prosecuted for historical crimes.
The DPP is independent, and prosecutorial decisions are independently taken. I do not think it would be right for me to comment further.
The Process for Triggering Article 50
My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement made in the other place earlier today by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The Statement is as follows.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will now make a Statement on the Government’s response to today’s judgment by the Supreme Court.
This Government are determined to deliver on the decision taken by the people of the United Kingdom in the referendum granted to them by this House to leave the European Union. So we will move swiftly to do just that. I can announce today that we will shortly introduce legislation allowing the Government to move ahead with invoking Article 50, which starts the formal process of withdrawing from the EU. We received the lengthy 96-page judgment just a few hours ago. Government lawyers are assessing it carefully.
But this will be a straightforward Bill. It is not about whether or not the UK should leave the EU. That decision has already been made by the people of the United Kingdom. We will work with colleagues in both Houses to ensure that this Bill is passed in good time for us to invoke Article 50 by the end of March this year, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has set out. This timetable has already been supported by this House.
Let me now go through the issues step by step. The Government’s priority following the European Union referendum has been to respect the outcome, as promised by both sides in the campaign, and to ensure that it is delivered in the interest of the whole country. This House voted by six to one to put the decision in the hands of the voters, and that Bill passed the other place unopposed. So there can be no going back. The point of no return was passed on 23 June.
The Government have also always been clear that we must leave by following the process set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. People want and expect us to get on with implementing the decision that was made.
Let me now turn more specifically to the process for invoking Article 50 and the issues that arise from today’s Supreme Court judgment. The Government’s view, which we argued in both the High Court and subsequently in the Supreme Court, was that it was constitutionally proper and lawful for the Government to begin to give effect to the decision of the people by the use of prerogative powers to invoke Article 50. Today the Supreme Court has agreed with the High Court’s view that prerogative power alone is insufficient to give notice under Article 50, and that legislation is required in order to provide the necessary authorisation for this step.
In addition, the Supreme Court considered the roles of the devolved legislatures in the process of triggering Article 50. On this, the Supreme Court ruled:
‘Relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions’.
The Supreme Court’s summary goes on to say:
‘The devolved legislatures do not have a veto on the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU’.
I will come back to our collaboration with the devolved Administrations later in this Statement.
The Government have been giving careful thought to the steps that we would need to take in the event of the Supreme Court upholding the High Court’s view. First of all, let me be clear that we believe in and value the independence of our judiciary, the foundation on which our rule of law is built. So of course we will respect this judgment.
Secondly, as I have already made clear, this judgment does not change the fact that the UK will be leaving the EU, and it is our job to deliver on the instruction that the people of the UK have given us. Thirdly, we will within days introduce legislation to give the Government the legal power to trigger Article 50 and begin the formal process of withdrawal. It will be separate from the great repeal Bill that will be introduced later this year to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. This will be the most straightforward Bill possible to give effect to the decision of the people and respect the Supreme Court’s judgment. The purpose of the Bill is simply to give the Government the power to invoke Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the EU. That is what the British people voted for, and that is what they would expect. Parliament will rightly scrutinise and debate this legislation. But I trust that no one will seek to make it a vehicle for attempts to thwart the will of the people, or to frustrate or delay the process of our exit from the EU.
Fourthly, our timetable for invoking Article 50 by the end of March still stands. That timetable has given valuable certainty to citizens and businesses in the UK and across Europe. It is understood by our European partners and provides a framework for planning the negotiation ahead. This House itself backed this timetable by a majority of 373 in December. So we look forward to working closely with colleagues in Parliament to ensure that legislation on Article 50 is passed in good time to allow us to invoke it by the end of March, as planned.
The Government’s fifth and final principle for responding to this judgment is to continue to ensure that we deliver an exit that is in the best interests of the whole of the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court has ruled clearly in the Government’s favour on the roles of the devolved legislatures in invoking Article 50. But while this provides welcome clarity, it in no way diminishes our commitment to work closely with the people and Administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as we move forward with our withdrawal from the European Union.
Let me conclude with a word on what today’s judgment means for the United Kingdom, and the nature of our democracy. I know that this case, on an issue of such importance which arouses strong views on all sides, has not been without controversy. But the court was asked a question, a proper, thorough and independent process was gone through, and it has given its answer in law. We are a law-abiding nation: indeed, the United Kingdom is known the world over for the strength and independence of its legal system. We will build on this and our many other strengths as we leave the European Union. We will once again be a fully independent, sovereign country, free to make our own decisions.
The Prime Minister has already set out a comprehensive plan, including our core negotiating objectives. She has been clear that we want a new, positive and constructive partnership for the United Kingdom and the European Union—a partnership that would be good for the United Kingdom and good for the rest of Europe.
Today we are taking the necessary step to respect the Supreme Court’s decision, by announcing a Bill. It will now be up to this Parliament to respect the decision it entrusted to the people of the United Kingdom—a decision they took on 23 June. I commend this Statement to the House”.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I thank also the Supreme Court judges for doing their constitutional job: as they made clear, not commenting on the wisdom or timing of Brexit, but on how UK law—our law—requires the Government to act.
So here we have it. The Government failed to make the referendum binding, leaving it advisory, which helped to fuel the uncertainty that has ended only today. Once we knew the outcome of the referendum, the Government failed to take the sensible route: to get Parliament, effectively, to ratify the outcome by agreeing to trigger Article 50. Then the Government failed to heed the High Court view that it was for Parliament, not Ministers, to take this step. So the Supreme Court has ruled—as we expected—that Parliament must authorise the Prime Minister to start the exit negotiations by invoking Article 50.
So we are today where we should have been on 24 June: with Parliament to take the decision, albeit with the Government determining the timetable. The court has ended the uncertainty over the process for triggering Article 50. However, there is still one large, outstanding matter—the remaining uncertainty. What is the plan? What is the framework which the Government intend should guide their negotiations on our relationship with the EU 27 post exit? What is the plan for how we leave and for our future trading and other relationships with the EU 27?
It is no good saying that the plan is a speech that the Prime Minister gave, not even in Parliament but to ambassadors at Lancaster House. That is not sufficient for Parliament—for this House, the Commons or indeed the Select Committee—to be able to scrutinise whether the Government’s objectives are the right ones for the UK and whether their negotiations are achieving those objectives.
We need to know how the emerging post-Brexit relationship will promote jobs and the economy; how it will protect environmental, social and consumer rights; how it will ensure that all parts of our nation—rural areas as well as cities—will benefit; and how the Government will ensure that our trade with the EU—and beyond—can be free of tariff and non-tariff barriers.
This House needs to examine the Government’s exit plan. Our EU Committees are doing splendid work on the detail of available options. We need to measure the Government against the evidence that they are producing on costs and benefits.
Today simply says how the exit process should be started. Will the Minister say when the Article 50 Bill will be published and whether it will include a plan for how we exit the EU? We will be watching the Government from now on, to ensure that they negotiate in the interests of all our people, and with the consent of this House and the other place.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement.
We should at least be grateful for the clarity of today’s ruling. This was, however, a completely unnecessary legal procedure. If the Government had brought forward shortly after the referendum the Bill which the court has now forced upon them, it would now be safely enacted and much time, effort and cost saved. It is a sign of the robustness of our constitutional arrangements that a private citizen can require the Government, against their will, to play by the rules, but it is greatly to the Government’s discredit that this was ever necessary.
Now we have the Bill, I should make clear what the stance of these Benches will be. On 23 June, the British people did not vote for a particular version of Brexit, and the majority of people certainly did not support leaving the single market—a course on which the Government are now firmly set. We will therefore seek to amend the Bill to provide for a referendum to be held when we know the terms the Government have been able to negotiate. The Government may have a mandate to start Brexit negotiations; they certainly do not have a mandate to impose harsh Brexit terms on the country.
Can the Minister give us any further information about the planned timetable of the Bill through your Lordships’ House? It will clearly not be possible to maintain the normal minimum intervals between stages of the Bill if we are to deal with it by the end of March. We understand that but can the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not attempt to ram the Bill through in a few days, as appears to be the case in the Commons?
The Government say that the timetable for invoking Article 50 by 31 March,
“has given valuable certainty to citizens and businesses in the UK and across Europe”.
Can the Minister explain precisely what certainty has been given to the millions of EU citizens living in the UK, and those UK citizens living in the EU? The Government’s Statement says that they will,
“work closely with the people and Administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as we move forward”.
Can he tell the House exactly what form that commitment will take over the period between now and 31 March?
Finally, in view of the Government’s reluctance to involve Parliament in triggering Article 50, can the Minister confirm that as the negotiations unfold the UK Parliament will, as has been promised, receive information on their content and progress to at least the same extent as the European Parliament will be informed about progress by the EU Commission?
I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their statements—that revealing statement, indeed, which I will come back to. Let me first pick up the noble Baroness’s point about the process the Government have followed to date. It is clear, as I have repeated at this Dispatch Box and as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has repeated at the Dispatch Box in the other place, that the Government believed in the use of the royal prerogative on this matter from 23 June. We made our case to the High Court and we believe that this is of considerable constitutional significance. It obviously has an impact on the triggering of Article 50, but goes beyond that. There was a point at which we believed that we needed to clarify this and have the certainty of the proper way forward. That is why we took the action that we did.
As regards the plan, last week my right honourable friend the Prime Minister set out our approach and answered in considerable depth and detail questions that a number of your Lordships and Members of the other place, including those on the Labour Benches, have legitimately been asking. We have set out our approach. Let me just set out what we have said because the issue here is one of outcomes, is it not? It is what we are intending to achieve in the negotiations.
For the avoidance of doubt, let me list for your Lordships what the Prime Minister said. She said that we will leave the single market. She set out our aims as regards customs arrangements. She said that we would no longer be a part of the CET and the CCP. She set out the type of free-trade agreement that we are after, and a broader partnership on issues such as justice and home affairs. She set out our wish for closer co-operation on international issues. She said that we wished no longer to be part of a European Court of Justice but recognise that most international agreements require some form of dispute recognition. She said that we aim to negotiate such an agreement within two years but that we want a smooth transition—an implementation phase, as many treaties have. She said—the noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked about this—that we wish to have a speedy resolution to the issue of EU UK nationals and that we would raise it as soon as we could. She said that we wish to take control of immigration, to protect workers’ rights and to bring EU law into UK law, which we will do under the great repeal Bill. She said that we will maintain the common travel area with Ireland and that we will continue to co-operate with EU partners on science, research and development.
The Prime Minister set out in some depth and detail what is in our national interest; our overall approach to the key issues; what we intend to achieve, and what happens if we do not achieve it. The only answers we have not given fulfil the principle that I have set out from this Dispatch Box from day one: it must be in the Government’s interests not to give away anything that could be in the national interest when it comes to the negotiations.
Regarding the reaction to the speech last week, let me remind your Lordships what our European partners have said. Have they said that they wish for more clarity? The German Chancellor said, “The Prime Minister has given us a clear impression of how the UK wants to move forward”. The Belgian Prime Minister said, “The Prime Minister has clarified the future for her country”. The Hungarian Foreign Minister welcomed the speech as “straightforward, open and clear”. The Slovakian Prime Minister congratulated the Prime Minister for clarifying the position of the British Government: “It brings a clear signal about the direction the British Government want to take”. That is the Government’s position. That is how we set out the approach and this is the way we are going.
On what the noble Lord, Lord Newby, said, I know it has been his party’s position for some time to have a second referendum. For those who wish to have certainty, there is nothing worse than having a second referendum at the end of this process. Secondly, I would gently point out to the noble Lord and to noble Lords around him that we in this House, as an unelected Chamber, need to tread with considerable care on this issue as we proceed.
The process of the Bill will be a matter for the usual channels, and I expect there will be a Business Statement in due course. There will indeed be room for scrutiny of the Bill and, on that note, I will sit down.
My Lords, the time for Back-Bench questions has been extended to 40 minutes. I invite your Lordships to observe the usual rotational sequence—or Buggins’s turn, for want of a better phrase. Of course, the shorter the interventions, the more contributions there can be.
My Lords, your Lordships’ Constitution Committee expressed the view that it would be constitutionally appropriate that Parliament should be consulted before the triggering of Article 50. We therefore welcome the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment, even though we might not have chosen the route whereby the Government approached it. I congratulate my right honourable friend the Lord Advocate for Scotland on winning the Supreme Court’s unanimous rejection—including by two Scottish judges—of the Scottish Government’s attempt to extend their powers into reserved matters, even though the risk of that was engendered by somewhat unwise wording in the Scotland Act 2016. Are there other implications for the Sewel convention in the future handling of Brexit?
Although I believe the Government were right and it was their duty to pursue the appeal to obtain clarity on the position of the royal prerogative overall, can my noble friend confirm that the royal prerogative is unaffected by the judgment, except in so far as it affects the triggering of Article 50?
I thank my noble friend for the work of his committee and take this opportunity to thank all the European Select Committees in this House and the other committees that are making such a valuable contribution in scrutinising Brexit. Long may this continue.
It is very useful that the ruling gave such clarity on the position of the devolved Administrations. It is a 96-page ruling. Our lawyers are studying it in depth and detail. I will not go further at this juncture about the royal prerogative; nor, likewise, about the Sewel convention.
My Lords, would the Minister be kind enough to provide the House with the Government’s best estimate of the percentage of people in Britain who voted for the hard Brexit chosen by the Prime Minister?
My Lords, I dispute that the Prime Minister has chosen what others label a hard Brexit. I know noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches may disagree. The view of those on the Labour Benches in the other place, and certainly of the Government, is that we are negotiating a new partnership and a free trade agreement with our European partners. This approach is one that honours and respects the views of the British people, as set out in the referendum. They voted to leave the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, is shaking his head. I am very sorry but that is what we are going to do.
“It is our duty as those who serve the public to make sure the country does the best it can with the decision they have taken. In. Out. When the British people have spoken you do what they command”.
I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, agrees with that because those were his own words on the night of the referendum.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement. When the Prime Minister spoke at Lancaster House, in a very welcome statement right at the end of her speech she said that both Houses would have an opportunity to pronounce on the outcome. Will the legislation that the Government bring forward encapsulate that undertaking in some form? Will the time available for both Houses to comment on the outcome be sufficient?
I believe we will have sufficient time. On the content of the Bill, I have to say to the noble Lord that good things come to those who wait.
My Lords, is it not clear that one speech by the Prime Minister at Lancaster House—not even in Parliament—full of aims and intentions, does not constitute a coherent Brexit plan? It does not safeguard national well-being, nor does it begin to satisfy the requirements of parliamentary scrutiny. Will the Government now heed and implement the unanimous recommendation of the House of Commons Select Committee on Brexit in seeking a White Paper to put before both Houses of Parliament that will give proper detail to negotiating priorities and, crucially, specify how the Government’s commitment to conclude a comprehensive free trade agreement can feasibly be fulfilled by the end of the two-year negotiation triggered by Article 50—in the Minister’s own words—given that Article 218 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union will require the assent of 27 member states, 37 regional and national parliaments and the European Parliament?
The noble Lord speaks with considerable experience of the EU, and I absolutely heed that. I have little to add to what I said a moment ago about the plan. The noble Lord raised a number of points in his question. With regard to the timeframe, we are approaching this from a unique position. We have been a member of the EU for over 40 years and, as such, many of its laws and regulations are deeply embedded in our way of life. Therefore, unlike other member states that have negotiated agreements with the EU, we are starting from a position not just of convergence but of being completely identical to the EU. This puts us in a great position for getting to a position where we can reach such an agreement, which I believe is in the interests of our country and the EU.
On safeguarding the prosperity of this country, the position that the Prime Minister set out in her lengthy speech last week will do just that. It will be a matter for negotiation but we are seeking to achieve the freest and most frictionless access to European markets, which I believe is something that the Labour Party also agrees with, which is extremely welcome.
Will my noble friend accept that I welcome this Statement and this procedure—although, frankly, it would have been rather better if it had been earlier, and indeed it would have been a lot less expensive? But that is by the way.
I ask him to answer two questions arising. First, can he confirm that HMG can now get on with discussing free trade arrangements and similar trade-smoothing arrangements with all the large markets of the world, regardless of any rulings that may come from Brussels about limitations on doing so? Can we get on with that informally? Secondly, when it comes to objectives, is not the point that we cannot possibly set our final objectives in stone when there are so many doubts about what the rest of the EU really wants? As the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, has just reminded us, there are many voices. If we do not know what they really want from the system, how could it be right to set our own objectives firmly in stone in advance?
I start by thanking my noble friend for his advice and wisdom in many fora. He says lawyers are expensive. Yes, some lawyers are expensive, as a number of your Lordships will know. As regards free trade agreements, the key word he used was “informally”. We are bound by the duty of sincere co-operation, which means that at this juncture we should not be entering into formal negotiations with non-EU states. It is absolutely right that we continue to honour the spirit and the letter of that because we have said all along—and we shall continue to abide by this—that we wish to negotiate in good faith with our European partners.
As regards the objectives, clearly we have set out our overall aims. The Prime Minister did so last week. There will be a matter of negotiation and it will be a matter of negotiation among our European partners. As with any negotiation, we shall see what emerges from that.
My Lords, is the Minister, in referring to the commitment of the Government to work closely with the devolved Administrations, aware of the opportunity arising from the White Paper published yesterday morning here in London by the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, with support from Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats, based on the possibility of a single market linkage scheme? This might well meet the difficulties being faced in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. Will he give a firm assurance that the details of these proposals will be considered carefully?
I thank the noble Lord for that. It gives me a good opportunity to say yes, absolutely. If he would like to meet me to discuss it I should be happy to do so. The proposals issued by the Scottish Government are also being given careful consideration. We shall continue to co-operate and consult with representatives of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales. As I said last week, despite events in Northern Ireland, we shall ensure that the views of the Northern Irish politicians and their representatives are properly heeded.
A strong theme running through the Statement is that the British people have given an instruction that must be acted on. Indeed, the Minister himself has just talked about a command that must be obeyed. How does this square with the Burkean understanding of our representative democracy whereby Members of Parliament are elected not to carry out the commands of people but to use their best judgment for the well-being of the United Kingdom as a whole?
I thank the noble and right reverend Lord for that contribution. I would be happy to have a long debate about the role of referenda in our constitution. We had such a debate when the referendum Bill was passing through this House and the other place. As I said in the Statement, it was a choice that the representatives of the people made to give this choice to the British people. We could start pinging quotations from Burke between us. I could quote back to him from what I seem to remember was a 1911 lecture by Dicey in which he said that the role of referenda trumped the role of party and extolled its virtues, but maybe we could leave that for another day.
The leave campaign spent a lot of time emphasising the importance of parliamentary sovereignty. We fought a civil war 360 years ago about parliamentary sovereignty versus the royal prerogative and, as the Government know, the parliamentary side won. We fought two wars in the 20th century during which Parliament went on sitting and scrutinising the Government and debating government policy in the way they conducted the war. We defended parliamentary democracy. I do not see how this Government can say that they cannot fully engage Parliament and inform Parliament on something that is not as dreadful as a war but has major implications for the economy, the political system, the foreign policy and the security of this country to carry Parliament with them, because we are a parliamentary democracy.
I heed some of the points that the noble Lord is making, but I simply point out the process that was gone through. There was a general election in which the Conservative Party promised to hold a referendum. Then this House and the other place passed the legislation to give that choice to the British people. The British people then made the decision. Now we will have a series of votes: one on the triggering of Article 50; another on the great repeal Bill to repeal the ECA; others will follow on both secondary and primary legislation—I suspect that we will be here for a number of hours debating those, to say the least. After that, at the end of the process, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, there will be a vote on the treaty.
That is how we will continue to engage Parliament. It is a substantial process. Let me repeat a point that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has made many times. It would be completely unacceptable for the European Parliament to get more information than this House and the other place. Therefore, we will endeavour to ensure that this House gets as much information as the European Parliament.
My Lords, I am sure that we are reassured by those last comments, but does my noble friend accept that those of us who were disappointed by the result of the advisory referendum nevertheless accept that the constitutional position of this House is inferior to that of the elected House, and that it is therefore important that we do not take action in this House that seeks to frustrate the will of the elected House?
I thank my noble friend for those very wise words. I heed them and very much welcome the statement that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, made some time ago that the Labour Benches do not seek to block the triggering of Article 50.
My Lords, following that question from the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, my heart and emotions are with Edmund Burke, but my political head tells me that we are in 2017, with an extraordinarily delicate situation in terms of the way in which the British people regard politicians of all ilks and the establishment. Would it not be foolish in the extreme if this House, as an unelected body, placed itself in confrontation with the bulk of the British people, many of whom will have voted to stay in the European Union but would find it inexplicable if this House blocked in any way the forthcoming single clause Bill to allow the Government to implement Article 50? It would be unthinkable to do so. I appeal to your Lordships’ House not to place itself in confrontation with the British people.
I thank the noble Lord for those extremely wise words. I concur with him absolutely. As I said, the Government are intent on delivering the outcome of the referendum, and we will see that through.
My Lords, would the Minister like to hazard a guess as to whether provision for a post-negotiation referendum would be within the scope of an Article 50 Bill?
I think the noble Lord answers the question himself by asking whether I would like to hazard a guess. I do not like guessing at the Dispatch Box.
I welcome the clarity of the court’s decision, which is good and desirable, but should not have been necessary because, just as the Minister says that the rule of law is very important, so too is the supremacy of Parliament. That made the first application to court unnecessary, in my view. I go to what I think is a crucial issue. Recently, the Prime Minister and one or two other Ministers have been making the point that the end product must be a very close partnership between the UK and EU. What has troubled me throughout this process has been people talking as if that is of minor importance. We do not know how these negotiations will pan out, but I know that if the EU and the UK do not have a close partnership economically and politically, the only people who will benefit are those who do not want the European Union to succeed and are not friends of the United Kingdom.
The noble Lord makes a good point which I endorse and echo. Let me repeat what I said at the Dispatch Box last week and the Prime Minister said in her speech. It is absolutely in our interests, as the noble Lord has implied, that we continue to see a strong, stable and prosperous European Union, and that we continue to collaborate closely and co-operate wherever possible. The intent behind the approach the Prime Minister set out in is to form a new partnership along those lines. It is therefore not in our interests to see instability across Europe nor to see Europe, in the words of the noble Lord, falling apart in some way.
The answer to the Burkeian point is surely that we have not been elected to anything. On that basis, it would be unthinkable for us to frustrate the will of the people at whatever stage.
I am delighted that consensus is breaking out between this side of the House and the Benches opposite on this point. I do hope that other noble Lords will bear that in mind.
I do not want to upset anybody but the reality is that this House is nothing more than a very large sub-committee of the other place. We do not have the last word—that lies with the elected House. The only real function we have when revising legislation—and this is misunderstood outside—is to ask the other place to think again. The means we have for doing that is sending amendments. It would be very useful if, when we debate this Bill and there are opposing views and we ask the other place to think again, we do not have Ministers, or anybody else, talking about constitutional crises. This place cannot have the last word. A Government defeat in your Lordships’ House is simply a request to the Commons to look at the issue again—that is all it is.
I agree with the noble Lord but although I am a relative newcomer to your Lordships’ House I certainly would not call it a sub-committee. I believe that this House performs a valuable role in scrutinising legislation and, as I have said all along, in kicking the tyres of government policy to see that it is both roadworthy and does the right thing. That is something the Government wish to see right the way through the process of Brexit and I am delighted with, and thankful for, the contribution your Lordships have made so far.
Does my noble friend accept that if Parliament were to accept the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to treat the referendum as advisory and then decided that this country should not leave the EU, there would be no option for those of us who were in the majority in voting to leave other than to take to the streets and probably start breaking things?
My Lords, I can only say that I very much hope that that does not happen. Considering the comments that your Lordships have made and the very constructive approach of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, I am sure that we will avoid it.
