Committee (2nd Day)
Relevant document: 15th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
My Lords, if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, this Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and resume after 10 minutes.
Amendments 12 to 14B not moved.
Clause 12: Trailer registration
15: Clause 12, page 8, line 17, at end insert—
“(1A) Regulations under subsection (1) must provide for compulsory registration of—(a) commercial trailers weighing over 750kg that travel internationally;(b) non-commercial trailers weighing over 3.5 tonnes that travel internationally; and(c) all new commercial trailers over 750kg.(1B) Regulations under subsection (1) must provide for voluntary registration of all trailers not covered by subsection (1A).”
My Lords, Amendment 15 would require the Secretary of State to provide for compulsory registration of certain trailers. These requirements were suggested in the impact assessment by the Government as a possible registration scheme. We are simply suggesting that those requirements should be in the Bill. There is a number of reasons: first, as a general principle, this is an opportunity to flesh out this very thin Bill a bit in a meaningful way. It is, after all, a trailer registration scheme, and that is one of the two purposes of the Bill. If this amendment were on the face of the Bill, the Government would not be able to provide for a compulsory registration scheme for all trailers; in other words, this would narrow the scope.
The amendment would also give more clarity about the status of certain vehicles. On Second Reading and in our previous Committee sitting, several examples were raised regarding the uncertainty surrounding what categories would be applied to which trailers.
The amendment refers to trailers weighing over 750 kilograms. Is that gross weight or net weight?
It is, I gather, but that is the instruction from the Minister. We are working to the Government’s definitions.
This is a good opportunity to raise the issue of the voluntary registration scheme currently provided by the National Caravan Council, not to be confused with the Caravan Club. The council is an industry body which operates a very well-established scheme of registration. It is concerned that the Bill should not muddy the waters on registration. I am sure that it would like its own scheme to continue, but I am concerned that we do not end up with two different registration schemes with slightly different requirements and criteria. This will already add complexity to the existing situation, and we need to be careful that it does not become confusing as well as slightly more bureaucratic. How will the Government’s proposed scheme fit with the National Caravan Council scheme? Have she or her officials had discussions with the council, because it remains concerned about the issue?
Our other amendment in this group, Amendment 17, was drafted simply to help provide clarity to travellers who may, as a result of us not being a party to the community licence any more, be subject to different trailer registration requirements in different EU countries. The point has been made in debate here that Germany, for example, is quite stringent in its requirements on trailers. We are seeking to take the opportunity of this Bill to raise public awareness of the variation in the attitude between different EU member states to trailer registration. I very much hope that the Minister can give us some information to allay concerns.
My Lords, I have tabled Amendment 16 in this group. It is a probing amendment that would cover commercial and non-commercial trailers. It relates, along with Amendment 18 in the next group, to concerns raised by Karin Smyth, MP for Bristol South, prompted by a tragic case involving constituents of hers, Donna and Scott Hussey. Their son, Freddie, was killed in 2014 when he was hit by a trailer that had come loose from a Land Rover. The trailer’s tow-hitch was not secure as the position of its handbrake prevented it being properly locked down. The family and Karin Smyth have been campaigning ever since on the issue of trailer safety, and they have attracted support from successive road safety Ministers, including the current Minister, Jesse Norman. The National Trailer and Towing Association also supports legal changes.
My Amendment 16 simply says that there should be a compulsory register of trailers weighing under 3.5 tonnes, regardless of whether it is used in the UK or internationally, and that the register should be maintained by the Secretary of State. It is pretty obvious that registration is essential as a requirement for regular safety checks. There is no evidence in the impact assessment published alongside the Bill as to why the Government have set the weight rules at 750 kilograms and applied the regime to commercial trailers only. Why limit the scope in the way in which the department is proposing? Why not take advantage of the legislative opportunity that this Bill provides to widen the scope of safety checks? The Freddie Hussey case is not the only example of failed safety measures leading to loss of life. The Husseys, understandably, have done quite a lot of research and have come across several similar cases.
The impact assessment says that the Bill presents an opportunity to improve safety through better regulations. This amendment seeks to probe this possibility. I also give notice, if I may, that, if I get an unsympathetic response from the Minister, I might want to push this issue on Report. I would, of course, much prefer to get there by agreement and co-operation. I am sure that the Minister will be sympathetic to this and I hope that the Committee will be also. When we come to Amendment 18, I will flesh out some of the thinking behind this approach and the trailer safety requirement, which I will move later.
My Lords, I remind the Committee of an interest that I have: I own one very large commercial trailer. However, it is extremely unlikely that I will be taking it on to the continent, and therefore it is not in scope of the Bill.
I have some sympathy for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. The difficulty is that the burden on individuals and the cost of implementing it probably would not outweigh the benefits. However, his amendment as he describes it is about the need to test these trailers rather than register them. I share his concern about the safety of these trailers, particularly those under 3.5 tonnes that are used for transporting cars and goods. There is no requirement whatever for these vehicles to be tested; I myself have seen some in an absolutely terrible state. There is an issue, and the department needs to look closely at these smaller trailers because I have seen them involved in quite a few accidents.
We already test HGV trailers under the plating and testing regulations, but these trailers are not currently registered in the way that we are proposing. We will be registering some under the Bill in order for them to operate on the continent. Still, if the Government were minded to, they could bring these trailers under 3.5 tonnes in scope of testing by other means without using the Bill. So the noble Lord raises an important point; it is perfectly proper to use the Bill to raise the issue, but I do not think that this is the right vehicle—excuse the pun.
Could I ask some questions? First, have we an estimate of the number of trailers that fall under the various categories nationally that we might be able to talk about during the course of the Committee? Secondly, do we have any information on the number of accidents that have taken place? If so, do we know what proportion of those accidents have entailed the trailer being overloaded in default of other law?
Is the Minister going to grasp the general subject of trailer safety under this group or the next?
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for their amendments on the requirements regulation for the trailer registration system. Our intention is to set out in the regulations the full scope of the registration scheme. Mandatory registration will apply solely to certain categories of trailers travelling internationally to or through 1968 Convention territories. This includes all current EU member states with the exception of Ireland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus. The distinction over limiting the application of the scheme to trailers travelling in 1968 Convention territories is important as it ensures that trailers used for any UK to Republic of Ireland journeys will not be subject to mandatory registration. The Government have been clear that we are committed to ensuring that no hard border is created on the island of Ireland, and the Bill will not create any additional requirements for trailers used solely for journeys between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
The intended scope for the mandatory scheme, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and set out in the policy scoping document, is for commercial trailers over 750 kilograms and all trailers over 3.5 tonnes undertaking such journeys. The convention is not concerned with the registration status of trailers weighing below 750 kilogrammes, which is why we have used that bracket. I will explain our thinking on trailers weighing over 3.5 tonnes shortly.
The setting of all the details of scope in regulations is done in order to offer clarity to trailer users and allow the regulations to clearly cover all matters relating to registration. However, I sympathise with the noble Baroness’s point about having some certainty on that; that is why we have included them in the policy scoping documents and are consulting with the industry. The fact that they are not in the Bill will also allow us to consult further before setting the exact details. While we are clear that mandatory registration should apply to commercial trailers over 750 kilograms, further consideration is needed on whether larger, non-commercial leisure trailers should be covered by the regulations made under the Bill.
I am not sure how heavy my noble friend’s trailer is, but from our engagement with industry, we are confident that trailers over 3.5 tonnes are very limited in number—I fear that we have been unable to come up with exact numbers. However, in light of this, we are considering whether the registration scope should be mandatory for these trailers and we want to consult on this further with the sector before making a final decision. For that reason, and because we believe all of the details should be in one place in the regulations, we do not want to set these categories out in the Bill at this stage.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, suggests in Amendment 15 that provision must be made for voluntary registration of non-mandatory trailer categories. I can confirm that, with the exception of light trailers weighing below 750 kilograms, which are outside the scope of the 1968 Convention, voluntary registration will be available for all other categories of trailers, as allowed by powers set out in Clause 12(1). Amendments 15 and 16 propose requiring the scheme to have some form of mandatory domestic registration requirement. The amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, would cover all trailers weighing below 3.5 tonnes used domestically or internationally. As the noble Lord said, this is linked to his further amendment on safety. I am very sympathetic to that, but with his permission we will discuss it on the next group—I want to give it separate and full consideration.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, has proposed that mandatory registration should be extended to require registration of all new commercial trailers weighing over 750 kilograms. Mandatory registration of solely domestic-use trailers was carefully considered within the impact assessments for both new and existing trailers. Further policy development and engagement with industry has underlined our decision not to include any domestic requirement for this scheme. As I outlined previously, this scheme is being implemented to allow trailer users to register to the standards outlined in the 1968 Vienna convention ahead of that convention coming into force. The development of the policy has been focused on delivering clarity for trailer users while keeping costs and additional admin requirements to a minimum.
The convention places no obligation on countries to require registration of domestic trailers; it allows for enforcement against unregistered trailers weighing more than 750 kilograms within their territories. We considered the application of that carefully with the industry. We do not have figures for the number of light trailers below 750 kilograms—these are not available—but we do have indicative figures for other categories of trailer. We believe there are at least 1.4 million trailers in the 750 kilograms to 3.5 tonne weight bracket that are solely used domestically. These would be brought into mandatory scope by these amendments. A third of these are non-commercial trailers, including caravans and horse trailers. The noble Baroness raised caravans. We are in contact with the organisation and we absolutely do not want to add any confusion: we are not suggesting that this scheme will replace its scheme, but if there is still concern we will follow that up and ensure we go through it in more detail. We think that the introduction of a broader scheme for domestic trailers, going beyond what the convention requires, would introduce a disproportionate burden and cost on both business and leisure trailer users—the 1.4 million trailers I mentioned, which is a significant number.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, also proposes a requirement for guidance to be issued ahead of making regulations. Again, I sympathise with that aim—of course it is important that these regulations are as clear as possible for trailer users—and it may be helpful if I set out our approach. The registration scheme being created will provide clarity to UK trailer users on requirements for using trailers internationally. The registration service will be accompanied by appropriate guidance to users on the practical details of travelling internationally with a trailer. As I explained earlier, where you will need to register are those 1968 Convention countries: that is the majority of states, with those four exceptions. The reason we want to follow that, as I said, is the Northern Ireland exception.