I understand that all the national parliaments in the European Union will be requested to ratify this process. If any of them votes against it, will that in anyway complicate Brexit?
That is a very interesting point. We need to be clear about the processes for ratification. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who I do not think is here, is the author of Article 50 and is bound to correct me but as I understand it Article 50 sets out one process and there may be another process for the final treaty. That process could be mixed if it is an extensive deal, or not. So, there are a number of routes forward on this point.
My Lords, the refrain we have heard time after time is, “The people have decided”. Does the Minister not agree that as the weeks and months go by, simply saying, “The people decided this, the people decided that”, will hardly be satisfactory, especially when the debate comes to tariffs and specifics? Does the Minister agree that answering every question in that way over the next year will simply not wash?
I am sorry but I have to gently disagree with noble Lord on this point. As I said, we did not simply arrive at this situation through the people’s decision. Representatives in this place and, most notably, the other place, made decisions and voted on legislation—especially the decision to give the British people the choice in the referendum. That is how this was decided.
As to the specifics, we are getting to the nub of the matter here. If we start having debates in this House about the process of negotiation on certain levels of tariffs, or other such things, that would be a considerable gift to those on the other side of the negotiating table. I say again: we must ensure that we do not get to that situation. We will, of course, give further information where we can, but we have to guard the national interest.
Does the Minister agree that the Bill which will come to this House is essentially about process, not outcomes? The way we handle our processes is different from how we may argue about outcomes at the end of this whole two-year period. The use of language which may occasionally sound threatening is very unhelpful if, at the end of the two-year period, we are to end up with a country which can go forward in a reconciled, prosperous and flourishing way. I hope the Minister agrees that those who, like the judges, have quite rightly come to an unbiased and impartial opinion, should be defended against criticism, as should the person who brought the case. We need to take our processes calmly and quietly, without issuing threats and with an eye to the unity of this country.
I entirely endorse every word said by the most reverend Primate. I completely agree about the substance of the Bill: this is about the process. That is made quite clear in the summary of the judgment itself. Regarding language, we need to try and build a national consensus, as far as possible, around the approach we are taking and intemperate language will certainly not help that. We will disagree, in this House and in the other place, but we need to respect where others are coming from while respecting the views of the British people as expressed in the referendum. The most reverend Primate is absolutely right about the process we have just gone through. Due process was followed; individuals, completely at liberty to exercise their rights, took the decision to bring a case and it was heard. That is their right; the court has spoken and we will now respect its judgment.
Does my noble friend agree that the analysis made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, about this House and how we relate to the other place is absolutely right? Building on the theme raised by the most reverend Primate, we need to bear in mind over the next few months that a lot of people who voted for Brexit—and people who did not necessarily vote to leave but who are behind the change that underpins the referendum—will be looking to the motives of this House when we table amendments and debate them. Does my noble friend agree?
I thank my noble friend for her thoughtful contribution, with which I entirely agree and which builds on what I was saying. We need to proceed with respect for differing opinions and for the outcome of the referendum itself. We need to continue to build a national consensus around our approach in which people are not questioning the motives of those who wish to debate the issue.
My Lords, is it not the case that, in a democracy, there are those who agree and those who disagree with a decision. Some 48% of the population disagreed with the way the Government are now going. Is there not democratic legitimacy in standing up for those 48% who voted against?
My Lords, I disagree on the basic principle. The Government wish to deliver on the outcome of the referendum, pure and simple, and that is what we intend to do.
Will my noble friend confirm that the Conservative manifesto at the 2015 election contained a clear commitment to implement the outcome of the referendum, whatever that outcome was? Surely the conduct of negotiations on international matters is a matter for the Executive, with Parliament then to scrutinise their outcome? That is the way we have done things throughout our history.
My noble friend knows a lot about our nation’s history and he is absolutely right. As I said, we will furnish Parliament with the necessary information to do that. Surprisingly enough, I have the Conservative manifesto in my folder. On page 72 it says, very clearly:
“We will hold that in-out referendum before the end of 2017 and respect the outcome”.
As the Minister has the manifesto with him, can he quote to us what that same manifesto said about our commitment to the European single market?
Yes, I am happy to do so. That was in relation to the negotiations that we wished to conduct. We have conducted them. Now that the people have said in the referendum what they wish to do, we are going to leave the EU—and in that process we will leave the single market.
My Lords, in the Statement the Secretary of State indicated that there would be consultation with the devolved institutions. The Minister will be aware that the Northern Ireland Executive are out of business, and while some Ministers are hanging on, they have no power to speak on behalf of the Northern Ireland Assembly. How then do Her Majesty’s Government intend during this critical period to ensure that there is proper consultation with the parties, given the fact that even on the best estimates there will be no Executive in place before Article 50 is triggered?
The noble Lord raises an extremely good point. As I intimated earlier, we are taking due steps to ensure that the views of the Northern Irish people are heard in this lull. I am happy to meet the noble Lord and discuss that—with my ministerial colleague, Robin Walker, who is also intimately involved—and to explain exactly what we are doing.
My Lords, can the Minister explain to me why his Government are so afraid to put the final deal agreed back to the British people for their vote? If the Government were confident that it would be a deal that the British people felt fulfilled the promises and commitments made, and was good for the future of the country, they would be confident of an overwhelming victory in that referendum. Is it because they believe the British people would be so disappointed and feel such a sense of betrayal that they dare not put the final deal back to them? Is that the rationale?
No, my Lords, I dispute that, because I do not think the British people will feel a sense of betrayal, given the approach that the Prime Minister set out in her speech last week.
My Lords, does my noble friend welcome the fact that the Supreme Court, while asking Parliament to take the decision to trigger Article 50, also made it very clear that it was not its own job to decide how that Bill should be phrased or how that question should be put to Parliament? Was that not a helpful constitutional clarification?
It was indeed. There are a number of important constitutional clarifications on that point, and on the Sewel convention. As I have said, our lawyers are studying the judgment in full, and I am sure there will be other issues that noble Lords may wish to raise in due course, once your Lordships too have had the opportunity to read all 96 pages.
My Lords, since the Minister has set out clearly the process—we are discussing the process and not the outcome—what will be the process after the European Parliament rejects the agreement with the United Kingdom?
The noble Lord is now jumping several steps ahead, and making a big assumption. I am sure that the Members of the European Parliament, too, will see sense when this is presented to them.
My Lords, has the Minister sought any clarity on the position of the Liberal Democrats, who have been so passionately in favour of decisions being made on a proportionate basis of votes, and who now seem to consider that 48% is a majority? Could he also clear up with them, while he is at it—as they were so strongly opposed, in the initial stages, to having one referendum, yet now seem to want two—whether two would be sufficient for them? Or maybe we would need more after that.
The noble Lord makes a very good point. I must say that it does not seem very liberal, or very democratic, to say that the views of the majority should be ignored—and I very much hope that the Liberal Democrats will help us ensure the speedy passage of the legislation that the Government will put forward in due course.
My Lords, I think fairness indicates that we expect to hear from UKIP and then from the Lib Dem Benches.
My Lords, can I press the noble Lord on his answer to the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney? What happens if we get to the end of this process and the European Parliament does not agree the result? At that point would the Government be prepared to consider the sanctity, or otherwise, of Article 50? In that respect, are the Government aware of the article in MoneyWeek on 21 November from Dr Ingrid de Frankopan, who advises merely following the first clause of Article 50, which says that a country can leave the European Union,
“in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”?
Our constitutional requirements could be an Act of Parliament and the will of the British people, so at that point will we still feel bound by Article 50? It is, after all, only a clause in an international treaty, and we are covered for our withdrawal from that treaty by the Vienna convention on treaties. Will the Government get ready to flex their muscles if the European Parliament behaves as unreasonably as it usually does?
I am not going to get into hypotheticals, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, a moment ago. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, threw a phrase into his question when he said that Article 50 is only a clause, as if it is something that we could ignore. That has not been the Government’s position all along. We believe that we need to abide by and observe our obligations and responsibilities as set out in the treaties that we have signed up to as a member of the EU. That is what we will continue to do. As regards the end of the process, the process has not even begun so I am not even going to start to hypothesise as to where we might be towards the end of it.
My Lords, as the noble Lord has rightly pointed out, we must respect the fact that the majority—52%—voted to leave the European Union. However, it is in everyone’s interest—even the 48% who voted against—to know how we are going to do that, and what that means for them. Many of the people who are speaking want to know more about the implications. People out there in the country are very concerned. They feel insecure about their future, their jobs and their children. The young people in particular to whom I have spoken express great concern about what the future holds for them. Surely we are talking about process. The implications were not on the ballot paper. No one said anything about leaving the single market and what the implications of that would be. No one ever mentioned that. In fact, when it was mentioned, it was dismissed as scaremongering by the leavers, so very many questions were never answered properly during the campaign that now need to be answered and addressed. My next point is very important. Will the noble Lord put on record that the abuse Gina Miller has had to endure—I heard her on the radio today speaking of death threats and the like—has no place in our society?
I completely agree with the noble Baroness that such abuse has absolutely no place in our society. As I said to the most reverend Primate, there is absolutely no reason for that. The court was simply doing what it is there to do, which is to hear a case. People are entitled to bring those kind of cases and they should continue to be entitled to do that. That is what the basis of our rule of law is all about and we must do all we can to protect it. As regards the first part of the noble Baroness’s question, I dispute what she is saying in the sense that I believe that the implications of leaving the European Union were set out pretty clearly in the referendum campaign by both sides. Indeed, I have somewhere here long lists of those on both sides of the campaign saying what a vote to leave would mean, especially that a vote to leave would mean leaving the single market. Therefore, I do not believe that that was unclear. As regards the uncertainty, I concur: obviously there will be uncertainty in a period of change such as this. The Government are doing what they can to set out wherever possible how we will bring certainty to the situation that we are in. As I said a moment or two ago, the whole thinking behind the great repeal Bill is to port EU law into UK law, so that on day one we are certain about where we stand. I think that is a good approach to follow and I hope that over the weeks and months ahead people will understand that better than they may do at the moment.
My Lords, I very much welcome the fact that, in the Statement, the Government have made it absolutely clear that they respect the judiciary’s independence and accept this judgment, and have done so promptly. It is, of course, a sign of a functioning democracy that the Government, however irksome that they might find it, will lose cases from time to time. Turning to the democratic legitimacy of the referendum, this was an Act of Parliament giving a vote to the people. Does the Minister agree with me that it is a somewhat imaginative interpretation of that vote that what the people of the country were really saying was that they wanted a second referendum?
I entirely agree with my noble friend. As I said before, a second referendum would lace a situation that the noble Baroness spoke of a moment ago—in which people feel uncertain—with even more uncertainty. This is absolutely not what we wish to have.
My Lords, may I return to the role of Parliament? The Government failed today in the Supreme Court in their first attempt to circumnavigate Parliament at the first stage of this lengthy process. I entirely agree that Article 50 must be triggered; I also agree that the Government must be allowed the freedom to negotiate, but does the Minister accept that that cannot mean that Parliament—as the country is faced with the most challenging set of issues since the Second World War—has no role? There must be a role for Parliament over these next two years in meaningfully discussing the many different choices that this country faces.
I thank the noble Lord for that question. I disagree somewhat with his characterisation of our approach. We were not trying to circumnavigate Parliament: we believed that there was a case for using the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50. At any rate, we are where we are: Parliament is now going to have a vote. In regard to the role of Parliament going forward, there will obviously be that vote; there will be the vote, as I said a moment ago, on the great repeal Bill, and there will be votes on the subsequent pieces of legislation, of which, I expect, there will be a considerable number, both primary and secondary. Then, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in her speech last week, there will be a vote in both Houses on the treaty. Meanwhile, there is nothing to stop your Lordships from having other debates. I very much look forward to being at this Dispatch Box on Thursday, to have a debate with the noble Baroness on similar subjects to those that we have been discussing this afternoon.
My Lords, I very much welcome the decision of the Government to import the acquis communautaire into UK law. However, in the event that we withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice and there is a dispute on the interpretation of the acquis communautaire as it will apply in English or Scottish law at that time, which body will interpret and give a ruling on that dispute?
My Lords, the UK Supreme Court would interpret at the end of the day if it were to come to that, but the noble Baroness makes a very good point. I can assure her and the rest of your Lordships that when it comes to the great repeal Bill, we will set out our approach, hopefully in considerable detail, in regard to all these issues.
High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill
Relevant documents: 7th and 14th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 1: Power to construct and maintain works for Phase One of High Speed 2
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) Construction work otherwise authorised by this Act may not begin until—(a) the Secretary of State has commissioned a review of the merits of establishing Old Oak Common station as an interim eastern terminus for Phase One of High Speed 2, with the provision of convenient access arrangements with London Overground routes to the east and west of the station, and(b) the report of that review has been published.”
My Lords, I would like to make it absolutely plain at the outset that we wholeheartedly support the intentions of the Bill. We are concerned, for example, that all the routes out of London to the north are now overloaded. They are unreliable and extremely difficult to expand. There would be absolutely years and years of delay if such expansion were attempted. Our concern is that the HS2 scheme as it now stands, and as we now understand the costings to be, does not comply with the funding envelope contained in the Minister’s answer to this House in December of last year. We do not believe that the costings of HS2 are soundly based. We will explore in more detail why that is, but they are not up to date and have not been prepared by people who are absolutely competent to do so. A question of financial propriety is involved as regards whether the Government should get involved in the scheme as it now stands with such flimsy cost estimates. We further believe that if economies are not made now in the part of high-speed rail that goes from London to Birmingham, there will not be enough money in the funding envelope to extend HS2 north of Birmingham. As that is the principal purpose of the line, it seems rather odd that we would not manage to complete the line as planned.
The principal economy that it is possible to make concerns Old Oak Common, where the first London terminal is, and Euston station, which it is proposed will be reached at a further stage. Old Oak Common is a large area. It is connected to Crossrail 1, Heathrow and, obviously, to Canary Wharf. I further suggest that that station should be designed so that it is easy to turn trains around there, provided that there are sufficient staff; and that the connections between Old Oak Common station, the West London line and the line from Richmond —the two lines of London Overground—would in fact give a lot more facility for people to be dispersed from the railway. This would require Old Oak Common to be the interim terminus in London. While most people do not even know where Old Oak Common is, it is not far from London; it is well connected by road; and because of the good connections which I have described and the potential good connections which could be provided, I do not believe that when trains come from Birmingham or the north, if they could go to Euston, people would choose to stay on them as far as Euston. They will get off at Old Oak Common and disperse from there.
A huge amount of money is involved in the extension of High Speed 2 from Old Oak Common to Euston, and that represents a large economy, which would help the project to stay within the funding envelopes which the Government are providing. It is therefore time to re-examine and reappraise the Euston connection to see what benefit it will bring. However, there is no reason in the interim why Network Rail should not get on and modernise Euston station, which sadly needs it, and of course it would provide an interval during which people could decide whether extending the railway from Old Oak Common to Euston was a good proposition. I have set out simply what we are trying to do: we are trying to protect HS2 in its projection to the north of England, and to bring financial discipline to the whole project, which has not been done. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendments 1 and 6 are also in my name. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has set out the reasons behind them very clearly, but there is a continuing worry about what is proposed at Euston. I think this is the eighth attempt by HS2 to come up with a scheme. If you produce something eight times, you begin to wonder what the problem is. The latest scheme is going to cause 19 years of construction or rebuilding of the station itself. That is a very long time for any project—very much longer than London Bridge, and that is not a great success—and there are ways of doing it much more cheaply. It would work to do it more quickly and within the Euston width —many people have heard us speak about that before—but my worst worry is about the cost, and I shall speak on that more generally in a minute.
In one of his helpful responses in Committee, the Minister said that lots of cost estimates had been done for both Euston and the whole scheme. The fact remains that the last one that was published—Additional Provision 3, issued about 18 months ago in September 2015 by Simon Kirby, the then chief executive of HS2—said that the total cost of the additional provisions was £66 million and that the cost of compensation was £97.8 million. Only a few months later Professor McNaughton, who was the man leading on HS2, told me and several colleagues that the compensation cost was actually going to be £1 billion at Euston. I cannot see how anyone can be happy with something that is out by a factor of 10. I think that there are still civil engineering problems there and, as one noble Lord asked about in Committee, that there are still plans to redesign the portal; we hope that it will be an improvement. It would be nice if noble Lords were told about this. There are quite a few residents I know in Camden who know about this, but none of us has been told, in spite of quite a lot of asking.
Euston may well be the right location, and we can debate the best way into Euston. In France and Germany, when a high-speed service has been built over the years, the last few miles into the city centre have generally been on the classic tracks because of the cost and disruption of knocking down enormous numbers of properties. Why we should be different, I do not know—we can ask ourselves the question. The reason for this amendment is to try to squeeze out of the Government their plans for Euston. If they do not have any, let us see if we can have an interim station that would really work at Old Oak Common, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said.
Amendment 6 is grouped with this amendment. I will not repeat what I said in Committee, because it is clearly on the record. We organised costings with Michael Bing, a quantity surveyor who has written the textbook of costings for Network Rail; that is two years old now, so I hope that it will implement it soon, because there are problems with costs on the classic network. He concluded that the cost of HS2 at Euston, with the tunnel as far as Old Oak Common, was £8.25 billion. That did not fit well, in my mind, with the total committed expenditure limits from the Government for the whole of phase 1 of £24 billion, because it is about one-third of it for eight kilometres out of 200. So I asked the same gentlemen, using the same methodology and rates, to cost the whole of phase 1, and it came out at about £54 billion, which is actually double the Government’s estimate they published in a Written Answer to me on 21 December.
I am very grateful to the Minister: we had a meeting on this last week and agreed to look at it further. However, my worry is that the original costings that we produced have never been challenged by government. You would think that the Government would have come to me or my colleagues to say, “You’ve got it wrong. You are using the wrong assumptions and the wrong design”, or whatever. Well, we could not use the wrong design—it was their design that we were using—but nobody has come back to me to say that we got it wrong. That rather leads me to believe that we probably got it quite right—or nearly right. The consequence of that is that the £54 billion we have calculated for phase 1 is actually the total expenditure limit that the Government have announced for the whole project, including phases 2 and 3. As the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, we do not want to stop at Birmingham. It is the sections north of Birmingham that are, in my view, more in need of improvement—at Manchester, Crewe, Leeds and beyond—than the southern sections are in the first phase.
It is very important that we get a handle on the costs. It is right that we should be talking about this at Report because it is surely up to us as parliamentarians to challenge the Government so that they know what the costs are before they start work. It is very easy on a project to start work and, then, after a few years, to scratch your stubble and say, “Oh dear! I got it wrong”, and go back for more money. It is quite possible to get the costings right. Noble Lords may have heard somebody from Crossrail on the “Today” programme this morning talking about its success. It really is a success: it is on time, I believe, and it is certainly on budget. So it is possible to do it. My argument, and my plea to the Minister, is: can we not get the same discipline attached to HS2, before it is too late?
My Lords, I have one question. Perhaps it is for my noble friend the Minister or perhaps it is for the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. My understanding was that if Old Oak Common were to be used as the terminus for this railway, even in the interim, a completely different design would be required for Old Oak Common than is currently in the Bill. It would therefore require the Bill to be re-hybridised, and would put an almost endless delay on the whole thing.
My Lords, I find it somewhat bizarre that we should be discussing these particular amendments at this particular time. I find it even more bizarre that these amendments should be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley—both of whom are normally extremely supportive of railway matters. The effect of accepting either or both these amendments, as I am sure the Minister will tell us, would be to delay considerably the project as a whole. I am sure that that is not the noble Lord’s intention, but I hope he will agree with me that that would be the result. He shakes his head—he can come back to me on that in a moment.
I do not think that you could have a re-costing of a project this size and then say, “We will have Third Reading of the Bill in a week’s time, and that’s the end of it”. If the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is saying that, he is an even bigger financial genius than I thought he was previously. The fact is that there would be further delay. It is seven years since my noble friend Lord Adonis, as a Minister in the last Government but one, came forward with the project—and here we are at the end of a seven-year period discussing two amendments that would, I would guess, have the effect if not of putting the project back another seven years then certainly putting it back for some considerable time.
As far as Old Oak Common is concerned, I say again to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, that he has to answer the point put by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, a former Transport Minister. The fact is that Old Oak, as it presently is, is in no way suitable to be a main terminal. I do not mean to be facetious when I say that if you asked people coming to London where they were going to when they got there, comparatively few would say Old Oak. In Great Western days there was a steam engine shed there, I understand, so trainspotters might well have gone there 50 years ago—but I cannot see there being a great demand to terminate trains at Old Oak, no matter how good the connections will be.
The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, talked about developments at Euston. He has an amendment which I am sure we will be discussing later about access around Euston station, which is the natural terminus. He makes the very relevant point that, for example, on the TGV in France, high-speed trains stop short of the main terminus, which is the reason for the delays that quite often occur. It seems to me to be a much more sensible engineering prospect to run high-speed trains into the centre of a city rather than making them share crowded tracks with other trains, as they do in other countries. So perhaps on this occasion we got it right.
Finally, whatever estimates are made of these projects often turn out, in the long term, to be unrealistic. My noble friend talked about Crossrail. I was on the Crossrail Bill, and it was said at that time that the estimates for Crossrail were unrealistic—but they proved not to be so. With all due respect to my noble friend’s opinion, he is no better a financier than the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, as far as this project is concerned. So if the noble Lord presses this to a Division, I hope that those of us who want to see this project, after seven years, get the go-ahead will vote in the Not-Content Lobby.
My Lords, I am disturbed that this amendment has come up because, first of all, we have no figures for people who would be very pleased to be dispersed—as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said—at Old Oak Common. Having been to Old Oak Common on one of our visits, I would not like to be lumbered with getting from Old Oak Common to anywhere in London; it just seems crazy. Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said that the forecasts were not up to date. He also cast aspersions on the people who did the forecasts. He said that the forecasts were prepared by people who were not capable and that they were flimsy. This is really too late in the project to make those sorts of comments.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said that he was interested in financial discipline; we are all interested in financial discipline. But not making any forecasts of the people who would be,
“dispersed from Old Oak Common”,
just does not make sense. It seems to me to be a delaying tactic, without actually getting the basis of proper forecasts of people who are going to use Old Oak Common. Coming from Birmingham to Old Oak Common? I ask: who would really want to?
My Lords, I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Bradshaw and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. This seems an eminently sensible suggestion. At the moment, people are trying to make out that this is an attempt to delay HS2; that is the last thing that I would like to do. The amendment would in fact allow it to go ahead. They are talking about a temporary terminal there, for possibly five years or maybe even less.
There are three very good reasons why this is a sensible idea. The first is that we have not yet decided how the route of HS2 will go from Old Oak Common into Euston. There are two or three different routes and I do not think we should be delayed any further on that. That can carry on after the Bill has already gone through. The second thing is what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said. This is a way of cutting costs, if necessary. The five miles between Old Oak Common and Euston are almost certainly the most expensive five miles of the entire route. Therefore, if we can delay the building of that but still continue with the Bill and get the rest of HS2 on the move, so much the better.
The third reason that this is a good idea is that we will have to make a decision about something that is not part of the Bill at the moment. Some time in the future we will have to join HS2 to HS3. One way would be through Old Oak Common, where it can join the present HS1. It is going to be very difficult to make that join somewhere in Euston or St Pancras station. So the amendment is eminently sensible. It has nothing to do with delaying anything: it is very much the opposite. It makes it possible to start the building of HS2 almost immediately.
Has the noble Earl read the amendments that he has just spoken to? Amendment 1 states:
“Construction work otherwise authorised by this Act may not begin until”.
That is, the works at Old Oak Common. Amendment 6, in the name of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, states:
“Cost estimate … The nominated undertaker must not commence any Phase One construction work until the Secretary of State has published”,
and so on. It goes on to talk about a review of the finances. That is not a couple of weeks’ delay; it is years. For the noble Earl to suggest anything different indicates to me that he has not actually read the amendments he supports.
There is a huge amount of work to be done in building HS2 and we should be able to get on with that. If what the noble Lord is saying is correct, I may have misunderstood.
I intervene to remind noble Lords that this is Report. The rules of debate state:
“On report no member may speak more than once to an amendment, except the mover of the amendment in reply or a member who has obtained leave of the House”.
Will the noble Earl take the trouble to read the very wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, who spoke a few moments ago about the consequences of accepting these amendments? If one of them were passed, the Bill would have to be re-hybridised. It would have to go back to the hybrid Bill Committee and months and months would be taken up by looking at the Bill again with these provisions in it.
I cannot believe that the House would want to do that, bearing in mind the exceptionally good job that the hybrid committee did. I see a number of its members are in the Chamber at the moment and they deserve the thanks of all of us for looking at this Bill in such detail and displaying such patience in listening to huge numbers of petitions and far too many lawyers who were presenting them on behalf of people with, in some cases, entirely spurious objections. The committee went through that very well and came up with a series of recommendations for change, and the Government, to their great credit, have accepted them all either in spirit or literally. The fact that the committee has done that job and we have a Bill to which we can give Third Reading and get work under way is very important.
Old Oak Common is a wonderful place. It is where my great-grandfather lived in a Great Western Railway house when he was a top link driver on the railway in the early years of the 20th century. But it is not a place where people want to go when they are travelling on high-speed trains from Birmingham or the north of England. Indeed, the practicality of finishing a journey there has been addressed by Transport for London. It answers the point made by my noble friend Lord Berkeley about Crossrail. Yes, Crossrail is going really well and will be a great success. But when HS2 arrives at Old Oak Common, it is estimated that about a third of the passengers will get off, get on to Crossrail and go into the City. However, if they were all required to go on to the City, the difference between these two—HS2 terminating at Euston or at Old Oak Common—would, in the words of Transport for London, be the difference between Crossrail coping and Crossrail falling down. That would be the implication of accepting this amendment.
My Lords, it is nice to be thanked for one’s work. I see several Lords from the eclectic group who served on that committee, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, whom I must congratulate on the way he handled both the hearings and the committee.
I have recently been reading a book—I hope this slight digression will be acceptable, as it relates to this amendment—called Mr Barry’s War, by Caroline Shenton, one of the archivists. The bit that I like is when she talks about an attempt by Barry and a group of architects—someone called William “Strata” Smith, a great geologist, was also involved—to find stone to build this place. They travelled all over the UK. They get to Lincoln, with its magnificent gothic minster, the Ancaster stone quarries—said to be Roman—then Grantham, Stamford and nearby Burghley House. Once they get through Kettering and Northampton by coach, they,
“made their way back to London by the novel means of Robert Stephenson’s thrilling new London and Birmingham Railway, which had opened along its whole length just five days previously on 17 September. This was the first London intercity rail line, and Euston station the first mainline terminus in a capital city anywhere in the world. Its magnificent Doric Propylaeum”—
I do not know if I pronounced that correctly—
“or entrance archway, made of millstone grit, stood for 125 years until pulled down by modernist planners in 1962”.
I could not help feeling that that was rather a propitious bit of reading prior to this debate.
We did not debate the overall cost—that was not in the committee’s remit—but we certainly debated some costings by my noble friend Lord Berkeley and his expert witnesses. I regret to say, however, that they did not stack up. Neither did Old Oak Common. I had to smile when someone said, “It’s just an interim stop”. We all know that if it finishes at Old Oak Common it will be a real stretch of the imagination to believe that that will be interim.
The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, said that the route had not been decided. It has been decided, and we had a debate, I assure noble Lords, on whether it would be more desirable to terminate at Old Oak Common. That was not the view of the committee after listening to a range of expert witnesses and for some of the reasons cited by my noble friend Lord Faulkner.
We can all have a view, if you like, about people’s motives and intentions—I will assume that they are motivated by the best of all reasons—but one thing you cannot assume is that the process would be speedy, for either the first or the sixth amendment. This will be a lengthy process, and, as has been said, we are now seven years—I was going to say “down the track” but that is an unfortunate pun; if only we were. We have some way to go. As someone who, like the noble Lord, served on Crossrail, I remember just as many criticisms of that. Now it is all enthusiasm, but it was not at the time, I assure noble Lords; there were just as many doubters and naysayers.
My view—and you have heard from other colleagues on the committee—is that we gave this a thorough examination, and I am certain that we also debated it in Committee. I cannot remember how many times I have heard this debate. As a former Attorney-General once said, repetition does not necessarily enhance the value of your contribution. I am beginning to feel that way in this case. I hope noble Lords will not support these amendments; I do not believe they add anything to the existing analysis. As I recall, in the recent Grand Committee debate the Minister reported to us that the National Audit Office has run its calculators over this. Every time there has been a challenge on the costings done by HS2—the classic one was on the tunnel costings in Wendover, which we may unfortunately return to again—they were independently checked. The proposed tunnelling at Colne Valley was independently validated and HS2 was found to be correct in those circumstances. I listened carefully to the argument but I incline to the views expressed by so many of my fellow committee members, and by my noble friend Lord Faulkner.
My Lords, I echo my noble friend Lord Faulkner’s thanks to the Select Committee. There are no greater tasks which Members of your Lordships’ House take on than being members of these hybrid Bill Committees, which are like the Committee of Public Safety. I think they were sitting for four days a week over many months. Those noble Lords made a huge commitment to the work of the committee and at this very late stage—this last stage of the Bill’s passage through the House—we should certainly not seek to substitute our judgment, on the basis of a short debate, for the exhaustive examination which your Lordships’ Select Committee gave to this issue, among many others which are on the Marshalled List for later in our debates.
I hesitate to arbitrate between my noble friends Lord Faulkner and Lord Snape on the beauty of Old Oak Common, which depends very much on whether you have a great admiration for railway architecture of the Victorian age. It will become a thing of great beauty when the High Speed 2 station and all the wider development is completed there, but that will take some time. I do not think anybody could pretend now, when passing through it at not particularly high speeds on trains coming out of Paddington, that it is a great beauty spot—it is next to Wormwood Scrubs. However, a critical issue for us to consider this afternoon is its utility as a transport interchange. That was the issue considered by the Select Committee.
It is important for the House to understand that once HS2 is completed, we would be talking about all the traffic from Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and the East Midlands coming in to one terminus if you allow only for Old Oak Common to be built. That is the equivalent of the entirety of the intercity traffic which currently goes into Euston and a good part of the intercity traffic which goes into King’s Cross. All of that would be going into one terminus station and all served by one line, Crossrail. As my noble friend Lord Faulkner emphasised, the resilience of that arrangement could not remotely be regarded as adequate for all the traffic going from the Midlands and the north into one station.
The estimate has been made that a third of passengers will transfer to Crossrail. I think some will get off at Old Oak Common and transfer on to Heathrow, which will be 10 minutes away in the other direction, but most of them will transfer on to Crossrail going east. That proportion may be higher. It is hard to know what transport patterns will emerge but when that interchange is available, it will be an extremely rapid and efficient connection not just to the City but to the West End as well. The next stops up from Paddington will be Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon and then Bank. It then goes on to Canary Wharf, so it will offer a range of fast and high-quality connections.
However, even if you stretch that third to a half—since no one can be sure what patterns will develop—still a very substantial proportion of the passengers would, on the projections made, wish either to regard Euston as their destination or to interchange there. By having the interchange at Euston we would then serve another large swathe of London directly, including that huge and important centre which Euston, King’s Cross and St Pancras will form themselves. Massive development work will be taking place there, which will be attracted there in no small part because of the development of the HS2 station. We also have there the Victoria and Northern lines, and in due course Crossrail 2, which will serve the new Euston terminus as well. When one considers that these termini will have to deal with all the traffic coming not just from Birmingham but from Sheffield, Crewe, Manchester and Leeds, as well as services going further north up to Scotland, it looks as though there will be a requirement for more than one dispersal point.
All these issues were gone into at great length by committees of both Houses. Their conclusion was that the Government’s proposals were correct in requiring an extension from Old Oak Common through to Euston. At this very late stage in the passage of the Bill, to pass an amendment calling for a further review—the only impact of which could be substantial delay and uncertainty—would not be wise.
My Lords, after what has been said, I suppose I ought to add my thanks to the members of the Select Committee. In saying that, I did express my thanks to them in Committee. I also expressed my relief that I was disqualified from sitting on the committee at all.
The amendments in this group call for,
“a review of the merits of establishing Old Oak Common station as an interim eastern terminus for Phase One of High Speed 2”,
with construction work not beginning until the report of the review has been published. This debate has not done much to put Old Oak Common on the tourism map, despite the later comments of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, about its future.
We had some discussion about Old Oak Common in Committee. An amendment was moved calling for a spur from it to the West London line north of Shepherd’s Bush to improve access to HS2 for people to the south of London. I seem to recall that I asked the Government if they were looking at improving connections between HS2 and other suburban lines in the vicinity of Old Oak Common to improve access to HS2. In his response, the Minister said that the West London Line Group, which had put forward proposals for the link from Old Oak Common to the West London line, had met DfT officials to discuss their proposals and that those discussions would continue. Perhaps the Minister could give us an update on the progress being made in these ongoing discussions.
I understand that the issue of Old Oak Common was considered during the Lords Select Committee hearings—noble Lords on the Select Committee confirmed that in their contributions today. The committee has not made any recommendations on this matter nor suggested that the Government should consider going down the road called for in the first amendment. In the light of this, we do not intend to either.
The second amendment in this group calls for an estimate of the costs for carrying out all the phase 1 works, with the breakdown set out in the amendment to be published, and the construction work not starting until that has been undertaken. What has prompted both the first and second amendments in this group is a view that the work cannot be carried out within the overall figure given by the Government. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said that there was a good case for having an independent assessment of the costs and particularly for considering such things as how long HS2 could terminate at Old Oak Common. This could, perhaps, be a considerable period of time which could save a considerable sum of money. Costs are vital. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said in Committee:
“I cannot emphasise enough that the single biggest threat to this project is cost overruns in building the core of it, between cities where there is massive traffic—namely, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London”.—[Official Report, 10/1/17; col. GC 62.]
The Government have committed themselves to a figure for the construction of HS2 stage one. Different bodies, including the National Audit Office, have looked at the figures and some have produced reports. The costings will, I understand, continue to be the subject of consideration by these bodies as the work progresses and more detailed figures are available. If the overall figure for the cost of construction is breached, it is the Government who will be held accountable—not least by us—since it is the Government who have said that the figures are accurate and can be trusted. They will have to explain why they got their figures wrong if the overall cost is breached, and why it would not have been possible to have got those figures right before construction started.
We do not want to go down the road of further amendments that could delay the starting of this project, which has already been the subject of so much consideration by so many people and bodies, including a Select Committee of this House. If the Government want to go down the road of the second amendment in this group without delaying the start of the project, that is a matter for them. However, one suspects that the production of further figures that have not been produced already, which presumably is what is being sought, would not bring the issue of costs to a conclusion, since there would inevitably then be challenges to the further breakdown of costs provided and the basis on which they were calculated. Our position, as I have said, is that we do not wish to see further delay to the start of this project, and behind the first amendment is clearly a major potential change.
On costs, at this late stage after so much consideration and examination of the project, it is now the Government and the Government alone who will be held accountable for any figures that prove significantly wrong and for any consequential cost overruns, since they have a responsibility to satisfy themselves that the cost estimates they have given are credible and accurate.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate on these amendments. I join other noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner, Lord Adonis and Lord Rosser, in adding my thanks—I did so in Committee and I do so again—to the Select Committee and all its members, some of whom are present, for their diligence, perseverance and indeed thorough examination of the raft of different petitions that were presented to them. Indeed, we have reflected on them already in Committee.
I start with an appreciation. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley—and, in moving the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw—made it clear in their overall intent that they are both supportive of the Bill and indeed of the construction of HS2. Indeed, the majority in your Lordships’ House recognise the importance of this railway in terms of our future railway infrastructure.
I turn to the amendments. Whether there is an advantage in using the proposed new station at Old Oak Common as a temporary London terminus for phase 1 of HS2 was, as we have heard, examined in detail by Select Committees not just in your Lordships’ House but in the other place. As was set out, the proponents of this option believe that using Old Oak Common as a temporary terminus would provide several advantages, including less impactful construction works at Euston, less disruption to services on the west coast main line and the opportunity to allow a more comprehensive redevelopment of Euston to be undertaken. I do not dispute the intentions behind the amendment but it is for that reason, as noble Lords will appreciate, that the Government have already investigated these proposals in detail. I am minded to agree with my noble friend Lord Brabazon, who speaks with great expertise in this area, that the implication of accepting such an amendment would impede the progress of the Bill.
I will go briefly into the detail of this. We looked at many options put forward by petitioners to the Committee in the other place about options for terminating HS2 services at Old Oak Common temporarily or permanently, as well as splitting the termination of services between Old Oak Common and Euston station. I do not wish to go into the detail on the permanent use of Old Oak Common as a terminus or a splitting of services, as those issues are not the subject of the noble Lord’s amendment and would go against the principle of the Bill as has been agreed by both Houses. However, I note that the overall outcome of the work that was undertaken on those options demonstrated that a complementary solution of two stations at the start of services in London would be the best for HS2 passengers. Putting all our new passengers in one station would overload that station, and it is also important for the strategic objectives of HS2 to bring the benefits of the new railway to as wide an area as we can.
Permanently terminating a portion of HS2 trains at Old Oak Common, in order to be able to descope the proposed Euston station and reduce its footprint as a result of having to cater for fewer passengers, was also considered. The conclusion was that this would, as we have heard from my noble friend Lady O’Cathain, still result in most of the passengers who terminated at Old Oak Common having to change trains in order to reach Euston and incurring several minutes of additional journey time and inconvenience in doing so.
The detailed work that the Government undertook to investigate using Old Oak Common as a temporary terminus, primarily in response to the petitioners from the Camden area, looked at a number of scenarios and demonstrated that using Old Oak Common as a temporary terminus would not eliminate the construction effects and impacts in Euston. This was because there would still be a requirement to construct the tunnels into Euston in order to facilitate the fit-out of the railway further south—that is, the long rails, the overhead line and the other control systems that go with it—which as I understand it will go through sequentially from Old Oak Common, indeed from the depots north of Old Oak Common. It would not be practical to do that fit-out once we had started running trains in any economic fashion.
We also considered using a temporary terminus at Old Oak Common to allow staging of works if one part of the railway construction was slightly delayed by a few months or to facilitate a kind of test-run phase. We concluded that while it would be possible to turn round a few trains at Old Oak Common since the station will have the resilience to do so, this is not the same as turning round trains to a timetable or turning them round without delay. Old Oak Common has been designed as a through station. It will have the ability in emergency situations, such as security or safety events, to be used to get people off trains and turn trains round. However, that is an emergency situation, not a timetabled commercial service situation. I also note that while Crossrail would be able to provide onward journey opportunities for passengers alighting at Old Oak Common, if HS2 passengers consumed the capacity to get into the city centre it would be to the detriment of the capacity and growth opportunities which would otherwise be possible on that new Crossrail service.
The new station at Old Oak Common will facilitate an interchange between HS2 services and the national rail and Crossrail networks on the west coast main line. We consider that between a quarter and a third of all HS2 passengers will choose to use Old Oak Common rather than come to Euston, mainly for those destinations best served by the new Crossrail line. The remaining two-thirds of passengers who are still on the train beyond Old Oak Common will, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, have good access across both central London, London suburbs and to other mainline stations.
I hope that by listing the consideration that was given, I have demonstrated that the temporary termination of HS2 services at Old Oak Common has already been fully explored. That work showed no further merit in investigating this option further and indeed as neither of the Select Committees of either House that also examined this issue saw fit to make any recommendations regarding it, I suggest that the details of this amendment have been looked at. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will withdraw it.
With respect to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on cost estimates, as the noble Lord himself acknowledges, last week I met him to discuss the work that he had commissioned on the costs of phase 1. Indeed, Mr Bing, to whom he referred, was also present with officials from my department and from HS2. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, when he says that the figures presented are flimsy. They are not. I am confident of the robustness of our costs. Indeed, Mr Bing himself acknowledged the expertise of those present from HS2 in terms of providing and determining these costs. What was clear from the costs that Mr Bing had presented vis-à-vis the costs that the HS2 technical experts were presenting was that there was a difference in the basis on which they were detailed. That said, we are confident of our own cost analysis. In response, and in the spirit of openness that I hope I have demonstrated during the passage of this Bill, I have suggested to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, further work on how the differences in cost estimates occurred so that these issues may be addressed. I believe that he has taken up this offer with Mr Bing.
The Government in no sense underestimate this issue of costs. Infrastructure projects are a serious matter and—as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has acknowledged on the Crossrail project—their costs are a major determinant of their success. Therefore, as many will be aware, an updated cost estimate for the project is being published at each iteration of the business case, the next such iteration being due in the summer of this year.
The project as a whole, including its cost estimate and business case, is, as we have heard from several noble Lords, subject to regular independent reviews from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and the Public Accounts Committee. Having illustrated the checks and balances and our continued belief in the robustness of the costs that have been presented—a point validated in the assessments made by various other bodies, including the Public Accounts Committee—I do not feel that a further independent review is necessary and hope that on the basis that I have detailed, the noble Lord will be minded to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. First, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, I have checked that the termination of trains for a period at Old Oak Common would not rehybridise the Bill, because it would not deviate from what has already been agreed. Secondly, I fully go along with the urgency of the project. It is a very sensible project and I have always thought it necessary; I do not argue with it. I am concerned that it will be subject to a lot of cost overruns because I do not believe that the preparatory work has been done as thoroughly as it should.
Reference was made to Old Oak Common by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain. I have managed the railway at Old Oak Common. It has never been a station. It has been a locomotive depot with lots of sidings, but it gives an opportunity. It is a vast area. There are no buildings of architectural merit there, so it is possible to clear an area. There is no reason why a station should not be constructed at Old Oak Common so that trains can be turned around. In phase 1, the trains from Birmingham will be no more than commuter trains. If they take 30 or 40 minutes to get to Old Oak Common, that will not be a long journey and it will not be difficult to turn them around and send them back to Birmingham quite quickly.
I want real attention focused on how we get economically from Old Oak Common to Euston, because I very much fear that the costs of that last bit as they now stand will explode the issue and, as I said, unless the Government make more money available, stop the extension beyond Birmingham.
These are serious issues. I have listened carefully to what the Minister said. However, I started with the issue of financial propriety. I think it is our duty to say to the Government that this has not been properly costed from one end to the other. We should get on with the bit that we know—or think—is sound, and push the other one, not to a long delay, but until such time as the figures can be agreed. I beg to test the opinion of the House.
24 January 2017
Division on Amendment 1
Amendment 1 disagreed.View Details
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) The scheduled works may not commence until the nominated undertaker has consulted appropriate bodies representing the interests of landowners about its disposal of surplus land policy, and has published a report on that consultation.”
My Lords, I draw your Lordships’ attention to my interests as declared at the Committee stage of the Bill and earlier. The subject of the amendment was discussed in Committee and the Minister made a helpful response at that time. The issue was also raised in the Select Committee of your Lordships’ House, as it engages the private interests of many petitioners, and that committee made a strong recommendation, to which I wish to refer. We also now have the Government’s response to the Select Committee, which raises the point that I want to raise with the Minister.
The Crichel Down rules have governed the selling of surplus land following compulsory purchase for over half a century. Although there are said to be problems with them—that is perhaps a matter for another day—they are respected as the rules of the game. This issue has great importance, as there is no real accessible right of review once land has been taken, as judicial review is effectively out of the financial reach of most landowners.
The problem is that HS2 Ltd has decided that, rather than simply follow the Crichel Down rules, as has been the established practice, it will introduce alongside those additional exceptions under which it will not offer, in the first instance, land that it has compulsorily purchased back to the original landowner. These exceptions include, it says,
“where it makes sense to pool the land with adjoining ownerships in a joint disposal”.
What this might mean, of course, is that where HS2 Ltd thinks that it will be better for it financially to keep the land it no longer needs and sell it in a different parcel, it will. It will not be offered back to the owner whose land it was originally. The Lords HS2 Select Committee recognised this and recommended in its report:
“We strongly urge the Secretary of State not to add further exceptions to what is already … a long list of cases … in which the original owner will not be given first refusal to reacquire the land at its then market value. Apart from other more principled reasons, which we need not repeat, it would be odd if one Department of State had its own version of the rules”.
The Government say at paragraph 122 of their response:
“The Promoter is prepared to reconsider the additional exceptions set out in the Information Paper in the particular circumstances of each case”.
It is that phrase to which I would like a response from the Minister. Obviously, if that means that no decisions will be given in general but only in particular cases, there is no certainty for the landowner, who would have to wait each time for HS2 Ltd to decide, presumably towards the end of the time for which it needed the land, whether to keep it. HS2 Ltd would still have the power to keep any land it wanted—for example, for a development—which it would have acquired at much below the market rate. Is that fair?
HS2 Ltd has provided no details of what criteria it would use to undertake case-by-case reviews. If a case-by-case approach is used, these criteria should surely be in the public interest. That makes the case. I look forward to hearing from the Minister. If he cannot agree to review, perhaps he would be prepared to write giving examples of what criteria would be used. I beg to move.
My Lords, as I am sure the noble Lord is aware, the policy regarding the disposal of surplus land received an extensive examination by the Select Committees of both Houses with regard to individual cases, to which he referred, and more broadly when they heard from representative bodies such as the National Farmers’ Union and the Country Land and Business Association. I am sure the noble Lord has noted this, but I say for the benefit of your Lordships’ House that paragraphs 417 and 421 of the Lords Select Committee’s report set out its conclusions in detail.
The Secretary of State is under a general duty to minimise land take for the railway, whether permanently or temporarily. In general terms, any land that is surplus following construction will be disposed of in accordance with the Crichel Down rules. These rules provide for the circumstances in which land acquired by compulsory acquisition, but no longer required, will be offered back to the former owners. The rules have been developed over the course of half a century and have been endorsed by previous Governments. The basic principle is that former owners will, as a general rule, be given the first opportunity to repurchase any surplus land at current market value provided it has not materially changed in character since acquisition, such as new buildings having been built on it.
The rules set out a number of other exceptions to this general principle, which HS2 follows, but have also added two further exceptions to cater for the special circumstances of the HS2 scheme. These exceptions would allow the Secretary of State to retain land acquired for the project where a site is needed for regeneration or where it is needed for the relocation of a business directly affected by HS2. The Select Committee report recommended that the project remove these two additional exceptions. In their response, the Government have noted, and agreed to reconsider, the additional exceptions in the particular circumstances of each case.
I hope the fact that we are proposing to use a very well-established approach for this policy and have further agreed to revise that approach to make it further in line with the original policy demonstrates that this amendment is unnecessary. I hope that the noble Lord is minded to withdraw his amendment.
I thank the Minister for that response. I look forward to reading it in more detail in Hansard. For the moment, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
3: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) Before the date on which the nominated undertaker commences any works authorised by this Act, the Secretary of State must publish a cost-benefit analysis of the environmental impacts of the proposed works within Phase One of High Speed 2 and connected construction works in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.( ) The report must include an explanation of the methodology used to value the savings in environmental impact that would have arisen from more extensive tunnelling.”
My Lords, I will speak also to the other amendments in this group. We are at the end of a very long and extensive planning process, which, while not as lengthy as the planning inquiry for T5, I think could be agreed all round to have been quite a marathon. Despite the scrutiny of the public aspects of the Bill in this House and in the other place—and in particular, the excellent and thorough work done by the Select Committees, which was heroic in all respects, and to which I have already paid tribute in Committee, and about which others have spoken again today—I have a view that the public interest has not yet been fully satisfied. So I would like to make a couple of points arising from these amendments.
There are, of course, a number of problems to do with the hybrid Bill process. This has been described in earlier discussions as a hangover from the Victorian era, and it is probably going to be reviewed in the light of the fact that a Joint Committee has been set up of both Houses. We are aware that comments in the Select Committees of both the Commons and the Lords have been also been made, and it is a matter of some regret that your Lordships’ House has not had the opportunity to discuss the report of the Select Committee of the Lords that looked at this Bill in detail. If we had had that chance, some of the points that I am going to make could have come up at that time. I am not going to continue on process issues, however, because I think that they will be the subject of a report from the Joint Committee, and I hope that this House will have a chance to discuss this later on. I myself have submitted evidence, and I know that a number of other noble Lords have done so as well.
My argument in very skeletal form—and I hope that I am not engaging with any of the points that might be raised by members of the Select Committee who are present today, because this is a matter about public interest, not private interest—is that the procedures of the two Houses, more by accident than design, dealing with the public aspects of the planning Bill as in the case of HS2 through the Public Bill procedure, and the private aspects through Select Committees, somehow manage to exclude a full consideration of public interest issues. I want to argue that point in relation to these three amendments.
My three areas of concern are not matters that I expect your Lordships’ House to consider for amendment to the Bill. They were not put down as wrecking amendments; they are not intended to delay the progress of the Bill through to Royal Assent. But I hope that, at some point in the future, they will be open to interrogation by those responsible for delivering the Bill. They might well ask themselves important questions about whether what has been decided in the Bill through the processes that I have described is in the best possible form that it could be.
In Amendment 3, my question is not whether we should open the case for a through-the-Chilterns tunnel but to ask for transparency over how that decision was reached. Everyone will say that the Select Committee process, both in this House and in the other place, has done this issue to death. My point is that it probably has done it to death from the point of view of the private interest—but not from the point of view of the public interest. This is partly because the process engages with private interest from the start, and that tends to drive the way the debate is going. It is also a reflection of where we are today in relation to public bodies funded from public funds, which find it very difficult to put up arguments that are opposed to those that are made by a government department, such as the Department for Transport in relation to HS2. In that sense, there is a danger that the public interest would not be fully considered.
So I have two particular questions for the Minister. We are told in two or three places in the Bill documents that the statutory tests that are required by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act were undertaken by the Secretary of State. This was referred to by the Lords Select Committee. But what precisely were the tests and why is the information that was used to determine these points not made available? Surely it would be in the public interest to be transparent on this point, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister on this.
We read in both Select Committee reports—from this House and the other place—that a full-bore tunnel through the Chilterns AONB was considered, but rejected on cost grounds. If that is so—and I have no reason to doubt that it was done properly—why is that information not published and made available? The amendment states:
“The report must include an explanation of the methodology used to value the savings in environmental impact that would have arisen from more extensive tunnelling”.
Again, this is a matter of public interest, and I would be grateful if the Minister could respond. These requests are not disproportionate; they are in the public interest and should be answered, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about them. If he chooses to write in more detail, I will be happy to receive a letter from him at a later date.
On Amendment 4, the arguments are much the same —although, because it is a modest project, the costs here are much less. Again, we find that the tiny village of Chetwode, which is in north Bucks, argued persuasively for a bored tunnel, which was refused by the Commons Select Committee “on grounds of cost”. The Lords Select Committee also received this and said that it,
“reluctantly reached the same conclusion”.
We have not seen the figures. Again, that is an issue of public interest, and I would be grateful if the Minister could provide them now—or, if he wishes, in a letter.
I will leave the main burden of speaking to Amendment 5 to my noble friend Lord Berkeley, but Members of your Lordships’ House might wish to be made aware that this amendment was first raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, in Committee, who may wish to contribute on this point. Rather than going through any of these issues, as they are not specific to the point I am making, I will make a slightly different point. In projects of this type, issues will arise during the process of planning and design of the final stages when other good ideas, which are not in the main Bill, come up. There may be flexibility in the framing of the Bill—an ability to make changes. However, on the sort of proposal that has been made by the Wendover community, which has been rather badly treated by the railway as regards how it has been routed, if it was possible for that community to come up with a good idea, even at this late stage, what is the process by which it might be considered? If, for example, it showed that demonstrable savings or huge environmental benefits would result, are there flexibilities in the process going forward? I am not talking about mistakes made or in any sense going back—I want to interrogate the question of what happens now. Can the Minister reassure us that there would be an opportunity for such schemes to be given proper evaluation and discussion at the appropriate stage? I beg to move.
My Lords, since we appear to be merging the two groups together, I will speak briefly to Amendment 5, which is about Wendover. I do not want to rehearse what we have already spoken about this afternoon or elsewhere. However, I have a question for the Minister. Now that we are moving towards Royal Assent—this may come up in discussions about any changes that may happen at Euston to keep the trains running, which is in a later amendment—to what extent is the successful contractor able to come up with his own ideas for either doing some of the work more cheaply or with less environmental impact? Wendover tunnel comes to mind, because I am advised that building a tunnel in place of the open cut and viaduct is cheaper—and of course it has a much reduced environmental impact. Provided that he does it within the limits of deviation and all the other limits on the drawings, presumably it is up to the contractor to propose it to HS2—which presumably will accept it if all those conditions are met.
Alternatively, is there another way to do this? I will be interested to hear the Minister’s response, because tunnels are cheaper—somewhat surprisingly, but we discussed it in Committee—and would obviously have a reduced environmental impact. If it is within the limits of deviation and the other limits on the legislation, it would be good if the contractor just chose to do that—in which case there would be benefits all round.
My Lords, I support Amendment 3, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. Before speaking, I draw noble Lords’ attention to the declaration of interests that I made in Committee.
I am aware that this issue was raised in Committee, but I fear that we did not get the fulsome response that we hoped for from the Minister. I would hope that all Governments, particularly a Conservative Government, would be interested in value for money. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, we are told what the total cost of the railway is—although it seems to change every time I see a figure, and few believe that it will stop there. But surely this is only half the issue. The environmental impact of this line, particularly over the Chilterns AONB, has not been costed, and the Government have been strangely reluctant to provide figures or the methodology used. Can the Minster let us have this information? At this stage a full explanation is imperative.
If the people of this country are going to get behind this project, surely we ought to be transparent about the figures that have been used to decide that 8.7 kilometres of additional tunnelling, which would preserve the AONB, is “too expensive” because the benefits to the environment are insufficient to outweigh the additional cost of tunnelling. If the figures stack up—I have no idea whether they do—we will at least have been transparent in the process. Surely the public, who will have to pay for this project in so many ways—and of whom relatively few will see any actual benefit—are entitled to a proper cost-benefit analysis before our countryside is destroyed.
If we destroy the AONB—and it will be destroyed—without making a proper cost-benefit analysis of what we are doing, we will not be forgiven. Indeed, not having such a cost-benefit analysis would be regarded as pure vandalism. I urge the Minister and the Government just to do what is requested in this sensible amendment.
My Lords, I am surprised that yet again we are exploring the wonders of Wendover—which was one of the many exotic foreign trips we went on. It was important that we went out to see these places. I think it was a slight exaggeration when the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, said that the area of outstanding natural beauty would be destroyed. There will be changes, but I do not believe that the area will be destroyed—and neither do members of the committee.
I return to the point made by my noble friend Lord Stevenson, who says, yet again, that we have not fully and transparently explored this issue. In fact we did—and of course it was done not only by us but by the Commons, who after two years of hearing petitions extended the tunnel by a significant amount. The next challenge that was put to us when we examined this in Committee was a challenge to the promoters’ assessment of tunnelling costs: “They would say that, wouldn’t they? They would make them come out cheaper”. The integrity of that costing procedure was disputed. In a way, that was a useful challenge, because we needed to be assured that that costing gave us a fair and accurate cost comparison of whether extending tunnelling even further—whether it was mined or bored—would achieve savings, which my noble friend Lord Berkeley also insisted would be the case.
That was a legitimate question until we got to the point of the proposed Colne Valley viaduct, where petitioners were asking for a fully bored tunnel instead of a viaduct. Those HS2 tunnelling costs were assessed in an independent cost analysis and were validated. So the idea that at this stage we have not had a full debate on this is preposterous, given everything that has happened—and, again, the idea that the public interest has not been protected is fallacious.
It is true to say—perhaps it is the one point on which I agree with my noble friend—that the hybrid Bill process is not ideal. We and the Commons agreed on that. As a committee we put in our view of how this Victorian process, as my noble friend rightly called it, could be improved. But that is one thing; it does not take away the main point of this amendment, which somehow seems to suggest to the House that, first, the public interest has not been fully served, and, secondly, that this has been a flawed process. I and the rest of my committee colleagues do not believe that to be the case. Again, I trust that noble Lords will reject this amendment.
Maybe my memory is deceiving me, but the mined tunnel was through chalk, was it not? There was a problem about the slurry and it would not have been a practical proposition to go through—rather than a bored tunnel. I would like clarification on that, specifically the mined tunnel. Can the noble Lord, Lord Young, help me?
No, I am not going to because I have just remembered that Peers are allowed only one contribution on an amendment.
My Lords, I am not quite sure whether I can help the noble Baroness. I asked the same question about a mined tunnel in Committee and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, explained it all to me. The problem is that I have forgotten the explanation. It sounded very plausible at the time. I am sure if the noble Baroness consults her noble friend she will get all the details of what should be done.
I listened to the noble Baroness who spoke earlier from the Conservative Benches. She made a fleeting appearance in Committee and said pretty much the same thing; I hope she will forgive me for saying so. I do not think emotive language about a two-track railway destroying the countryside takes this House or this debate any further forward. What did she say: “Just another 8.7 kilometres of tunnel”? That is in addition to the 47 kilometres of tunnel out of the 210 kilometres of the high-speed railway line. This is expensive lunacy in my view. I make a plea again on behalf of those who travel by train. People do not travel by train to gaze at a tunnel wall. Some of the semi-hysterical comments—I exempt my noble friend Lord Stevenson, he will be relieved to know—about the damage that the railway line will do to the Chilterns are just that, sheer hysteria. They were all made 30 years ago at the time of High Speed 1 across Kent, and none of it proved true then. Indeed, the economy of Kent has benefited enormously from High Speed 1.
The secondary point—the great unmentionable in this debate on the demand for tunnels—is of course that some people making these points about additional tunnelling do so on the grounds that there is no benefit from high-speed rail passing through the Chilterns to those who live there because there are not any stations. Well, there may be at some time in the future, as we have heard. Again, I exempt my noble friend from that; he is my Whip and I had better tread carefully. Once you get out of London, the M40 passes through the Chilterns without a mile of tunnel. Has that motorway destroyed that part of the world? I do not think it has. My noble friend nods his head but I do not think most people agree. Mind you, of course many of them use the M40 and that they are not going to be able to use the train is behind a great deal of the opposition, in my view. I hope that the Minister resists temptation. Whether it is cheaper to build a mined tunnel or go ahead with the existing proposals, as the Select Committee recommended, I know not. Nobody could have worked harder than the committee to look at those objections. I think there is quite sufficient tunnelling already so far as this high-speed railway is concerned, much of it expensive and unnecessary.
Will my noble friend answer a question that I feel I should know the answer to? How much has all the additional tunnelling that has come on as a result of the various stages of this Bill added to the cost of HS2? I have a slight suspicion that there may be the odd person—I am sure no one in this House—who has demanded a tunnel, for whatever reason, and then complains about the overall cost of the railway once the tunnelling has been accommodated.
I am sure that the Minister, who is listening, will be able to give my noble friend a detailed answer to that question. We see with this project, as we have seen with others, that many of those against the project as a whole for reasons including its cost are the first to demand special provision in their part of the world, regardless of the additional cost. I hope the Minister will resist temptation, as 47 kilometres out of 210 is—I repeat—quite enough for me. Whether or not I will be around in 2026, who knows, but I will do my best and I wish the same to other noble Lords on both sides of the House. I think we deserve better than an extended view of a tunnel wall. Let us see this glorious countryside, that we hear so much defence of in the context of this Bill—mistakenly in my view.
My Lords, I pick up the theme of my noble friend Lord Snape and express my disappointment at the lack of ambition that some Members of this House seem to demonstrate towards our capacity as a nation to build wonderful railways. Some of the finest structures created in the 19th century were built by railway engineers, whether it was viaducts through the Peak District or magnificent railway stations. To have such a lack of ambition and to say, “Gosh, this new line must all go in tunnels because it’s going to be so obtrusive”, is very disappointing. Also, as my noble friend says, it is very expensive. I remember at one of the early briefing meetings given by Sir David Higgins I asked him, “Wouldn’t it be possible to reduce the cost of the project if we didn’t have so much tunnel in it?”. He said, “Yes, but I’m not allowed by the Government to answer that question”. I am not sure whether it was this Government or the previous one who made it impossible for him to answer, but it has undoubtedly added to the cost.
I also make a plea for the people who like travelling by train and love the Chilterns and want to be able to see them. There is no reason why we should not be able to see them rather than the inside of a tunnel from the railway. Look at the other engineering projects in the Chilterns. The M40 is a six-lane motorway which carved a swathe through the Chiltern escarpment, and probably the largest intrusion into an area of outstanding natural beauty in the south of England. There was a lot of objection. It is used by very large numbers of people, but it still causes an intrusion and environmental damage far greater than the two-track railway that we are discussing this evening. Wendover benefits from a new bypass, which is being constructed to one side of the existing Chiltern railway line and is producing a huge amount of noise and traffic. It is very nice for the town because traffic is taken out of the town, but the new railway is going to go alongside that as well. Why is that somehow unreasonable compared with the road that is already there?
The Chilterns are beautiful. The environment of the Chilterns will be enhanced by the building of the railway, and many more people will be able to enjoy them. There is no need for these amendments.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their participation and contributions to the debate. I am minded to start with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Snape. Certainly when he suggested that I should not be tempted by these amendments, I was reminded that we start proceedings in the House every day with the Lord’s Prayer, which says:
“Lead us not into temptation”.
I will fulfil that prayer’s requirements in my response this afternoon.
We have already touched, even this afternoon, on the cost of HS2. I say again to all noble Lords that the costs of HS2 have been the subject of intense analysis and review over several years, as we have already heard. As I indicated earlier this afternoon, we will continue to review costs for years to come. Let me once again praise the incredible work done collectively by the two Select Committees of both Houses. Let us put this into perspective: it is a combined period of two years of hearing evidence, considering all aspects of the proposed Bill, and on many occasions reviewing the costs for elements of the phase 1 scheme when asked to consider potential alternative options. It is sometimes suggested, and has been suggested again, that somehow there has not been an exhaustive examination; I challenge that. The best way to do so is to read the detailed analysis, recommendations and reports of both Select Committees. I recommend that to all noble Lords who have not yet had the pleasure.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green. As he noted in Committee, and as he has reminded us, the Select Committee considered all options that were presented for additional lengths of tunnelling in the Chilterns and in Wendover. It was not convinced of the need to recommend any further work on any of these options. As I have already said, these were exhaustive discussions, and I believe that that decision should be respected.
The Select Committees of both Houses also considered in detail the provision of additional environmental mitigation measures. It pains me to say it, but I disagree with my noble friend Lady Pidding that the Government have not published details of how certain things have been considered during the process of the Bill. It is worth noting, as I hope my noble friend will acknowledge, that many assurances have been given to the areas covered by the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, including the provision of a £3 million fund for additional environmental mitigation measures.
My noble friend raised the issue of publishing tunnelling costs. The information used to assess the decision on whether it is appropriate to undertake a bore tunnel past Wendover and an extended bore tunnel through the Chilterns was published as part of the exhibits placed before both Select Committees that were used to establish the Government’s position regarding the decision not to provide any additional tunnelling. It was that information that the Select Committee—I refer to the Commons Select Committee here—used to recommend an extended tunnel in the Chilterns and an extension to the tunnel in Wendover. The exhibits included figures for several Chiltern tunnel options, which I mentioned in Committee. They range from £82 million to £485 million. The additional extension of 2.6 kilometres to the Chilterns tunnel, which I hope my noble friend acknowledges, was agreed following a specific recommendation from the Select Committee in the other place. That was at a cost of £47 million.
Turning to the costs more generally, an updated cost estimate for the project is published, as I said earlier this afternoon, at every iteration of the business case. I repeat that the next iteration is due for publication in the summer of 2017. The project as a whole, including its cost estimate and business case, is subject to regular independent review from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority—
I could not keep all those figures in my head. Will the Minister be able to tell us at some stage, not necessarily now, the total additional cost of tunnelling on top of the other costs of the railway?
I referred to the specific addition, but I note what the noble Lord has said. I will write to him in that respect and ensure that a copy of the letter is laid in the Library of the House for the benefit of all noble Lords. I reassure noble Lords that this is an area that the Government have considered very carefully. Indeed, it has been scrutinised specifically by the Select Committees of both Houses.
I want to pick up on a couple of points that have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked specific questions. I will write to him in detail on some of the issues that he raised, but my understanding is that the response on Section 85 was set out in the Government’s response to the 2011 consultation, which was subsequently published in January 2012. The other issue, of environmental mitigation, is also included in the business case, as was assessed according to the department’s guidance. As I said, the noble Lord raised some specific points and I will write to him in that respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, raised the issue of the ideas that contractors may put forward. As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, contractors come under the powers in the Bill, including the limits on deviation. Contractors are also limited by the environmental statement. Within those limits, contractors will be encouraged to be innovative. Indeed, a key commitment to Parliament in the environmental minimum requirements is that we will seek to reduce the environmental effects beyond those in the environmental statement itself. That will be done by innovation, much akin to what the noble Lord suggests.
I reiterate the point that the Public Accounts Committee in the other place and the National Audit Office will continue to examine the costs of HS2 as we move into the detailed design and construction stage and more detailed cost information becomes available. I hope my detailed response demonstrates what has been done, the analysis that has been undertaken and the revisions that have been made in response to issues that have been raised, particularly in the area of the Chilterns. I hope it demonstrates to noble Lords that the tabled amendments before us this afternoon are unnecessary. I underline that these issues have been fully examined, not by one Select Committee but by two. I have already underlined the amount of time they took and detail they went into in their careful consideration. As a Government, we feel that any further cost review at this stage would serve only to delay the railway, which I am sure is not the intention of the majority of Members in your Lordships’ House. I hope that, with the detailed explanation I have given, the noble Lord is minded to withdraw his amendment.
I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this brief debate. I expected to be vilified and attacked, and that all happened in due order. I have no comments to make on that—it goes with the burden of trying to stand up for things that you believe in. At least my noble friend withdrew the idea that I might be hysterical, which was only marginally worse than getting a low 2.2 for drafting when we introduced the discussions on the higher education Bill a few weeks ago.
I had a good response from the Minister on the particular questions I raised, and I thank him for that. On whether the statutory duties required under the CROW Act had been dealt with, he said he thought that they had been published. I would be grateful if we could perhaps have a further discussion on that when I have seen the letter that he will write. My impression was that they were not spelled out in the detail that I am looking for. I am sure that we will get to that point, so I am not worried. I look forward to corresponding with him on that.
The second point is on the cost of tunnelling, a question that came up several times from noble Lords. I understand the point that has been made but, as was said, I think, by the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, to know the cost of building the whole railway is important, but it is not the only factor that we need to know. What savings have been built into the overall cost by not doing other things that would have cost more money or, indeed, less? It is that argument that we are lacking information about. If it is true that the tunnelling is providing environmental benefits, those benefits need to be taken into account in the total value for money—a point that was made. It is that issue that we do not get.
For instance, my noble friend Lord Young raised the issue of the Colne Valley, which was not part of the amendments I put down, although it could have been. He said, as has been said elsewhere, that this was independently assessed and so is okay. But when you learn that the independent assessor was a non-executive director of the Department for Transport, which authorised the review, you wonder whether that is truly independent. Again, the point is: what does that show us? If the figures provided by the promoter are correct, that is one aspect, and it is very useful. But it does not tell you what would have been the cost had it been done a different way, such as by tunnelling. If you do not cost in the environmental benefits, that is an issue.
The Minister mentioned a range of costs for different tunnels. The figure that we most often hear, and therefore the one we are using, is about £485 million—I do not want to go into this in any detail—for the extension of the tunnel from where it comes out in the AONB in the Chilterns to Wendover. It is that figure that I want to measure against the savings that would occur from the environmental benefits preserved—the lack of building of viaducts and the requirement not to build bunds and sound-proofing. That is the figure we never hear.
Lots of people who have been engaged in the process say that they have read the reports and seen the figures. They always say that it is okay, but they never tell us what the figures are. Do noble Lords not find that just a little odd? That is why I say that the public interest needs to be satisfied and why I put down these amendments. However, I am satisfied that we have had the debate that I wanted to have at this stage. I look forward to the letters from the Minister and, with that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Amendments 4 to 6 not moved.
7: After Clause 34, insert the following new Clause—
Schedule (Traffic regulation) contains provision relating to traffic regulation.”
My Lords, I will speak also to the amendments tabled in my name. Amendment 7 seeks to ensure that traffic regulation orders—or TROs—which are a mechanism for local highway authorities to make temporary or permanent restrictions on the use of highways, do not frustrate the construction of the railway. These orders can be used to stop up roads, by restricting them to one-way operation or restricting them so that they cannot be used by lorries. A local authority could, therefore, put a lorry ban on a road that is needed to reach an HS2 phase 1 construction site or point.
Before I go any further, it is important to say that this amendment replaces the one put forward by the Government in Grand Committee, where several noble Lords on all sides of the House, including Members of your Lordships’ Select Committee, expressed a number of concerns. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, expressed concern at the lack of consultation with the local authorities. I withdrew the amendment at that time, and I agree that the lack of consultation was regrettable and is not the way that amendments should be developed or presented; for that, I apologise. However, I am happy to confirm that, even while the Grand Committee was taking place, my officials were having constructive discussions with local authorities, and these amendments are the result of those discussions.
We believe that the amendments address the substantive concerns that local authorities were expressing. This new clause and schedule will ensure that the local highway authorities consult the Secretary of State for Transport before making any orders that affect either specific roads identified for use by HS2 or other roads related to HS2 construction works, avoiding the risk that TROs could inadvertently cause problems for the construction of HS2. It also allows the Secretary of State, if required, to make TROs himself, and to prohibit or revoke TROs that unnecessarily hinder the delivery of the railway.
We have accepted that, as previously formulated, the relevant roads to which the provisions would have applied were too broad. The revisions we have made to the amendment include enabling the Secretary of State to specify particular roads that the provisions will not apply to and removing the specific issue of the,
“1 kilometre from the act limits”,
boundary for relevant roads. We have also revised the amendment to allow the Secretary of State to specify types of traffic regulation orders that we will not be concerned about, which will provide further clarity to local authorities. Furthermore, we have introduced into the provisions a sunset clause relating to the consultation requirement. This means that the Secretary of State will need to make a Statement when consultation is no longer required in a local highway authority area due to the phase 1 construction having been completed in that area. The circumstances in which the Secretary of State may use these powers has been tightened, so the Secretary of State must consider that the use of the powers is necessary for the timely, efficient and cost-effective construction of HS2 and is reasonable in the circumstances.
Additional changes include a duty that will mean that any temporary traffic regulation order that the Secretary of State asks a local highway authority to make is for only a reasonable period of time, with reference to the length of the relevant construction works. The amendment also requires the Secretary of State to produce guidance on how these powers will operate. In addition to these revisions, we have agreed to provide specific undertakings that these powers will not be used to affect any existing busways, cycleways or the London Safer Lorry Scheme. Clearly, we hope that there will be little or no need to rely on these powers, as the regular meetings established with local highway authorities will be used to consult, agree and monitor local traffic management plans. However, these powers are needed to ensure that if these arrangements fail, HS2 can be delivered in an efficient manner.
Given the impact that traffic regulation orders could have on the construction of HS2, it is prudent for us to take these powers, and the changes that we have made will now provide the local authorities with the clarification and additional protections they sought in relation to these provisions. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has tabled several amendments regarding this amendment that are listed further down the Marshalled List. I will be happy to address the issues raised in those once the noble Lord has had an opportunity to speak to them. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak to the remaining amendments in this group, starting with Amendment 14. First, I should express my gratitude to the Minister for the way he took on some of the comments and criticisms in Committee. I am aware of a number of meetings that have taken place between his officials and representatives of some of the local authorities up the route—from Transport for London to the West Midlands and some in between—and I think there has been a lot of progress.
The problem for these authorities is that this kind of detailed legislation should have been in the Bill before it even started its passage through either House, so that the local authorities could have prepared petitions if they did not like it and had a detailed discussion in either or both of the Select Committees. It is quite difficult and time-consuming to try to resolve these issues on Report. I received a number of comments from local authorities, some from TfL in particular, which are quite important. They would be much happier if all these issues could be resolved before Third Reading and would be happy with the undertakings that I believe the Minister said he would offer—although I have not seen them, so I cannot comment on them. As a matter of principle, I hope that the Government will not do this again—rush something as complicated as this at the very last stage. I am sure they had a very good reason for it, but perhaps we will learn from the next stages of phase 2—phases 2A and 2B—and anything else that happens, such as Crossrail 2. As the Minister said, there is a need to ensure that what is required on the traffic side to build HS2 is not compromised. However, it also needs to be balanced by the needs of local people getting to work, driving up the motorway or using local train services, and that is what these regulations are designed to do. There are a few other things that probably need doing.
The Minister invited me to speak to these amendments. I will do so in four small groups, as quickly as I can. Then I hope he will be able to say what he can do and whether he agrees with them or not. Amendments 14, 15 and 16 involve a duty to consult, the power to direct and vary TROs, and so on. We are getting down to the definition of what is called a “relevant road”—at which some noble Lords might start glazing over and wonder what we are talking about, but it is quite important. HS2 has already sought approval, in Schedule 17, for many roads. In respect of Transport for London, it sought approval in respect of the entire GLA road network, which covers all the red routes in London. That seems a little excessive because there are an awful lot of red routes in London, and not many of them are near Euston or the roads in. I am sure it will not need to use these roads, but the burden of consultation on the local authorities is quite severe. This amendment is intended to reduce the need for consultation once HS2 has decided where it wants to run its tracks and other transport. It will not restrict the use of these roads to other traffic by having these requirements on all the red routes through London. I understand that the department has offered an undertaking to TfL, but I hope that this could apply in a similar way across the country, from the West Midlands downwards and to all the local authorities in between.
Harking back to the last debate about tunnels, we forget that nearly all the tunnels are in the southern half of the route—we can debate the reasons for that. But the line goes through a lot of urban areas in the northern half of the route and to some extent the transport problems may be even worse there than in the south. I hope the Minister will consider this amendment as a way of restricting the amount of consultation required. Consultation is obviously a good thing, but there is a limit to how much a local authority can cope with consultation on these TROs. They have to do many other bits of consultation at the same time. The amendment is therefore intended to give local authorities much greater certainty and avoid an excessive, disproportionate and unjustifiable burden on them.
When he introduced this group of amendments, I think the Minister hinted about Amendment 17. There is already a need for the Secretary of State, when he makes, varies or revokes a TRO, to consult with a traffic authority. The purpose is currently limited to ensuring public safety, reducing public convenience and taking into account the requirement to which the traffic authority is subject. But there is nothing that says account should be taken of the environmental effects. That should be added, because some of the plans—which may or may not be necessary—could have a significant, adverse environmental effect if there is too much construction traffic. I know there has been a very full environmental study of the whole route, but when we are getting into the detail, people will worry locally about where the traffic is going. If the environmental effects are not allowed to be considered, that would cause problems locally.
Amendment 18 relates to deadlines for the release of guidance. The proposed new schedule includes an obligation on the Secretary of State to prepare a guidance statement under paragraph 13, having consulted traffic authorities in respect of a traffic authority’s duty to consult under paragraph 1(2) and how the Secretary of State proposes to exercise his powers in respect of making, varying or revoking TROs under the schedule. This requirement is a welcome step. It ensures that the traffic authorities have the opportunity to be consulted, give their opinion and so forth. But what is missing is a deadline within which this guidance should be offered.
I have received strong pressure from some traffic authorities, saying that they need the guidance statement to be produced within three months of Royal Assent. As I said, they often have to process hundreds of these TROs a year. It is a big workload. They do not complain because it is the right way of doing things, but it would be good to have the guidance at an early stage so that they can take it forward in a structured way. I understand that the department has offered, in the form of an undertaking to a number of traffic authorities, an obligation to produce the guidance within three months. If the department is happy to offer that deadline, it raises the question of why that cannot be included in the Bill. Maybe I am too late with that, but it is a pity it was not included in the Bill.
I have nearly finished. Amendment 20 is confined to London roads. It comes from the fact that the road structure in London is different from the rest of the country. The duty to maintain a public highway falls on a number of different public bodies. The Secretary of State is of course the highway authority for motorways and trunk roads. Outside London, the county council, metropolitan council or unitary council has responsibility for the roads in the relevant area, except for motorways and trunk roads. But in London it is slightly different. TfL is the highway authority for Greater London Authority roads and then each London borough is the highway authority for all other roads in its area. Generally, the highway authority is also the traffic authority for the road. Traffic authorities have the power to manage traffic and can make TROs.
The problem with the new schedule as drafted is that it does not take into account some of the peculiarities of the situation in London. The current drafting of the definition of traffic authority in the schedule cross-refers to the definition in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. In that definition, it states in Section 121A:
“Transport for London is the traffic authority for every GLA road”,
and a GLA road is defined in the Highways Act 1980.
However, there is another category of road in London—the GLA side road. I was not aware of such a thing until I received this briefing, but I am convinced that there is such a thing. They are peculiar in that the relevant London borough is the highway authority for them but TfL is the traffic authority. The logic for GLA side roads is that they are roads that adjoin GLA roads and to properly regulate traffic entering or leaving GLA roads, TfL also needs traffic regulation powers over GLA side roads. Noble Lords may have studied which traffic lights in London are on TfL roads and which are on borough roads. This explanation confirms what I have thought for a long time: it is a bit of a mess. When we debated some of this 10 years ago, we did not have the experience, but we are where we are.
As presently drafted, the new schedule, by referring only to the definition in Section 121A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, would not properly capture the fact that TfL is the appropriate traffic authority for GLA side roads. Amendments 19 and 20 would remedy that. They would also clarify that, unlike other traffic authorities, TfL does not have an exclusive area as such, but rather a network of roads within the areas of other traffic authorities. As such, the frequent references in the schedule to a traffic authority’s area should read in the case of TfL as a reference to its highway network.
That is the end. I tried to make it a short description but, as noble Lords will have understood, it is quite complicated. The Minister may say in reply, “Trust me, guv”, which is a reasonable response. But in talking to the local authorities there is a feeling that sometimes, as this Bill has passed through both Houses and the local authorities have been involved, there is a lack of confidence that HS2 will do what the Minister says if it does not feel like it. I do not think we will see any more of the aggression from HS2 that we have seen in the past, but I hope the Minister will consider this. I am sure there will be more meetings before Third Reading, but these issues need sorting out. Whether that is in the form of assurances or whether the Minister comes back at Third Reading with some of these amendments drafted in his own hand so that they will be correct, I look forward to his response.
My Lords, as I have not spoken before at this stage of proceedings, it is appropriate to me to preface my remarks by joining others in thanking members of the Select Committee for all their hard work and truly amazing perseverance with the Bill. The report is excellent in many respects. There is no doubt about the thoroughness of it. But of course the amendments in the name of the Minister relate to something that the committee did not examine.
That previous set of amendments was brought forward in Committee without prior consideration. I am, therefore, pleased to see that considerable progress has been made since the Minister agreed to withdraw them. Camden Council is undoubtedly very much happier with the new set than it was with the previous set.
There are, however, outstanding issues, some of which the Minister referred to, including the impact on bus lanes, cycleways and the Safer Lorry scheme. He did not, however, unless I missed it—and I was listening carefully—refer to the congestion charge zone, and I would welcome clarity on whether these powers will affect that.
He also made it clear that there were issues where there was some distance between the Government and Camden Council and others. Can I have the Minister’s assurance that discussions are ongoing, and that the Government are looking for further progress? Although his assurances are very reassuring, they do not go the whole way towards addressing the concerns of the areas that would be considerably affected by these traffic regulations.
I will make a few brief comments. First, I thank the Minister for the consultation that has taken place since Committee with local highway authorities, and for the retabling of the new schedule. Certainly, as a result of what has happened since Committee, a lot of the sting seems to have been taken out of the issue.
However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, there are still some outstanding issues. The noble Baroness mentioned Camden Council. It has indicated to us—and to the noble Baroness—that it is still pursuing certain points with the promoter. It has indicated—no doubt to all of us—that it wants the Secretary of State to provide a justification when using the powers around traffic management in the new schedule.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred to the issues of bus lanes, cycleways, the Safer Lorry scheme and the congestion charge zone, and the Minister has already touched on that. However, Camden Council, as I understand it, is asking the Government to agree to specific provisions to ensure that these powers will not affect bus lanes, cycleways, the Safer Lorry scheme and the congestion charge zone, and I would be grateful if the Minister could say whether he feels that he has already met, in his earlier comments, the wish of Camden Council for those specific provisions.
The third request by Camden Council is for an assurance that the promoter of HS2 will meet the costs incurred by local authorities in putting in place, and removing, traffic regulation orders required by the Secretary of State. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that. If he feels that he covered it in his introductory comments, I apologise for raising them again. I am, however, raising them just to make sure that they have been covered.
Will the Minister also say how many organisations or local highway authorities are still making representations to him on this issue? Is the number considerable, or is it fairly limited? Is the number of outstanding points fairly limited? As I understand it—as others have said—discussions are still taking place, and it would be welcome if the Minister could let us know, either now or at Third Reading, whether those outstanding issues have been addressed. It is not unreasonable to ask the Minister to say something at Third Reading, bearing in mind the late arrival of the amendment in Committee and the fact that the Minister agreed to withdraw it and we are having our first discussion on the schedule only today. In that context it is not unreasonable to ask the Minister to update us today, and indeed at Third Reading, on whether there are outstanding issues with local highway authorities.
My Lords, again I thank the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for their contributions, and for making time to meet me and my officials to discuss this issue. As I said in introducing the amendments in my name, I have made full acknowledgement, both in Committee and earlier this afternoon, about the way the amendments were originally presented. We learn from some of the issues that arise both from the legislative process and from the scale of a project such as this. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, there are occasions when challenges arise and we try to deal with them. Equally, with infrastructure projects—not just HS2 but other projects coming forward—it is important to learn from experience, as we have from Crossrail. We have been putting in place much of what we have learned from the Crossrail experience, which has been positive, in our discussions.
I will speak to the specific amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and I will address some of the issues raised by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord on issues around existing provisions and assurances. First, I put on record my thanks to the noble Lord for his specific help with the further development of the Government’s amendment on TROs. As I noted earlier, I totally understand the sentiment and I acknowledge the contributions made in this regard.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about ongoing discussions. My understanding is that there are ongoing discussions but that they are mainly with TfL. Indeed, the latest meeting took place only a few hours ago—and, as I told the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, outside the Chamber this afternoon, these discussions are going forward in a positive way, in terms of understanding and taking account of the concerns of, in this case, TfL. I will check, but my understanding—as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser—is that the discussions are only with TfL and that the concerns of other local authorities have been addressed. If that is not the case I will confirm it to the noble Lord, as he suggested.
We are all rushing to get the latest information, but I understand from my meeting with TfL and others yesterday that most of the issues under discussion cover the whole route, except for my last amendment, which was specific to TfL—but I may be wrong.
I will address those points specifically as I come to each amendment.
Amendment 14 affects only TfL and no other traffic authority. My officials have now shared a draft undertaking with TfL which addresses this issue and indeed goes further than what was raised. The amendment agrees a number of London boroughs in which the Secretary of State will issue the notice that this consultation requirement will not apply. Given that this issue, in terms of the undertaking, is already addressed in a legal contract, there is no need to include this proposal in legislation.
Similarly, Amendments 18, 19 and 20 are included in the same undertaking, which deals specifically with the concerns in a manner that will also avoid any issues with the potential rehybridisation of the Bill at this late stage—which I fully acknowledge is not the intention of the noble Lord.
Amendments 15 and 16 relate to roads on which the secretary of State can exercise his powers to make TROs, and seek to limit these to roads in relation to which a local authority must consult the Secretary of State. In this case I can assure the noble Lord that, as I said in my opening remarks, the powers of the Secretary of State to direct can be exercised only in the limited circumstances where it is necessary for HS2 and deemed reasonable. If it is necessary for the timely, efficient and cost-effective construction of HS2, and reasonable, the Secretary of State will be able to make the TRO.
Amendment 17 is also unnecessary, as Clause 20 already limits the planning permission provided by the Bill to the environmental effects assessed in the environmental statement. The environmental minimum requirements further require the nominated undertaker to reduce the environmental impacts.
I will turn to a couple of specific questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked about the congestion charge. This provision will not affect the existing congestion charge or any existing environmental weight limits. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about Camden Council. It is my understanding that we have concluded discussions on much of the concerns. Again, there were further meetings with TfL and I believe that some of the issues are being routed through that channel. That meeting was also positive—but if the noble Lord wishes to raise with me any specific issues which have come to his attention, I will of course be happy to look into them in more detail.
He also asked about the justification for the use of powers. This is included in the undertaking and guidance will include a justification for why they should be used. As noble Lords know, the undertaking is a legal contract, so the commitments are legally binding. I understand that we are also exploring the appropriate way to address the issue of costs with local highway authorities, which are very much part of those discussions.
As I said to the House earlier, we are having ongoing discussions and they have moved on in a number of areas that the noble Lord touched on in his amendments. We have now also included them in the undertakings. Discussions will continue between now and Third Reading to address any outstanding issues. I will of course keep noble Lords abreast of any issues, either at or before Third Reading, and will update them as I have sought to do during the different stages of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said that I might well say, “Trust me, guv”. I would not dream of calling him “guv”, but I do say, “Trust me, my Lords”, in the sense that we seek to work constructively and positively with local authorities, traffic authorities and TfL. I am confident that we will continue to address the concerns that they have raised. I hope that, in light of the assurances I have given and the fact that discussions continue with TfL on the further details of the legal undertaking, which will be agreed jointly as we address remaining concerns, the noble Lord will be minded not to press his amendments.
Amendment 7 agreed.
8: After Clause 35, insert the following new Clause—
“Plan for restrictions on lorries and road use
Within three months of the start of the scheduled works, the nominated undertaker must publish a plan setting out, for each construction site in the Euston area being used or to be used for the scheduled works, how the number of lorries delivering to or from the site could be limited in order to meet the following restrictions by weight of materials transported by road— (a) no more than 50% of excavated spoil and demolition material;(b) no more than 25% of concreting aggregates;with the remainder in each case being carried by rail.”
My Lords, Amendment 8 is in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It seeks to reduce the impact of many years of construction work on the residents of Euston and on our environment generally. In the light of earlier amendments, there is no way in which this amendment could be argued to be delaying anything going ahead with HS2. It is a detail relating to the operation of construction works. It is clear from the committee’s report, which goes into this issue in great detail, that it has concluded that the impact of construction works on the Euston area will be massive. We discussed the issue of compensation in Grand Committee, when the Minister said that he hoped to be in a position to produce further information about the compensation scheme that the Government are considering for the Euston area. Is he able to give us further information now?
In Committee, we put down an amendment that dealt with the transport of materials along the whole line but today we are concentrating on Euston, which is where the impact will be greatest. However, I argue that the same principles should apply throughout the whole project. Put simply, this amendment seeks to reduce the impact of construction on the beleaguered residents of Euston and the surrounding area by reducing the quantity of spoil and construction materials carried by road. The committee itself noted that areas of Camden suffer levels of air pollution well in excess of EU limits, which is a compelling reason to choose to transport by rail whenever possible.
The Euston area will suffer from more than a decade of disruption. Homes will be demolished, as well as a large office block, so there will be a lot of spoil as well as the building materials required for the new part of the station and the line itself. Your Lordships should bear in mind that after the HS2 part of the station is built, residents face disruption from the promised rebuilding of the existing station. The committee’s report notes that the shortest journey by road from Euston to the nearest landfill site is 26 miles, one way. As I said in Committee, one train can move as much material as 124 HGV lorries so the argument is very strong: as much material as possible must go by rail. If not by rail, it needs to go by river, which would of course necessitate putting the spoil or material into a lorry first to take it to the Thames. It would therefore not be as good as putting it straight on the railway.
HS2 is currently committed to moving 28% of excavated soil and 17% of construction materials by rail. It simply must do much better than that. Disappointingly, the committee did not recommend targets but major recent construction projects demonstrate that it is reasonable to expect a much higher percentage to go by rail. I give the House the examples of the Olympics, the tideway tunnel and Crossrail as construction projects which have been very successful in transporting by rail. Crossrail managed 80%, so the 50% target in our amendment is not that ambitious if looked at in that way. These figures are certainly not plucked from the air, as the Minister suggested in his response in Committee, but based on previous large construction projects and what could be reasonably expected.
In his response in Committee, the Minister also warned of the potential disruption to other rail services of using freight trains for this work. At the rate I quoted, with one train potentially carrying the load of 124 HGVs, we are talking about a small number of trains per day—say four or five. That is as nothing compared to the disruption to London traffic from many hundreds of HGVs every day. The Minister told us that it was premature to set targets but I was certainly not clear from his answer whether the Government intend to set targets at any stage. I believe that targets are a useful tool for encouraging HS2 to think more ambitiously. I am not clear whether HS2 is going to set the maximisation of spoil removal by rail as a requirement of its contracts with contractors. I am interested in whether the Government consider that this is something that they should be doing. There is also the issue of the control of subcontractors. Corners are often cut in large construction projects at this level.
I am certainly not arguing that transport by rail is the only measure needed. There are many others, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, indicated in Committee. As yet, there are few signs that HS2 is taking the holistic approach to environmentally friendly construction that is desperately needed at this complex and congested site. Best practice at other large construction sites in central London demonstrates that this is perfectly feasible. TfL is leading the way in working with other contractors. For example, at one large building site near the Shard, it is estimated that 876 HGV trips were saved by a variety of other complementary measures. On its own, each one is simple and common sense, but easily ignored in the pressures of a large project where the requirement is to cut costs and keep to time. I am talking about limiting the empty running of vehicles by ensuring that reverse loads are available. There is the use of consolidation centres, so that lorries always arrive on site absolutely full. Of great importance to Camden residents will be strict enforcement of rules to prevent the running of engines in stationary vehicles. Fundamental to all this is the better use of arisings, such as the recycling of concrete and the better use of inert earth, for example for flood defences and landscaping.
All this requires imagination and co-operation, not just between HS2 and its contractors, but with other development sites and other local authorities. So far, the stated aims of HS2, the responses of the Minister and the evidence of the committee’s report, have not convinced me that HS2 is prepared to push the boundaries of best practice. This is what they need to do, because this is an extraordinarily disruptive development in Euston and the surrounding area. It should be the role of government to defend its citizens; I would say that the citizens of Camden do not feel that they are being defended at the moment.
I will listen carefully to see whether the Minister is able to give us greater assurances than he was able to give in Committee. I am grateful to the noble Lord for the time he has given in meeting me to discuss various issues associated with this Bill. But I regret that f he is not able to give greater assurances, I am minded to divide the House on this amendment.
My Lords, every time we talked about how to get the spoil from the site through to the rail holding, the fundamental issue we discussed was moving more by rail. The problem is that people think a great job was done with the Olympics and with Crossrail. As was pointed out by the proposer, the geography of the area from where the spoil would have to be removed means that it was nothing like as easy. In some cases it would take a double journey to get the spoil to the railway. Every sinew was strained to overcome this. I hope that some other noble Lords who were on the committee will say how it was; the first thought was getting the spoil to a railhead or to a railway and reducing the number of HGVs on the road. I am sure that there must be something in our report on this—I will find out.
My Lords, to concur with what the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, said, we did discuss this at great length in the committee. A target of 28% target has been set; it is certainly not a maximum, as I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, knows. Most of the points that she made are valid, except for the comparison. We are not comparing like with like. In Crossrail, for example, although a significant amount of spoil was shifted using the river, it had to get to the river first. That was part of the problem. This is an unrealistic target, which does not mean to say that we should not be ensuring that the contractors make every effort to take the maximum amount by rail. They have an incentive to do so but there are limitations—for instance, as to how much you can take out of Euston by rail and the times at which it can be done. All that was discussed.
Although it appears reasonable to set this kind of target, I concur with the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, that it is not the right way to go about it. There should be—the Secretary of State will ensure that there will be—very significant pressure on the contractors to take the maximum amount off the road, for all the reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said. I look forward to hearing what further assurances the Minister can give.
Camden may not have got everything, but it received 100 assurances, which were legal requirements, given by the promotor during the course of its own negotiations, and further additions that we made as the result of our hearings.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. I think I have some good news. I pay tribute the Select Committee’s work on this. I know that it tried very hard and quizzed lots of people as to how it could be done. As is so often the case, when it gets to the stage of involving contractors, sometimes contractors have good ideas. I was talking to some of them and their specialists last week. One of the key ideas is if you bore tunnels from Old Oak Common to Euston and you complete at least one at any early stage, you can take the spoil out through the tunnel. This is a very good idea because you can then deal with it at Old Oak Common. I am told it is possible; they are trying to work it into the programme. If it is possible, the figure for getting spoil and demolition out would probably go up to above 50%—I was told 70% or 80%—which is really good news. In other words, they have come up with some creative ideas. Maybe we were wrong to criticise HS2 in the past for not coming up with such ideas. It has given us a lot of debating time and the committee several days of discussion, but at least people have come up with a good idea. I think four contractors are tendering and I do not know whether they will all adopt this, but it demonstrates that it is possible. I hope Ministers will do all they can to encourage the contractors to be similarly creative.
There is another issue. In Committee we discussed concreting materials and other materials. The present amendment covers just concreting materials. The creative people are now saying, quite rightly, that they cannot bring cement in by train because it takes too long to unload, but that they can bring in most of the concreting aggregate by train and they can put a batching plant for mixing it somewhere on site. I am sure the committee looked at different locations for that; I have, and it is possible. As the noble Baroness said in her opening remarks, there is not a capacity problem for these trains going into Euston at night. It could easily be done.
I hope the Minister will accept these amendments as pointing the way forward to encouraging HS2 to continue to be creative like this. We do not want 1,500 trucks a day in Camden because the construction will last for 19 years—not that all those trucks will be there for 19 years, but they will still there be there for a considerable period. The basic movement out of spoil and demolition material by rail and bringing in concreting aggregate by rail would make a lot of people happy. I am convinced that the project can be done on that basis without any adverse effect on its programme or cost. If it is set up to do that, the contractors will do it well and it will work well.
As has been said, the amendment calls for a plan to be published for each construction site in the Euston area to show how the number of lorries delivering to or from the site could be limited to meet laid-down restrictions by the weight of materials transported by road, with the remainder being carried by rail. As has been said, this is an issue to which the Lords Select Committee, on which the three main parties and the Cross Benches were represented, gave consideration. The committee said in paragraph 411 of its report:
“We are very strongly of the opinion that as much material as possible should be moved by rail, so as to reduce road traffic congestion and air pollution. However, we are convinced by the evidence that this aim will be significantly more difficult to achieve at Euston, as compared with most of the other projects referred to by Mr Dyer and Lord Berkeley. We are satisfied that HS2 is taking this responsibility seriously, and we are hopeful that significant progress will be made as the time comes for contractors to be appointed and become involved in the detailed planning. In the meantime we see no useful purpose to be served by attempting to set fixed targets. It would be little more than plucking aspirational figures out of the air”.
We do not diverge from the position of the Select Committee. Since it is also our view as much material as possible should be moved by rail, we will not vote against the amendment if it is put to the vote. Indeed, we want to see the “significant progress” made with contractors to which the Select Committee referred in its report.
The amendment does not indicate what should happen once the plan has been published. The plan would be required to set out how the number of lorries could be limited to deliver the restrictions on movement referred to. Presumably, this would be without any detailed reference to costs or any other potential implications. Frankly, rather than the terms of the amendment, with what the Select Committee might or might not regard as its aspirational figures, surely what is required to deliver for the citizens of Camden is a firm commitment from the Government to hold HS2 to the undertaking it has given to maximise the movement of materials by rail, including in the Euston area, despite the difficulties referred to by the Select Committee, with a view to its going well beyond the guaranteed baseline for moving materials by rail of 28% of excavated soil and 17% of imported construction materials. Paragraph 117 of the promoter’s response to the Select Committee’s special report says:
“The Promoter reiterates its overarching commitment to continue to seek to maximise, as far as reasonably practicable, the amount of material that can be moved by rail, and the underlying commitments it has given the London Borough of Camden”.
I hope the Minister will address this point about how the Government intend to ensure that maximising the movement of materials by rail is delivered.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I do not think there is a difference of opinion over the intent here, whether in the amendment that the noble Baroness has tabled, in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, with which I find it very hard to disagree, or the findings and recommendations of the Select Committee. As I noted in Committee, I agree with the ambition to maximise the use of rail for the transportation of material in relation to HS2. The Government absolutely share the concerns about the impact of HS2 construction on the road network, and have already made commitments with similar intentions. I assure the noble Baroness that we have also committed to maximise the volume of excavated and construction material to be brought in and removed by rail. This will need to be done while balancing the wider environmental impacts on the local community and on passenger services.
In moving the amendment, the noble Baroness talked about specific infrastructure projects; indeed, she mentioned Crossrail. Firm targets on this issue are not the manner by which previous infrastructure projects, which she mentioned, were managed, and that includes Crossrail. The amendment as tabled suggests those particular targets. It is not that we are shying away from targets but, as I have said—perhaps I can reassure her again—we are already committed to work with local traffic management authorities in developing plans in liaison with the relevant highway and traffic authorities, which will be the means by which we agree, manage and monitor lorry traffic flows. Ultimately, and I emphasise this point to the noble Baroness, it is also the local authority that must approve the local routes used in connection with HS2.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the Government’s position. A commitment is an assurance to Parliament, and all assurances will be passed to the contractors in the contracts that are negotiated.
To come back to Crossrail, what worked so well was the fact that the agreements were locally negotiated. I totally concur with the conclusions of the Select Committee, which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, alluded to in his comments; he mentioned quite specifically that setting targets now would mean plucking figures out of the air. This does not take away from the importance of HS2; indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, talked in his contribution about the intent that has already been shown in the response to the Select Committee by HS2 regarding the important issue of moving material as much as possible by means other than roads. I come back to the key point that those local plans must be agreed by the local authority.
I hope the noble Baroness is not just assured but reassured by the commitments that I have given. I have listened very carefully to her contributions and those from the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Rosser, and I do not think there is a difference of opinion about material—excuse the pun—or the substance of what is being proposed and the way forward. This is about ensuring that HS2 works hand-in-glove with the local authorities to ensure that, whatever local targets are set, it maximises the use of alternatives to roads, and that any roads that lorries may use in removing such soil is approved by the local authority and the local traffic management authority. I hope that, with the assurances I have given, the noble Baroness will be minded to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, there is a certain irony in building a railway but not using rail to transport materials because it is too difficult. That idea has been suggested by some noble Lords in this debate.
The noble Baroness has made a point, and I would like to provide clarification. As I think that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned, HS2 is very much committed to using alternative sources. We need to put any other suggestion to rest. In no way are either the Government or HS2 suggesting that we look towards the roads. Indeed, I emphasise again that we shall maximise alternatives to roads and ensure that spoil can be removed accordingly. I hope that the noble Baroness accepts that point.
I accept that point, but the noble Baroness who was a member of the committee talked about the complexities of carrying materials by rail in this case, and the committee’s report refers to this. I accept that Crossrail and other sites that I mentioned are not the same. Of course they are not, but Crossrail achieved 80%. Therefore in terms of percentages, our amendment is relatively modest.
The Government face a huge problem with air quality in central London. They need to do everything in their power to encourage every construction site to transport as much as possible by rail or to use environmentally friendly methods. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that the experience of other sites shows that the type of measure to which I referred in my speech, including transport by rail, reduces overall costs. However, to the Minister I make the fundamental point that the idea of targets has been accepted. HS2 has targets. It is simply that these need to be more ambitious. Locally agreed targets and arrangements were of course appropriate for Crossrail because Crossrail affected diverse areas across London. Our amendment refers only to Euston. Therefore I am disappointed that the Minister has not come up with definite arrangements to improve the plans that have been put forward so far by HS2. On that basis, I seek to test the opinion of the House.
24 January 2017
Division on Amendment 8
Amendment 8 disagreed.View Details
Amendment 9 not moved.
10: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—
“West Coast Main Line trains at Euston
The nominated undertaker must, within three months of the passing of this Act, publish plans demonstrating how, during any works supporting the construction of Phase One of High Speed 2, at least four tracks serving the West Coast Main Line trains in and out of Euston station would remain open at all times, except for the normal possession periods of Network Rail of nights, weekends and public holiday periods.”
My Lords, I promise that I will be quick. This amendment concerns the need to keep the west coast main line trains running into Euston while HS2 is constructed. When the Minister kindly met me last week, I showed him a cross-section drawing that I received some time ago from HS2 which described building what most people call a bird-cage—it is a hell of a big bird-cage; it is several train storeys high—near Park Village East. It shows how HS2 trains have grade separation, but it is all underneath three or four tracks of the west coast main line. I cannot see how you can build this bird-cage underground and keep the trains running on top. I have not had a sensible answer from anyone as to how it will be done. Perhaps the bird-cage is being redesigned; perhaps the tracks will be moved over, if that is possible; but it is important that the Minister can confirm that the west coast main line trains will keep operating during construction, because the poor old commuters and long-distance passengers will not be very pleased if it is closed for six months.
I have not received any later drawings of that cross-section. Perhaps it has changed but, under the version I had, I should think that you would have to close Euston for about a year. I hope that that is not the case, and I am sure that HS2 is coming up with alternative designs, but somehow those four tracks going into Euston must be kept operational—except for the odd weekend or night. I beg to move.
I think the noble Lord just spoke to Amendment 10. I am just checking to make sure.
Amendment 9 was not moved.
Although the majority of HS2 phase 1 construction work will not affect the existing railway, possessions will be needed where works to the existing railway are necessary, such as around Euston and Old Oak Common, to build junctions or indeed to cross other lines. However, we believe that the amendment is unnecessary as the design in the Bill retains the approach tracks, and our design development of Euston is exploring further work to ensure that all six approach tracks can be retained. This will enable the existing level of service to operate in and out of Euston until the opening of HS2 phase 1 in 2016.
We have also asked HS2 Ltd to undertake further design development with the object of minimising the impacts on the travelling public, protecting the current levels of train service and minimising the impact on local communities. I assure the noble Lord that possessions needed will be booked by or through Network Rail in accordance with standard industry processes. The possessions planning process includes consultation with the wider railway industry, including operators and users, to ensure that the relevant travel information is communicated to passengers and that possessions are considered in the context of wider railway operations.
For any such possessions, Network Rail will work with the industry to agree how and when to take such possessions to allow HS2 construction works to be undertaken. We will be able to take these possessions only with the agreement of passenger and freight train operators—but they cannot unreasonably withhold access. The decision on whether possession is agreed to or not will be driven by the train operators being satisfied that the possessions are necessary and efficiently planned, and that suitable passenger mitigations are in place to minimise disruption to services—which I know is the noble Lord’s concern. I assure him that we are working collaboratively with the railway industry to develop a route-wide communications plan to prepare passengers when engineering works take place.
We have previously talked about other infrastructure projects. This will include the lessons learned from experience of the London Olympics and other significant closures—the noble Lord mentioned London Bridge. Further work is under way so that we can understand passenger circulation while Euston station—a specific concern of the noble Lord—is being constructed. There will of course be regular discussion and consultation with operators of passenger and freight services as we move forward with planning and detailed design stages of the project, but I return to my initial comments about ensuring that those tracks are retained to ensure access to Euston.
Based on the details I have given, I hope that the noble Lord will be minded to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for that answer—and I am reasonably comforted. The procedures he outlined for taking possession, after consultation, are certainly what would be expected from a major project; they are the right way to do this and I am very glad that he outlined them. However, he did not quite say how we will get around this problem. This part of the project will involve digging a hole about 20 metres deep, and the final cross-section shows that it will be underneath two of the tracks. That is not a weekend possession. It will probably take the best part of a year—unless the plan is to move the tracks over and, presumably, pay for that to happen. So I will reflect on what the Minister said, but I will remain worried until and unless I see a new design from HS2 which solves the problem. I think that the present design is frankly insoluble without closing the west coast main line for a year—but I shall pursue this issue outside the Bill. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 10 withdrawn.
11: After Clause 52, insert the following new Clause—
“Review: Calvert Sidings
(1) The Secretary of State must commission a review of the proposed construction and route variation required for Calvert Sidings, covering construction and noise impacts which have not hitherto been considered.(2) The review must also consider impacts—(a) on affected communities, farms and estates;(b) of the movement of farm vehicles, works traffic and other traffic;(c) on bridle ways and footpaths crossing the railway route.(3) The review may recommend whether a Transport and Works Act order should be made, under the provisions of section 52, to authorise adjustments relating to Calvert Sidings.”
My Lords, we debated this amendment in Committee. I put it down again in the hope of getting a response to the letter I wrote to the Minister before Report. I would like to thank him for his letter, which I received last night and which was enormously helpful.
The reason that this rather particular amendment relating to the Calvert sidings is important is that this community already has a railway line going through it: the Aylesbury spur. Before HS2 came along, the promoters of the east-west rail scheme said that they were going to upgrade this line as part of the railway across England. Where there is currently a level crossing, because hardly any trains use the line—perhaps one or two a week—they proposed to construct a bridge. This would have satisfied those who live either side of the line.
It is quite tough having one main line across your farm or farms, but even tougher when someone comes along and says, “By the way, we are going to put another one across—HS2”. One person will have the east-west line 100 yards to the north of him and HS2 100 yards to the south. The promoters of HS2 and the Select Committee looked at this and said that they did not think it was necessary to build a bridge. That was the decision of the Select Committee and I will not argue with it—to be perfectly honest I do not know whether it was right or wrong. What happened then was that East West Rail said that it would not build a bridge, either, and withdrew its proposal. As a result, we will have a community that will be hemmed in on both sides.
The Minister has been enormously helpful and said that East West Rail intends to consult on the proposed changes later in the year, which will give those affected a chance to have their views heard. This issue fell between two railway lines, as it were, and so was not considered by the Select Committee. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Young, were in his place so he could hear that—but perhaps he might read Hansard later. Some of us who are concerned that HS2 will be successful are also concerned about the effect on the people and communities who will live alongside it—but what the Minister has said is a huge improvement and I thank him for that.
The Minister also said that objections to the Calvert sidings could be made as part of a Transport and Works Act order. I have to admit that I do not know very much about such orders. When I looked up the question of whether they have to be approved by Parliament on the Government’s website, the answer was that they do not normally have to be presented before coming into force but that they can occasionally do so through a special parliamentary procedure. If the Minister cannot tell me now, could he write to explain what the process will be: that is, whether it will come before Parliament or not? That way, we can help that community to plan to protect itself. I look forward to the Minister’s response and beg to move the amendment.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his amendment. His comments reflect that we have clarified some of the issues, and he has articulated part of the response that I would have given. I therefore also thank him for accepting the Government’s explanation.
The noble Lord did mention two outstanding issues. There will of course be a consultation, as I said in my letter, and East West Rail intends to consult on the change more broadly later this year. At that time, any concerned parties will have the opportunity to make their representations. He also mentioned the Transport and Works Act order for the provision of sidings, primarily to facilitate the business of the FCC waste facility, which is also in this broad location. All the relevant impacts on local communities and farming interests of the works purposed as part of that order, in addition to the comprehensive assessment undertaken as part of the environmental statement for the Bill scheme, have already been taken into consideration.
The noble Lord asked specifically about the process hereafter and I will of course write to him to clarify that. But I hope it is not pre-emptive to assume that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment because we have answered the questions he raised.
I am very grateful for the Minister’s answer and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 11 withdrawn.
12: After Clause 62, insert the following new Clause—
The nominated undertaker has a duty to take reasonable and cost effective steps to deal appropriately with protected species.”
My Lords, I was moved to put down this amendment by a report that appeared in the Times on Saturday 14 January, an extract of which I will read in a moment. The proposed new clause says:
“The nominated undertaker has a duty to take reasonable and cost effective steps to deal appropriately with protected species”.
My concern is as much with the reasonable steps as it is with the protected species. The article in the Times, under the by-line of Mr Ben Webster, the environment editor, says:
“The biggest badger relocation project yet attempted is about to get under way along the route of HS2, the high-speed rail line. More than a thousand badgers in a hundred local populations will be affected by phase one of the line, from London to Birmingham. They will either be moved to new artificial setts or protected from the impact of the line by tunnels dug beneath it. The multimillion-pound publicly funded operation comes weeks after the government said that 11,000 badgers were shot last year to protect cattle from tuberculosis”.
My first question is whether the Minister can guarantee that saving badgers from the shovels and bulldozers of the high-speed train will not risk them falling under the guns of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—that would be an odd way to spend millions of pounds. After all, I understand that licences have already been granted to cull badgers in no fewer than 10 areas in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Somerset. Can the Minister assure us that none of these displaced badgers will be moved to these areas where they will be gunned down by another department? That would not be the best example of joined-up government I have ever seen.
The report goes on to say, bizarrely:
“The new setts, each costing about £5,000, will consist of a series of pipes and chambers buried under mounds of earth … Once the setts are built, HS2 will have to entice the badgers to move into their new homes”.
Paraphrasing the report, disturbing badgers is evidently an offence under the existing wildlife Acts, so they have to be enticed. The Minister is a persuasive fellow, but could he tell the House what form this enticement will take? It does not sound like the easiest of projects, though given his talents I am sure he will be able to tell us. In its concern for badgers, the report goes on to say:
“Badger tunnels will be built under roads used by the thousands of lorries involved in construction of the line”.
I note that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is in her place; in the light of an earlier amendment, those “thousands of lorries” ought to cause some disturbance. It continues:
“The spokesman said that badgers were by far the biggest wildlife issue for HS2”.
But it is not just badgers. The report further states:
“The line will also disturb protected great crested newts and bats”.
Noble Lords will forgive me if I tell them that I am a bit of an expert on great crested newts. I have never seen one, but I have served on no fewer than three hybrid Bill committees during my 40 years in both Houses of Parliament. On each of them there was lots of concern about great crested newts. Has the Minister ever seen one? If they are that prevalent, there cannot be any great need to protect them in the way that we do. Yet we are about to spend “multimillions” on badgers. How many millions are we to spend on great crested newts? Perhaps the Minister can tell us.
I also give way to no Member of your Lordships’ House in my concern for bats, but why is it that every time we want to reopen a railway tunnel somebody points out that there are bats in there? It is remarkable how they seem to follow the railway closures of the Beeching era. If we are to protect the taxpayer, as well as these species, the Minister owes the House an explanation of how these things are to be done. I beg to move.
Following my noble friend’s excellent description of bats, is it true that they have found a type of bat directly on the centre line of the route which had never been found before? How much does it cost to move the bats? My noble friend has asked about the cost of removing badgers so they can be culled somewhere else. Nobody is going to cull the bats, of course, but there must be a cost to moving them too.
My Lords, I always say that your Lordships’ House serves as a great place of education. I praise the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Snape, introduced his amendment. As we come to the conclusion of our deliberations on Report, it is much appreciated and I commend his style. I turn to the specifics of the amendment. As many noble Lords will be aware, the environmental statement for the Bill ran to some 50,000 pages and exhaustively examined all potential impacts from the Bill scheme and provides the necessary mitigations, including, of course, for protected species.
The noble Lord, Lord Snape, mentioned specific protected species that could potentially be affected by phase 1 of HS2 and these include a number of bat species—I do not have immediately to hand information about the specific type of bat that has been found and the associated costs but I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley on that. The protections also cover otters, badgers, barn owls, not forgetting the notorious great crested newts. I am not going to claim to have seen one, but I assure the noble Lord that I will attempt to do so before Third Reading. On a more serious note, it is important that species are protected. The noble Lord mentioned the badger cull and asked for an absolute assurance. As a Minister responsible for steering the Bill through your Lordships’ House, I can assure the noble Lord and all concerned that the badgers moved for HS2 are intended to be moved only a short distance. None of them will be moved to the cull areas which the noble Lord listed. I have just had an update on the bat issue.
Before we move on to bats, could the Minister elaborate on enticing the badgers from their present lairs? How is it to be done?
I will write to the noble Lord on that, if I may. Perhaps it will serve as an education for all of us. As I said, I have an update on the bats: I feel a bit like breaking news. I have been assured that there is no breed of bat on the line that has never been discovered before. However, there are a number of rare bat colonies near the line of the route and the mitigation measures that have been created include bat bridges. I expect the next question will be: do I know what a bat bridge looks like?
Is the Minister aware that, about 10 years ago, his department constructed two bat bridges in Cornwall, at a place called Dobwalls bypass—which I go under most weekends. At that time, they cost £300,000 each and I asked a load of Written Questions asking how many bats used it and how many did not bother and just flew across the road. I got the number of bats that used it, but not the ones that flew across the road. Do we really need more of these bat bridges?
These are merely mitigation measures. It cannot be the Department for Transport’s responsibility, once we have constructed the bat bridges, to ensure that all bats use them, rather than fly. We leave that matter to the freedom and liberty of the bats themselves. It is important that mitigation measures are in place for all the different habitats. For all potential impacts, we are proposing extensive mitigation measures, including creation of alternative habitats to link isolated areas of existing habitat and the provision of underpasses or green bridges to help maintain movement of species in the landscape.
We deem the amendment unnecessary due to the significant statutory provisions which I am sure the noble Lord is aware are already in place for protected species. We will, of course, need to comply with these during the construction and operation of HS2. These include the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. The requirement to comply with this legislation is built in to the HS2 code of construction practice and the project will need to obtain a licence from Natural England for any occasion at which there is a plan to disturb or remove wildlife or damage existing habitats. We have had a very educational—and for me personally an enlightening —debate on this amendment. I hope the noble Lord is reassured by our commitments in these areas and that, on that basis, he is minded to withdraw the amendment.
I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply, but I warn him that I might well return to this subject at Third Reading, if only to ask: if bats can fly, why do they need bridges? If we have bat bridges, why not starling bridges or sparrow bridges? Surely there is some discrimination involved if the bats are being singled out in this way. Nobody could ask for more than the Minister promising to find out exactly what a great crested newt looks like. We are all familiar with colonies of them appearing as soon as there is a major project, but nobody has ever seen one. Given the comprehensive reply from the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 12 withdrawn.
13: After Schedule 24, insert the following new Schedule—
“TRAFFIC REGULATIONTraffic authority to consult Secretary of State before making traffic regulation order
1_(1) This paragraph applies where—(a) the traffic authority for a relevant road is a person other than the Secretary of State,(b) the authority proposes to make a traffic regulation order in relation to the road, and(c) it appears to the authority that provision made by the order could significantly interfere with the use of the road by heavy commercial vehicles for the purposes of the construction of Phase One of High Speed 2.(2) Before making the order, the authority must consult the Secretary of State (in addition to any other person the authority is required to consult under or by virtue of Part 3 of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984). (3) In this paragraph—“heavy commercial vehicle” has the same meaning as in RTRA 1984 (see section 138 of that Act);“relevant road” means a road, other than a special road or trunk road, which falls within one or more of the following paragraphs—(a) a road which is part of a route identified in a deposited statement as a construction traffic route;(b) a road which is part of a route in relation to which approval has been given under paragraph 6 of Schedule 17 (routes for transportation by large goods vehicles);(c) where a request for approval under paragraph 6 of Schedule 17 has been made but not determined, a road which is part of a route to which the request for approval relates;(d) a road any part of which is within the Act limits.(4) For the purposes of the definition of “relevant road”, “special road” and “trunk road” have the same meanings as in the Highways Act 1980.2_(1) The Secretary of State may by notice designate—(a) a road, or part of a road, in relation to which paragraph 1(2) does not apply;(b) a description of traffic regulation orders in relation to which paragraph 1(2) does not apply.(2) A notice under sub-paragraph (1)(a) has effect until further notice.(3) The Secretary of State must give a notice under sub-paragraph (1)(a) to the traffic authority for the road (or part of the road) to which the notice relates.(4) A notice under sub-paragraph (1)(b) may have effect generally or in relation to areas specified in the notice.(5) The Secretary of State must give a notice under sub-paragraph (1)(b) to every traffic authority which would be affected by the notice.(6) Failure by a traffic authority to comply with paragraph 1(2) in relation to a traffic regulation order does not affect the validity of the order.3_(1) Paragraph 1(2) ceases to apply in relation to a traffic authority if the Secretary of State gives the authority a notice stating that—(a) no further works are proposed to be constructed under this Act in the authority’s area, and(b) the use of relevant roads in the authority’s area is no longer required by heavy commercial vehicles for the purposes of the construction of Phase One of High Speed 2.(2) Paragraph 1(2) ceases to apply in relation to a particular part of the area of a traffic authority (“the relevant part”) if—(a) the Secretary of State reasonably considers that the relevant part can be treated separately from the rest of the authority’s area for the purposes of paragraph 1(2), and(b) the Secretary of State gives the authority a notice stating that—(i) no further works are proposed to be constructed under this Act in the relevant part, and(ii) the use of relevant roads in the relevant part is no longer required by heavy commercial vehicles for the purposes of the construction of Phase One of High Speed 2.(3) The Secretary of State must give a traffic authority a notice under sub- paragraph (1) or (2) as soon as reasonably practicable after the Secretary of State forms the view that the applicable requirements are met.(4) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (3), the applicable requirements are met— (a) in a sub-paragraph (1) case, if sub-paragraph (1)(a) and (b) apply in relation to the authority’s area, and(b) in a sub-paragraph (2) case, if sub-paragraph (2)(b)(i) and (ii) apply in relation to the relevant part.(5) In this paragraph,“heavy commercial vehicle” and “relevant road” have the same meanings as in paragraph 1.Power of Secretary of State to direct traffic authority to make traffic regulation order
4_(1) The Secretary of State may give a direction to a traffic authority requiring the authority to make a traffic regulation order if the Secretary of State considers that the making of such an order is—(a) necessary for the purposes of the timely, efficient and cost- effective construction of Phase One of High Speed 2, and(b) reasonable in the circumstances.(2) Paragraph 1(2) does not apply (if it otherwise would) to the making of a traffic regulation order in pursuance of a direction under this paragraph.(3) Where a traffic authority makes a traffic regulation order in pursuance of a direction under this paragraph (a “relevant order”), the authority may not without the Secretary of State’s consent make a further traffic regulation order which contains—(a) provision varying or revoking the relevant order, or(b) provision as respects any length of road for any purpose where—(i) an order has been made as respects that length of road for a similar purpose, and(ii) that order has been varied or revoked by the relevant order.(4) The power to give a direction under this paragraph includes power to vary or revoke a previous direction given under this paragraph.5_(1) This paragraph applies where, in pursuance of a direction under paragraph 4, a traffic authority is required to make an order under section 1, 6 or 9 of RTRA 1984.(2) The order is to be treated for the purposes of Part 3 and paragraph 28 of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984, and regulations made under Part 3 of that Schedule, as if it were required to be made in pursuance of a direction under paragraph 2 of that Schedule.(3) The provisions mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) have effect accordingly, but as if—(a) paragraph 26(1) of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984 (which requires the Secretary of State to take account of objections) were omitted,(b) for the purposes of the application of paragraph 28 of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984 (provision about the variation or revocation of certain orders)—(i) the reference in that paragraph to Part 2 of that Schedule included a reference to paragraph 4(3) of this Schedule, and(ii) any reference in that Part to paragraph 13(1)(e) and (f) of that Schedule were read instead as a reference to paragraph 4(3) of this Schedule, and(c) any provision in regulations made under Part 3 of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984 relating to the holding of a public inquiry were omitted.(4) Paragraph 35 of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984 (provision for questioning validity of orders) has effect, in its application to the order, as if—(a) the reference in sub-paragraph (a) to the relevant powers were to those powers as they apply in the case of an order made in pursuance of a direction under paragraph 4 above, and (b) the reference in sub-paragraph (b) to the relevant requirements were to those requirements as modified by sub-paragraph (3) above.6_(1) This paragraph applies where, in pursuance of a direction under paragraph 4, a traffic authority is required to make an order under section 14 of RTRA 1984.(2) Section 15 of RTRA 1984 (duration of orders under section 14) does not apply to the order.(3) The order has effect for the period specified or described in the direction.(4) The period specified or described by virtue of sub-paragraph (3) must be such as the Secretary of State considers is reasonable for the purposes of the construction of Phase One of High Speed 2.Further powers of Secretary of State (including in relation to variation or revocation of orders)
7_(1) The Secretary of State may direct a traffic authority to revoke a traffic regulation order made by the authority in pursuance of a direction under paragraph 4.(2) The Secretary of State may direct a traffic authority to vary a traffic regulation order made by the authority in pursuance of a direction under paragraph 4, where—(a) the Secretary of State considers that the variation is—(i) necessary for the purposes of the timely, efficient and cost-effective construction of Phase One of High Speed 2, and(ii) reasonable in the circumstances, or(b) the effect of the variation is to remove or relax a restriction imposed by the order on the use of any road.8_(1) Where a traffic authority fails to comply with a direction under paragraph 4, the Secretary of State may make the traffic regulation order required by the direction.(2) Where a traffic authority fails to comply with a direction under paragraph 7, the Secretary of State may by order vary or revoke the traffic regulation order (as required by the direction).9_(1) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument vary or revoke a traffic regulation order (whenever made) if the Secretary of State considers the variation or revocation—(a) necessary for the purposes of the timely, efficient and cost- effective construction of Phase One of High Speed 2, and(b) reasonable in the circumstances.(2) This paragraph has effect without prejudice to the powers conferred on the Secretary of State by paragraphs 7 and 8.10_(1) This paragraph applies to an order under paragraph 8 or 9.(2) Paragraph 4 of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984 (reserve powers of Secretary of State, including power to recover expenses) applies to the order as it applies to an order made by virtue of paragraph 3 of that Schedule.(3) Parts 3 and 4 of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984, and regulations made under paragraph 24 of that Schedule, apply to the order as they apply to an order made by virtue of the relevant paragraph of that Schedule, but as if—(a) any provision in the regulations relating to the holding of a public inquiry were omitted, and(b) for the purposes of the application of paragraph 28 of that Schedule (provision about the variation or revocation of certain orders)—(i) the reference in that paragraph to Part 2 of that Schedule included a reference to paragraph 10(5) of this Schedule, and (ii) any reference in that Part to paragraph 13(1)(e) and (f) of that Schedule were read instead as a reference to paragraph 10(5) of this Schedule.(4) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (3), “the relevant paragraph” of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984 is—(a) in the case of an order under paragraph 8 of this Schedule, paragraph 3 of that Schedule, and(b) in the case of an order under paragraph 9 of this Schedule, paragraph 7 of that Schedule.(5) Where the Secretary of State makes an order to which this paragraph applies, the relevant authority may not without the Secretary of State’s consent make a further traffic regulation order which contains—(a) provision varying or revoking the Secretary of State’s order, or(b) provision as respects any length of road for any purpose where—(i) an order has been made as respects that length of road for a similar purpose, and(ii) that order has been varied or revoked by the Secretary of State’s order.(6) Paragraph 16 of Schedule 9 to RTRA 1984 (powers of Secretary of State where an order is submitted for consent) applies for the purposes of sub- paragraph (5) as if the further traffic regulation order had been submitted for consent under Part 2 of that Schedule.Power to restrict traffic authority from making or implementing traffic regulation order
11_(1) The Secretary of State may give a direction to a traffic authority prohibiting the authority from making or bringing into operation a traffic regulation order (whenever made) if the Secretary of State considers that such an order could significantly interfere with the use of any road for the purposes of the construction of Phase One of High Speed 2.(2) A prohibition imposed by virtue of this paragraph may be expressed—(a) so as to have effect generally or for a period specified in the direction;(b) so as to prohibit the making or bringing into operation of a traffic regulation order without the Secretary of State’s consent.(3) The power to give a direction under this paragraph includes power to vary or revoke a previous direction given under this paragraph.Consultation requirements applicable to Secretary of State
12_(1) The Secretary of State must consult a traffic authority—(a) before giving a direction to the authority under paragraph 4, 7 or 11, or(b) before making an order under paragraph 8(2) or 9 in relation to a traffic regulation order made by the authority.(2) The purpose of consultation is—(a) to ensure public safety and, so far as reasonably practicable, to reduce public inconvenience, and(b) to take account of the requirements (however expressed) to which the traffic authority is subject under an enactment or under an agreement or undertaking entered into in pursuance of an enactment.Guidance
13_(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a statement setting out, in general terms—(a) guidance in connection with the duty under paragraph 1(2)(which requires a traffic authority to consult the Secretary of State before making a traffic regulation order), and (b) how the Secretary of State proposes to exercise the powers conferred on the Secretary of State by the preceding provisions of this Schedule.(2) The Secretary of State may from time to time revise the statement.(3) In preparing or revising the statement, the Secretary of Sate must consult—(a) the nominated undertaker, and(b) those traffic authorities which the Secretary of State considers are likely to be subject to the duty under paragraph 1(2) or to be affected by the exercise of the powers mentioned in sub- paragraph (1)(b)(or both).Removal of vehicles
14_(1) An authorised person may remove a vehicle, or arrange for its removal, where conditions 1 and 2 are met.(2) Condition 1 is that the vehicle has been permitted to remain at rest, or has broken down and remained at rest—(a) on any road in contravention of a prohibition or restriction imposed by a traffic regulation order, or(b) on any road which is stopped up under paragraph 2 or 6 of Schedule 4.(3) Condition 2 is that it appears to the authorised person that the vehicle is likely, if it is not removed—(a) to obstruct the carrying out of any of the works authorised by this Act, or(b) to be at risk of being damaged in consequence of the doing of anything for the purposes of the construction of Phase One of High Speed 2.(4) References in sub-paragraphs (1) and (3) to the removal of a vehicle are to its removal to another position on the road in question or to another road.(5) Before exercising the power under sub-paragraph (1), an authorised person must give notice to—(a) the local authority (as defined by section 100(5) of RTRA 1984) in whose area the vehicle is situated, and(b) the chief officer of the police force in whose area the vehicle is situated.(6) A person removing a vehicle under or by virtue of sub-paragraph (1) may do so—(a) by towing or driving the vehicle, or(b) in such other manner as the person thinks necessary,and may take such measures in relation to the vehicle as the person thinks necessary to enable its removal.(7) This paragraph is without prejudice to provision made by regulations under section 99 of RTRA 1984.(8) In this paragraph—“authorised person” means a person authorised by the nominated undertaker for the purposes of this paragraph;“vehicle” has the same meaning as in section 99 of RTRA 1984.Interpretation
15_ In this Schedule—“road” has the same meaning as in RTRA 1984 (see section 142(1) of that Act);“RTRA 1984” means the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984;“traffic authority” has the same meaning as in RTRA 1984 (see section 121A of that Act);“traffic regulation order” means an order section 1, 6, 9 or 14 of RTRA 1984.”
Amendments 14 to 20 (to Amendment 13) not moved.
Amendment 13 agreed.
Bank of England and Financial Services (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2017
Motion to Approve
That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 2 December be approved.
The Bank of England and Financial Services Act 2016 provides for ending the Prudential Regulation Authority’s status as a subsidiary of the Bank of England. It transfers the functions of the PRA to the Bank, and provides that when the Bank is acting as the Prudential Regulation Authority its functions are to be exercised through a new Prudential Regulation Committee, which will have a majority of external appointees.
Making the Bank the Prudential Regulation Authority, and requiring it to exercise its functions as the PRA through the Prudential Regulation Committee, a statutory committee on the same footing as the MPC and FPC, means elevating the microprudential role to the same level as monetary policy and macroprudential policy. This is an upgrade. It reinforces—to Bank staff but also to the public, to whom the Bank must be transparent and accountable—that the Bank is not simply an organisation dedicated to setting interest rates, but one with equally important macro and microprudential responsibilities. The Bank has told us that closer integration has increased the feeling among PRA staff that they are integral to the Bank’s mission and have broader opportunities for progression across the whole Bank.
Where do these regulations fit in? Lots of existing legislation contains references to the Bank, the PRA or both. Before the provisions in the Act ending the PRA’s status as a subsidiary can come into force, we need to make consequential amendments to existing legislation so that references to the Bank and the PRA continue to make sense once the Bank and the PRA are the same.
In some cases existing legislation applies to the Bank and the PRA differently. Where this is the case, we have maintained the existing difference. For example, the Terrorism Act 2000 excludes from that Act’s definition of the “regulated sector” business conducted by the Bank. It does not exclude business conducted by the PRA. These regulations maintain this state of affairs by specifying that the reference to the Bank in Schedule 3A to the Terrorism Act 2000 does not include the Bank acting as the PRA.
In other cases, existing legislation applies to the Bank and the PRA equally. I shall not go through the detail, but in these cases the regulations simply remove references to the PRA and confirm that references to the Bank include the Bank when it is acting as the PRA.
The regulations represent the final legal tidying-up necessary to implement the provisions of the Bank of England and Financial Services Act 2016, which ended the subsidiary status of the PRA. I beg to move.
I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations—and my speaking notes go on to say, “and I thank those who have spoken in this short debate”, but it has been short indeed. As has been identified, this is an uncontroversial statutory instrument, which makes consequential amendments to legislation where references to the Prudential Regulation Authority are made. We understand that these are tidying-up changes and have no intention of opposing this instrument.
I do not wish to keep your Lordships unduly, but it is important to mention what we regard as the wider implications of the primary legislation. The PRA, established by the Financial Services Act 2012—an exercise in which I participated, as I have with every piece of legislation to do with it ever since; that is why I now look so old—will be de-subsidiarised, giving the Bank of England control over microprudential regulation. The board will be replaced by the Prudential Regulation Committee, which will sit on the same statutory footing as the Monetary Policy Committee and the Financial Policy Committee.
As your Lordships will recall, our main concern was to ensure that those in positions of power and authority within the banking sector were properly accountable. However, we also queried the Government's rationale for bringing the PRA within the scope of the Bank of England. I would like to make two points. First, I start from the same position as I did at the end of 2015, when what is now the Bank of England and Financial Services Act was going through your Lordships’ House. As I said on the second day of Committee on 11 November 2015:
“I think the Bank will move its emphasis from the Monetary Policy Committee towards the FPC”.
The nature of our economy is changing. The powers of the FPC, including controlling the creation of credit, are absolutely fundamental to how efficiently the money system supports the economy, and hence are fundamental to the economy. Under the system which the 2016 Act abolished there were at least checks and balances.
I went on to say that the PRA was,
“a subsidiary—an independent company … governed by company law—and, therefore, there has to be an arm’s-length relationship between it and the FPC. Under the various terms of the Act, the FPC can create various macroeconomic tools, which it then hands down to the PRA. It hands those down not through some side-channels or influence but, because of that independent legal status, in a very formal way to its subsidiary, and I think that is healthy. I do not believe that in effect moving the PRA closer to the Bank—and, by definition, closer to the FPC—is a good thing. The present separation is working, and I think we should continue it”.—[Official Report, 11/11/15; col. 2005.]
Indeed, one of the benefits of subsidiary status—I should know, having headed a subsidiary company of a large organisation—is that one gets to focus on the business, so that there are clear lines of responsibility. As was brilliantly articulated by my noble friend Lord Eatwell, the 2016 Act muddies these lines of responsibility and, as he said,
“renders the governance structure of the Bank of England opaque”.—[Official Report, 9/11/15; col. 1851.]
The lines of demarcation set out in the Act relating to the PRC seem to add yet another layer of bureaucracy and complication to a new system which for all intents and purposes was functioning as it should. What specific work has been done since the Act came into force last year to ensure the same levels of accountability and transparency, and how will those qualities be visible to the general public?
Presuming that the Government do not take of heed of my advice, the PRA will be abolished and the PRC created. When will this transition take place? The Act states that an order will be introduced by the Treasury to give effect to the Act. Should we expect that order by the end of this Session? I thank the Minister in anticipation for her response. I am in no way saying that we are not impressed by the performance of the Bank of England. Nevertheless, the reasons she gave seemed rather fluffy to justify giving up the clarity that the present subsidiary status provides.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support for the regulations—and, indeed, for his dedication to the scrutiny of the 2016 Act and its subsequent children. He feels that the Act made the governance structure of the Bank of England opaque. I disagree: I welcome the changes, because I believe they make that governance better and clearer. Before the 2016 Act the MPC was a committee, the PRA was a subsidiary and the FPC was a sub-committee of the court, which is, of course, the Bank’s board.
With the changes in the Act, all three are now policy committees established on the same statutory basis, with clear statutory objectives and processes. The noble Lord asked what had happened since the Act came into force to improve accountability and transparency. Since it came into force last year, the National Audit Office has been able to conduct value-for-money reviews at the Bank for the first time, and the MPC’s new practice of publishing its minutes has swiftly become a legal requirement. Once the new PRC is created it will have to report every year on its resources and the independence of its operations, and produce a separate statement of accounts to ensure that the industry levy is limited to funding PRA functions.
My recollection is that the MPC has to report eight times a year, and the FPC, in practice, produces a report at least quarterly. Will the Prudential Regulation Committee produce regular reports of its activity—more regularly than annually?
The current plan is that it will report every year on its resources and the independence of its operations.
I will respond to the noble Lord’s question on timing. The provisions giving effect to the transfer will come into effect on 1 March this year—very soon—to ensure that the transition is aligned with the Bank’s financial reporting year.
The Bank of England has come a long way since it was established in 1694 to finance the war of the Grand Alliance against France. At that time, it only had 19 officials, including two doorkeepers. Now the Bank of England, including the PRA, has about 3,600 officials and has picked up a few additional responsibilities in the intervening 323 years. These regulations play their own small part in that process. I thank the House again for today’s exchange and commend the regulations to the House.
Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017
Motion to Approve
That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 6 December be approved.
My Lords, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee highlighted these regulations as instruments of interest in its 20th report, and I am delighted to be involved with this debate on such an important issue. These regulations are the first use of the power under Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010. Section 78 delegates power to Ministers to make regulations requiring employers in Great Britain with at least 250 employees to publish information showing whether there are differences in pay between their male and female employees.
These regulations will affect around 8,000 employers and more than 11 million employees. An estimated 3.8 million employees will also be covered by separate regulations laid last week that will apply to the public sector. In total, the new regulations will cover nearly half of the workforce.
The gender pay gap is not about men and women being paid differently for the same job. Unequal pay has been prohibited since 1975. The gender pay gap is a measurement of the difference between men and women’s average earnings. The UK’s overall gender pay gap has fallen over time. It was 25% 10 years ago and is now 18.1% according to the latest ONS statistics. While this is moving in the right direction, progress is still too slow and voluntary reporting has not led to sufficient progress. According to McKinsey, eliminating work-related gender gaps could add £150 billion to our annual GDP by 2025.
Following two public consultations and extensive stakeholder engagement, the Government are delivering their manifesto commitment to require large employers to publish a range of complementary gender pay gap measures every year. Employers will be required to publish the difference between the average hourly rate of pay for male and female employees, calculated using the mean and the median. This will give employers a better understanding of their gender pay gap.
The regulations cover bonuses too. ONS figures show that more than £44 billion was paid out in bonuses across the UK economy during the 2015-16 financial year. We are requiring employers to publish the difference between the average bonuses paid to men and women as well as the proportions of male and female employees who receive a bonus. This will encourage employers to ensure that their practices for awarding bonuses are fair and transparent.
Fewer women than men are employed in senior and higher-paid positions. Requiring employers to report on the proportions of men and women in each quartile of their pay distribution will ensure that they consider whether there are any blockages to women’s progress. It could also be valuable in making comparisons with competitors who may be benefiting from actively nurturing female talent. The regulations will require employers to publish the information on their own website every year in a manner that is accessible to employees and the public. A written statement signed by a director or a senior employee must also be published to confirm the accuracy of the information. As well as appearing on an organisation’s website, the information will also be published on a government-sponsored website. Requiring the information to be published in this way will establish a database of compliant employers and make all published information available in one place.
The regulations do not create any additional civil or criminal penalties. Failure to comply would be an “unlawful act” and fall within the existing enforcement powers of the Equality and Human Rights Commission under the Equality Act 2006. The Government can consider alternative enforcement mechanisms if the level of compliance is not satisfactory. The Secretary of State will review the regulations five years after commencement.
The Government have worked closely with ACAS to develop clear guidelines to help employers implement the regulations, and they will be published shortly. Transparency is not a silver bullet but it will incentivise employers to analyse the drivers behind their gender pay gap and explore the extent to which their own policies and practices may be contributing to that gap. These regulations are only one element of the Government’s strategy to modernise workplaces. We have already extended the right to request flexible working to all employees; introduced a new system of flexible parental leave; and committed to providing 30 hours of free childcare a week for working families.
The principle of greater transparency on gender pay differences has cross-party support. I hope that noble Lords will support the regulations. I beg to move.
I welcome the noble Baroness to her new post. I hope that every regulation or piece of legislation that she introduces will be as good and progressive as these regulations. I welcome these regulations on behalf of my party, and especially all those colleagues who worked tirelessly in coalition to make this legislation a reality. I am so glad that the Conservative Government have kept their word and implemented this Liberal Democrat policy, which I note found its way into their 2015 manifesto, although it had not been there in 2010. I pay tribute particularly to the hard work and sheer determination of Jo Swinson, who got this through against the odds.
Equal pay and better gender representation in business is good for the economy as well as helping to create a fairer society. As Jo said:
“Businesses have a choice, to view gender pay reporting as a burden, or as a catalyst to seize an opportunity. When competitive advantage is increasingly about attracting and developing the best people, a better understanding of how you're valuing and rewarding your people is powerful. Gender pay data may be uncomfortable, but at least it can no longer be ignored”.
As many noble Lords may know, although progress is being made, figures by the Fawcett Society show that women are essentially working the last month and a half of the year for free. Looking at it in these stark terms, we can all see how ludicrous this is. However, as the noble Baroness has already said, this legislation will not be a silver bullet as we would all wish. More needs to be done.
Girls and women outperform men at every stage in their educational life, yet we constantly see women not reaching the top jobs. We must ask why this is. Report after report points to women missing out on bonuses, promotions and pay rises as they get older. When the babies come along, or other caring responsibilities arise, it is too often the women who makes an economic sacrifice. As the Minister has already said, one of the steps that we introduced in coalition was equal parental leave—a small step in making men and women equal, and giving men a better opportunity to bond with, and care for, their babies.
Therefore, let us focus today on another good, progressive piece of legislation. Let us welcome these regulations, the better-informed debate they will engender and the stepping stone they will provide to better workplace equality.
My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on her first performance at the Dispatch Box and thank her very much for bringing these regulations before us tonight. I look forward to working with her again.
We are pleased that the Government have at last brought this statutory instrument on the gender pay gap before us tonight, as it was part of Labour’s Equality Act 2010. This Act introduced mandatory pay audits under which companies employing more than 250 people have to publish details of their male and female staff’s pay. We have continually asked the Government to live up to their duty to ensure that big companies publish information about their gender pay gap. I am glad to say that the Government have finally acted on this, but it has taken them seven years to bring this into force. It was a simple piece of legislation that Labour passed, legislation that would make the workplace much fairer. It is interesting to note that almost every major piece of legislation that has improved the lives of working women has been introduced by a Labour Government.
It is unfortunate that these regulations do not contain any enforcement provisions, or sanctions for non-compliance or for publishing inaccurate or misleading reports. I am aware that the Equality and Human Rights Commission could enforce these rules, as the Minister said, but I understand that it does not have the proper powers or resources to do so. In response to the Government Equalities Office’s consultation, Closing the Gender Pay Gap, the commission said that it would,
“require additional powers, and resources, to enable it to enforce compliance with the regulations, because its current powers are not suitable for enforcing, in a proportionate manner, a failure to publish”.
It therefore seems from this response that this is not something that the Equalities Commission can do at the moment. The interesting thing about this consultation is that about two-thirds of respondents agreed that such a civil enforcement system would ensure compliance. It is unacceptable that the Government have watered down these regulations and it seems to demonstrate their lack of true commitment to ending the gender pay gap.
We know that low pay is a significant factor in the gender pay gap. Women hold the majority of minimum wage jobs—some 59%—and female part-timers hold 41% of minimum wage jobs, almost twice as high as their share of all jobs. The sectors with the most minimum wage jobs are hospitality and retail, which account for just over 45% of minimum wage jobs, followed by social care, cleaning and employment agencies, which each account for between 6% and 7 % of such jobs. It is mainly women doing these jobs, and so much work still needs to be done on this front. That is why enforcement is crucial.
As of the last Autumn Statement, 86% of net savings to the Treasury since 2010, through tax and benefit changes, had come from women. It is a shame that the Government have repeatedly refused to conduct a cumulative gender impact analysis of their policies. Part of the reason that the Government have been unable to significantly shift the gender pay gap is because they do not seem to have a strategy to address chronic low pay in sectors such as retail, care and hospitality, where many women work. I am sorry to say that the Government are turning the clock back on gender economic equality. As a result of their policies, they have forced women to pay the price for their austerity failures. With the gender pay gap still at more than 18%, women are still working for lower wages than men, and over a lifetime that can result in a significant loss of wages.
Under these regulations, employers must analyse their gender pay gap each April and publish their gender pay gap report within 12 months, and they must report annually on their websites. They must also upload the information to a government website, but details of this website have still not been released. I understand that the Government plan to introduce similar reporting obligations for public sector employers within the same timeframe.
I would like to hear from the Minister on the following points. Will she tell us whether the Government will give the powers and resources to the Equality and Human Rights Commission in order for it to be able to enforce compliance with the regulations? Otherwise, it is difficult to see how it can possibly carry out this work, bearing in mind that its budget has been cut from £62 million in 2010 to £17.4 million by 2020. Will the Minister say when details of the government website will be released? Regarding public sector employers, will she say when the regulations will be put to Parliament? I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for such an interesting debate this evening, particularly the two noble Baronesses for their kind welcome. Feedback is, of course, very welcome. I would like to spend a few moments addressing some of the points that were made.
Turning first to non-compliance and sanctions, it is the case that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has the powers under the Equality Act 2006. The way that we are going to approach this is that the system has to be up and running. The Government will review the sanctions in due course, but only when the prevalence of, and, perhaps as importantly, the reasons for, non-compliance have been established. It is certainly under review, but it should also be noted that the majority of organisations responding to the consultation did not raise concerns about the lack of financial penalties. The other reason why compliance will be slightly higher than otherwise is that competition within organisations in the same sector will, I think, be quite fierce. We will have to see where we go on that, but I know that it will be under review.
I listened with interest to the entreaty from the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, on low-paid workers. I understand that she was approaching that from a female perspective, but let us not forget that the Conservatives have raised 1 million people out of income tax altogether. There were lots of positive things being done for low-paid workers, including the minimum wage going up. She also mentioned the pay gap, which is still at 18.1%. I agree, but it is going down, which is very good. Actually, compared with other countries, we do very well. The gap in Finland is 18.4% and in Austria it is 22.25%. The interesting thing about what they are doing with their gender pay gap reporting is that they are requiring companies to gather the information, but then not requiring it to be published. I am therefore happy that the proposals that we have in front of us really are world-class. We are taking a lead in these, which is very positive.
The noble Baroness also asked about the website. As we know, the snapshot date is 5 April this year, and from that date, the companies will be able to publish their data as their reporting cycle moves through. Of course, it can be up to a year before they actually publish. The government-sponsored website will allow us to closely monitor compliance levels and we will launch it to coincide with the commencement of these regulations. I know that I will be looking with interest to see what the outcomes are.
The noble Baronesses also asked about the public sector regulations and when we might see them. They were laid on 18 January and will be subject to separate debates in both Houses shortly. Subject to parliamentary approval, these regulations will be in force by March 2017, and the specified public bodies will need to publish their gender pay gap before March 2018. By 2018, therefore, we will have a whole lot of data to look at, which is excellent. Both sets of regulations will require the same gender pay gap calculations, so they will be comparable, and noble Lords may have seen that the Government published their response to the consultation on public sector gender pay gap reporting earlier today.
It is not acceptable that the gender pay gap still exists in this day and age. These regulations will create opportunities for individuals and employers by driving action that promotes greater gender equality in workplaces across the country. I am pleased that the regulations are broadly supported by this House and that the underlying policy intent is agreed. We must accelerate action to close the UK gender pay gap. On that basis, and if there are no further questions, I hope that noble Lords will see fit to support the regulations and I commend them to the House.
Important Public Services (Border Security) Regulations 2017
Motions to Approve
That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 5 December be approved.
Relevant document: 20th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee
My Lords, the Trade Union Act modernises the UK’s industrial relations framework to better support an effective and collaborative approach to resolving industrial disputes. The Act restores a level of fairness to our industrial relations regime and gives effect to the Government’s manifesto commitments. It ensures that strikes can happen only as a result of a clear, positive decision by those entitled to vote, balancing the interests of unions with the interests of the majority of people who rely on important public services. The Act is not about removing rights. Indeed, the Prime Minister in her recent speech on Brexit made it clear that as we leave the European Union and translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations,
“we will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained”.
The Act received Royal Assent in May 2016. Today we are debating six statutory instruments, the first five of which implement a 40% threshold for ballot mandate approval for key public service sectors. This means that as well as there being a requirement that 50% of union members who are eligible to vote do so, 40% of all eligible members will have to be in agreement with the proposed mandate. The sixth statutory instrument that we are debating today will set a 12-month transition period before new provisions for political funds come into force. These provisions will allow new union members to opt in to any political fund supported by their union, rather than any such subscription being automatic. The 12-month transition period will allow unions to make the necessary system and rule changes.
We propose that the 40% threshold and the transition period come into force on 1 March. We will also make a commencement order to ensure that Section 11 of the Trade Union Act is brought fully into force on that date. At the same time, we will bring into force a number of other provisions in the Trade Union Act. As I have mentioned, these include a 50% threshold for those eligible to vote to do so as well as additional information about the result of any ballot, two weeks’ notice of industrial action to be given to employers, new requirements to manage picketing, and reporting on industrial action and political fund expenditure. This ensures that the key changes to the way official industrial action is decided on and implemented are prioritised and come into effect as a single package.
The purpose of the ballot thresholds is to rebalance the ability of union members to strike with the interests of the general public, non-striking workers and employers. The Trade Union Act takes proportionate action to redress the balance and ensure that unions in these sectors have a strong democratic mandate before they take strike action.
The impact of strike action is most severe when it takes place in the important public services that people and businesses rely on every day, particularly where it leaves people with no real alternatives when strikes take place. This is particularly unfair when strike action goes ahead without strong support by a unionised workforce. This is why we have introduced an additional 40% approval threshold to apply to important public services such as health and rail transport, in addition to a requirement for a 50% turnout threshold. This is a robust threshold, and rightly so. It is in the interest of the public to know that where they face disruption in these crucial services as a result of strike action, this is because union members have secured a strong democratic mandate. This is also important for union members who were not in support of strike action. I know that some noble Lords have expressed concerns that these reforms do not go far enough. The Government believe that the measures they are putting in place strike the right balance.
During the passage of the Trade Union Act last year, the Government consulted on which services within the public service categories set out in the Act should be subject to the 40% threshold, and on how the threshold should operate in practice. We analysed more than 200 responses, reviewed the available evidence of the impact of strike action across different public services, and listened to stakeholders’ views. The government response to the consultation was published in January last year, when we also published draft regulations. The substance of these was discussed in Committee in the Lords during the passage of the Trade Union Act. I thank noble Lords for their constructive and well-informed views, which helped us tailor these regulations to ensure clarity so that the services that are affected are tightly defined.
The regulations we have introduced today limit the application of the threshold to those services where there is the most compelling evidence of the impact of strike action, and ensure that its scope is proportionate. What does this mean for the sectors that are affected? The pressing social need that we are addressing in the health sector is the risk to life or of injury to the public in the event of industrial action. We have therefore focused the impact of the threshold where reduced service levels can have the most immediate impact on the lives and safety of patients and the public. That is why the regulations cover emergency and urgent health services. This includes ambulance staff, accident and emergency medical staff in hospitals, services provided in high-dependency units and in intensive care in hospitals, and psychiatric, obstetric and midwifery services provided in hospitals for conditions that require immediate attention to prevent serious injury, illness or loss of life.
In the fire sector, our aim is, again, to protect the public against the risk to life or injury. In light of this, we have focused on firefighting services, including co-ordination of the emergency response, because these are all critical to ensuring that fires are dealt with promptly and effectively to protect the public.
In the education sector, the Government aim to ensure that all children have the right to an education. We are focused on teachers who work with pupils of a compulsory school age in state-funded institutions. This reflects the importance of these years for children’s education and the disproportionate impact on learning that strike action can have.
In the transport sector, our priority is to ensure, as far as possible, that large numbers of people can rely on the services they need every day to make important journeys. We have, therefore, focused on passenger services, because strike action is more likely to have an adverse and immediate impact on people’s ability to go to work, school and college and to important appointments. That is why the regulations cover passenger railway services, including the maintenance of trains and the network, and the signalling and control of the operation of the train network. The regulations will also cover any London local bus service, civil air traffic control services and airport and port security services.
Finally, in the Border Force, we are addressing the significant risk to public safety in the event of disruption to border controls. We are focused on services in respect of the entry and exit of people and goods, as these are central to the carrying out of checks, and to prevent illicit commodities entering the country.
I believe members of the public will agree that strikes in these important public services should take place only where there is a strong level of support for a justifiable mandate. I hope I have reassured noble Lords that these regulations are justified and proportionate to our objective.
During the passage of the Trade Union Act, this House debated at length the principle that union members should make an active choice to contribute to a trade union’s political fund. This place established a Select Committee on Trade Union Political Funds and Political Party Funding under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Burns. I start by thanking the noble Lord and all the Peers who sat on the Select Committee, on a cross-party basis, for their work, which helped to move forward the debate on this element of the Act.
I want first briefly to remind noble Lords why the reforms in the Trade Union Act in relation to political funds are important. As part of our manifesto commitment, the Trade Union Act introduced a requirement for all union members to actively opt in to their union’s political fund following a transition period of three months. Members who chose to opt in would need to reaffirm their choice every five years. We made this proposal because until we make these changes a union member automatically contributes to a union’s political fund as part of their union subscription, unless they notify the union that they do not wish to do so. We do not believe this is satisfactory or transparent, bearing in mind that we are talking about significant amounts of members’ money. In 2015-16 the total income and expenditure in relation to all trade union political funds in Great Britain was in excess of £24 million and £20 million respectively.
We have debated at length the principle of these rights for union members. The Select Committee which assessed our proposals also assessed the extent to which unions, in practice, were transparent with their members about the existing choice to opt out of contributing to their union’s political fund. The Select Committee concluded that there is significant variation in how different unions convey opt-out information to their members. The Government’s analysis of online union subscription forms, the point at which an individual makes their first financial commitment to their union, found that nearly half of unions that have a political fund make no mention of its existence. Following the Select Committee’s recommendations and an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, we listened to the arguments and accepted the substance of his amendment. The Trade Union Act incorporates the Select Committee’s recommendations that the requirement to opt in will not apply to existing members; only new members will be required to opt in to a political fund, and they will be reminded annually of their right to opt out. Further, we agreed that opting in or out will be allowed electronically, and that there should be a minimum 12-month transition period to enable system changes to made, and which the Government should consult unions on. The noble Lord, Lord Burns, welcomed this outcome and said he regarded it as “a very satisfactory conclusion”.
As required by the Act, we consulted the TUC, 24 unions with political funds and the Certification Officer, seeking their views on the length of the transition period. A number of technical and administrative issues were raised during the consultation. These included the request for the Certification Office to develop “model rules”, which would allow unions to make the relevant changes to their systems, the need to allow an appropriate period for unions to amend their rulebooks and the requirement to make a number of changes to IT systems and administrative procedures. Having considered these issues, balanced against a need to reform and modernise trade union business, the Government have decided to set an extensive transition period of 12 months, as set out in the regulations laid before the House today. We believe a 12-month transition period is adequate for unions to ensure that they comply with the statutory requirement under the Trade Union Act. This balances the need to provide unions with sufficient time to implement the changes with the Government’s desire that the measures are delivered promptly. It is proposed, therefore, that once the regulations have received parliamentary approval, they will come into force on 1 March, and the 12-month transition period will run from that date.
The Government’s view is that unions have known about these changes for some time, and it is not unreasonable to expect them already to have done some planning to meet that requirement. We are also grateful to the Certification Officer, who has consulted unions and issued model rules and guidance, which will assist them in complying with the new requirements.
Before I conclude, I should like to address comments made on these regulations by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. In relation to the five regulations on the 40% threshold, the committee pointed out that the Government had committed to issue guidance to clarify which workers will be captured by each of the important public services listed, to assist unions and employers when they are assessing how a ballot should be conducted. The committee’s view was that the need for such guidance raises the question of whether the regulations are sufficiently clear and understandable for those affected. Furthermore, the committee regretted the fact that the Government had failed to publish this guidance in early December when they laid these draft regulations in Parliament.
In response, I am grateful for the committee’s scrutiny. I can confirm that the Government have now published guidance to provide advice for unions on applying the 40% threshold in practice, and on examples of workers who will be covered by each of the regulations. In drafting this guidance, we engaged with key stakeholders affected by the provisions to understand how the guidance can be most helpful. We listened carefully to their views and have reflected these in the guidance. I would add that issuing guidance is not unusual. The Government frequently make guidance available to summarise legislation and its requirements, and to provide advice on their application in practice.
In relation to the political funds transition period regulations, the committee noted that the Government had not yet published a summary of responses to their consultation with unions and the Certification Officer on the length of the transition period. I apologise that we were unable to publish a summary of responses when these regulations were laid. We accept that we should have done so. Having been advised by the committee that it is best practice to publish a summary of consultation responses, we have now published a summary on GOV.UK.
In conclusion, the Government believe that the regulations before noble Lords today are proportionate and strike the correct balance between the interests of unions and those of members of the public. I beg to move.
My Lords, neither the Minister nor I served on the committee that discussed the Trade Union Bill. However, he will be well aware, no doubt from reading Hansard, that my party made many of the proposals in what was then the Bill and is now the Act. We remain concerned about all those, including those aspects now being introduced through these regulations.
In the first set of regulations, the Government have identified within what they have defined as “important public services”—health, education, fire, transport and border security—the personnel that they believe should be covered, so refining, as the Government put it, the list of the important public services. Within education, for example, it is teachers and head teachers but not, one assumes, caretakers, although they are very important in the running of our schools. Although we are critical of the way that the Government have failed to listen to many aspects of the consultation that took place, we are at least pleased that in this one respect—in relation to ancillary workers—the Government have listened. We welcome that very much indeed.
These important public services are the ones that the Government have decided must meet not only the 50% turnout threshold criteria but also a requirement that at least 40% of those eligible to vote must have voted for strike action before it can proceed. That means, for example, that in a ballot where the turnout is just over 50%, taking industrial action would require some 80% of those voting to do so in favour. During the passage of the Bill, although we saw some merits in the setting of a threshold for turnout, we argued against the imposition of the 40% threshold. In the words of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, at Second Reading, it is,
“a very stiff test indeed”.—[Official Report, 11/1/16; col. 79.]
It is hardly, as the Minister sought to describe it, a proportionate approach to the problem as the Government see it.
We noted at that time, and continue to do so, that business support for these measures is lukewarm. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has said that the plans are,
“an outdated response to the challenge of the modern workplace”.
Only yesterday, in the Evening Standard, we saw the results of an Ipsos MORI poll, which showed, for example, that nationwide only 37% of the public support limits on the rights of train drivers to strike, and only 35% support limits on teachers. Imposing a 40% threshold is a stringent limit. It is not a proportionate limit and it is one that is clearly not supported by the public.
As my noble friend Lord Stoneham argued during Second Reading, the 40% threshold brings with it other problems as well and would make resolving disputes more difficult. He said:
“Disputes have to be resolved through a bargaining relationship; if that is not understood, we will be led to unintended consequences. If you have thresholds, the unions will work to achieve those thresholds, so strikers could become more intransigent”.—[Official Report, 11/1/16; col. 118.]
On these Benches, we also argued that quite simply no evidence has been produced by the Government that the workers who did not vote in the strike ballot are any less willing to withdraw their labour than the ones who actually did. Of course, we noted, as many did during those deliberations, that in the 2015 general election the Conservative Party won by a majority of just 12 seats—the smallest majority since 1974. More importantly, it did so with less than 24% of registered voters. The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, played a very active part in those deliberations, and I love quoting him. At Second Reading, he said,
“the current Government happily govern with fewer than one-quarter of the electorate supporting it, and fewer than 40% of those who voted”.
He went on to say:
“That tells me as much about why we need electoral reform in this country as it does about trade union democracy”.—[Official Report, 11/1/16; col. 79.]
I entirely agree with him.
The Government have considerable power over important public services, but they fail to meet, by a huge margin, the 40% threshold that they are imposing on the same public services for actions that their Members wish to take. I note with great interest that in the Explanatory Memorandum we have been provided with for this evening’s debate is the claim:
“The thresholds will restore a level of democratic legitimacy to industrial action ballots, ensuring that the public have confidence that any disruption they face as a result of strike action has a strong democratic mandate from union members”.
Then we must assume, on that basis, that the Government accept that they do not have a strong mandate for the actions they are taking. How does that 40% threshold approach square with the EU referendum result? Are the Government not admitting that their hard Brexit proposals lack democratic legitimacy and cannot have public confidence when only 37.4% of all eligible voters backed Brexit, whether soft or hard? Again, the 40% threshold was missed.
The Minister has rightly commented on your Lordships’ Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s concerns about the failure to publish guidance in early December. I am sure that the House will acknowledge the apology which the Minister has given, but it is very much to be regretted that that was not done. The committee also made very clear that the need to provide that guidance indicated that the primary legislation was unclear. But nothing in this set of regulations or the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum has helped persuade us that what we said during the passage of the Bill was wrong. We remain of the view that the Government are quite simply wrong themselves to impose this 40% limit.
The final regulation on the list, relating to the transition period for the imposition of new rules on trade union political funding, is different, and we are very concerned about what is proposed. We were critical of the whole set of measures around this aspect of the Bill, believing that party-political funding should be addressed in the round, not looking at just one aspect of it that relates to the funding of one particular political party. We were pleased that the Government accepted an amendment requiring a transition period of at least 12 months and consultation with all trade unions that have a political fund, but it is about the results of that consultation I want to press the Minister. It is not at all clear that that consultation was meaningful. As he said, the end of the consultation is planned to be 1 March 2018. He claimed that that will allow the trade unions to make the necessary changes. He said that it was an appropriate and adequate time period, yet the Government will know, since it is referred to very clearly in their own summary of trade union responses to the consultation, that many of the affected unions have their conferences—the time at which they can change their rules—scheduled for April and May of 2018, which is after the deadline that the Government are imposing. USDAW, for example, writes:
“This begs the question: why are the Government rushing to implement legislation just a few weeks before unions are due to hold their conferences to change their rules to comply with the legislation? By rushing into legislation, without giving USDAW (and other unions) time to abide by our own rules, Government are forcing USDAW into a situation where we either need to break our own rule book—laying us open to challenge from our members—or not to abide by the legislation”.
I am sure that the Minister will respond by saying that the unions have known about this legislation for some time, that they have had time to prepare and therefore it is perfectly reasonable. But to do so will mean significant changes to the arrangements—changes to the times when they will have their major conferences, for example. The Minister knows how expensive it is to run the Conservative Party conference. He knows how difficult it would be to change the date of that conference, let alone to be able to find a venue. He will of course be aware that his friend in another place—the Minister, Mr Nick Boles—said very specifically that no measures should be taken that will prevent them being “successful for them” and certainly not,
“punishing in terms of cost”.
While we have considerable concerns about the new funding rules, I hope the Minister will at least accept that—to meet Nick Boles’s commitment that there should be successful transformation by the trade unions to these new measures, which many people do not like anyway, and that it should be done at no significant cost to them—there is a real requirement to extend the transition period, at least by six months. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I intend to keep my remarks short, not least because the noble Lord, Lord Foster, made many of the points that I would have made. It is fair to say that this was one of the most contested pieces of legislation that this House has seen. Indeed, during the debate, this Chamber was considerably fuller than it is now. Looking around the Room I feel a sense of nostalgia for the noble Lords who were here for that debate.
It is important to emphasise that the issue of the threshold was one of major concern, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Foster, said, it applied a test that applies to almost no other election. That is an important point. If we see other elections as giving authority to take actions, in many ways having as big a consequence for people’s lives as strike action does, we do not expect the same level of test as we do here. But—and this is the important point—that debate was had and this House acquiesced to a package of changes to the Bill at the time. While I expect no one agreed with absolutely all of what was done, it seemed in the end a fair package given the contested and strong issues. If there are noble Lords who feel strongly that it should go further, I cannot see them in the House this evening.
The point I particularly wanted to raise was that part of that package was a commitment to review the issue of electronic balloting. That was not a small point, because hand in hand with the introduction of the threshold had to be measures that would make the process of voting easier for members. It is in all our interests to see the maximum turnout. Electronic balloting alongside postal balloting was the intended approach. We comprehensively demonstrated during the debate in the House that there were no real impediments to the introduction of electronic balloting. Indeed, it was used by a wide range of organisations already.
I may have missed something, in which case I am happy to apologise on this point, but I have not seen a great deal of evidence of progress on this issue—in particular, of a proposal coming forward from the Government to say either that they have looked at this and it is not viable, or that they have looked at it and it is viable. I would welcome a response from the Minister on that point, because, if there has not been the necessary progress, the House is due an apology. It was an integral part of the settlement agreed at the time.
My Lords, the real purpose of the Act was revealed to me by a former Conservative employment Minister, when he simply said, “Bills against the trade union movement don’t cost anything and they don’t half cheer up Conservative associations in the country”. That is the double benefit derived from a trade union Act.
As we can see, the pressure is already on for another round of action—which was what, I guess, the Minister was referring to in his remarks. I will not repeat the speeches that we gave during the passage of the Bill and the situation we have arrived at now, except to say that the regulations on the double threshold are extraordinarily tough, unprecedented in their application compared to other organisations and very difficult for unions to carry through in a way that will not leave them open to legal challenge.
For example, a GCSE teacher is covered in a different way from a teacher of A-levels. In my experience, teachers often teach both. I am not arguing for widening it, I am saying that there will be many borderline areas where it will be most unclear, and very difficult for a union to specify exactly who is covered by the double threshold and who by the turnout one.
I want to emphasise the point of the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, about electronic balloting. I do not see why this measure could not have been left until we have completed the exercise on electronic balloting—whether it will be permitted or not. That makes a considerable difference to turnout and the impact that this law will have. It could simplify things enormously.
Secondly, I would underline a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, about the political fund adjustment time. Again, this year is a tough one. I am thinking not just about union conferences—everything that the noble Lord, Lord Foster, said in that respect is correct—but also about the check-off agreements with employers. The big unions have hundreds of such agreements. They will have to adjusted, and that is a major task. They will have to be renegotiated in many cases: it will not be done just by an administrative stroke of the pen. They will have to be talked about and explained to the members and to the employers.
These regulations, therefore, are tough, and I echo the request that has already been put to the Minister, to give unions rather longer to respond—an extra six months would be extremely useful.
My Lords, in focusing on the last of these regulations I do not mean to say that I agree with any of the previous five. However, the points have already been made on those.
I served on the Select Committee during the passage of this Bill, and the last of these amendments is out of keeping, in two senses, with the recommendations of that committee. First, as has already been alluded to, it presents unions with a very severe administrative problem. Secondly—to my mind this is the largest problem—even to proceed on this basis is a major constitutional outrage. I will come back to that.
Having received representations from both sides—and to try to maintain consensus—the Select Committee said that the transition period should be a minimum of 12 months. That, however, was subject to a consultation with the unions. I wanted a minimum of 18 months, subject to consultation, but we agreed on what currently stands.
The noble Lord, Lord Foster, has already referred to evidence from USDAW. I suspect that the belated report on the consultation on this point will reveal that several unions will be hard hit because of the timing of this regulation. Most unions have their conference between March and June. USDAW has it in April; my own union, the GMB, has it in June. It is impossible, in both those cases, to abide by both your own rulebook and the timetable laid down as a result of this regulation. Had the Government decided to trigger it and give them 12 months in, say, August, that would have given the unions plenty of time to abide by all the pre-proceedings of conferences and rule changes by this time next year. Instead, the Government have done so in such a way as to sabotage the ability of a conference such as USDAW’s in April—since the proceedings for it have already started—to meet the requirements of its own rules while complying with the regulation.
USDAW, a union which gave oral and written evidence to the Select Committee—I think even the committee’s Conservative members were quite impressed by how it dealt with opting out of political funds under the present arrangements—wishes to abide by the law but also to abide by its rules. The Government’s proposition presents it with a dilemma which will be difficult to overcome. I plead with the Minister to think again on this regulation and extend the period, if it has to be triggered in March, to 18 months or to trigger the one-year period later in the year, if that is indeed what the Government want.
I had hoped that after the furore during the passage of what became the Trade Union Act, we would settle down to implement it in a sensible way. This regulation is not a sensible way. It will put unions that wish to comply with the law into difficulties and I request that the Minister thinks again. Indeed, his failure to provide in time the results of the consultation give me cause to support the views of the Delegated Powers Committee that the Government have acted entirely out of order on this basis.
However, there is a bigger point here. The first conclusion of the Select Committee, unanimously, was that while the Bill dealt with union political funds, and therefore in the nature of history and the structure of our political arrangements hit the finances of only one party, there should be a government initiative to look at political funding in general. It should look at all institutions and sources of funding which come to political parties. That put the responsibility not on the political parties themselves but on the Government. All of us were concerned that Ministers at that time refused to recognise and carry out what was in the Conservative Party manifesto: that a review of political funding should take place.