The scope of the scheme and the duty to register will be communicated clearly and in good time for trailer users to make sure they are able to make the appropriate amendments. As I said, I understand the need for clear and early clarity for trailer users, but we do not feel it is necessary to issue further guidance on the requirements on a country-by-country basis ahead of making the regulations.
I hope this discussion of the reasons for the proposed scope of the scheme has given sufficient clarity on how this decision has been reached and why we think an extension for domestic trailers would be disproportionate. I am sympathetic to the broad aims of the second amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson: we are committed to ensuring that the registration requirements are absolutely clear to users, but we do not feel it necessary to include this in the Bill.
I welcome the proposed amendments. I hope I have offered noble Lords the necessary clarifications and that the noble Baroness is able to withdraw her amendment.
I did not hear an answer from the Minister to my question about the number of accidents.
I apologise to the noble Lord for not addressing that point. We do have some figures, which will be discussed on the next amendment on safety, but I will look into the issue in detail and write to all noble Lords.
Is there any chance that we could have those figures before we get into the next amendment? The Minister’s reply will be at the end of the debate and we may not have an opportunity to hear them otherwise.
I am afraid that we do not have the detailed figures on trailer accidents ahead of the next discussion.
I thank the Minister for her reply. As usual, she has indicated that she is in discussions with the National Caravan Council. I am content with that. I will look carefully at the details of the reply, particularly in relation to the National Caravan Council’s registration scheme and its requirements.
The noble Lord asked about the size of the sector. As an illustration, the figures I have show that in the last year there were 65,000 new caravan registrations and sales—and that is only one sort of trailer. The National Caravan Council’s scheme registered more than a third of those, so it is an important scheme that already exists and it is important that it fits alongside the Government’s proposals. Obviously, I will come back to the Minister if I have any further questions, but at this moment I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 15 withdrawn.
16: Clause 12, page 8, line 36, at end insert—
“( ) Regulations must provide for the compulsory registration of trailers weighing under 3.5 tonnes kept or used on roads, whether the trailer is being used internationally or only in the United Kingdom, in a register kept by the Secretary of State.”
My Lords, I will restrain myself except to pick up a point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. Clearly, he is concerned, as I think all of us are, that we do not overburden the regulatory field. I understand that, but I think registration is an important element of safety and it has to be in place.
This takes me back to a time when I was responsible for food standards regulations as a national official. In the Food Safety Act 1990, the Government got it right because they insisted that we had to have a system of registration for food premises. At the time, I thought that that was all well and good, but there was insufficient regulation on top. Nevertheless, the Government were right to insist on proper registration, and the proper application of regulations and standards began to apply after that; the sector has improved immeasurably since. I would apply the same logic to this area of regulation and I hope that the noble Earl will be sympathetic to that. I agree with him about vehicle testing. That is addressed in Amendment 18 and I will comment on that in a moment.
My Lords, in answer to my noble friend the Minister, my trailer weighs 27,000 kilos, not 3,500 kilos. I also control what I call the little trailer which weighs only 17 tonnes.
I want to put forward one further argument in support of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. These 3.5-tonne trailers are often lent out among friends. Quite often people do not own their own trailer but they know someone who has one and they borrow it in the hope that it is in good mechanical order. Generally speaking, you do not have the time to check that it is in good mechanical order, and even if you were a little concerned about it, it is a bit of an insult to approach someone with a view to borrowing their trailer and then say, “I am not towing that”. For practical reasons, you might be towing a trailer that really is not quite right.
On the noble Lord’s point about why registration is needed, I shall repeat what I have said. Currently, HGV trailers used in the UK are not registered but they are tested annually. There is a Ministry plating certificate on the vehicle which is linked to the trailer’s chassis number. The current system has everything that the noble Lord wants to see in order to have a proper system for testing trailers, so I do not think that registration of these trailers, as his amendment would require, helps on the safety position. However, I urge the Minister to think carefully about the principle that the noble Lord has set out as regards the testing of trailers because I have concluded for myself that there is too much of a risk with these 3.5-tonne trailers. I have seen too many examples of poor ones. It is not a matter that we need to legislate for at this point. The Minister has all the powers she needs to deal with the problem, but she ought to think about it.
I rise briefly to support the amendment moved by my noble friend. The Explanatory Notes on Clause 12 state:
“These regulations may provide for mandatory or voluntary registration and additional provisions that may be required”.
The road haulage industry is pretty well regulated and most companies abide by the regulations. However, there is a fringe in that industry which, to put it kindly, gets away with something if it can. For that reason I support Amendment 16. However, I think that the entire clause is a bit vague. When I see words like “may” rather than “shall” in government legislation, I worry about exactly what the outcome will be. The Minister might like to ease our fears on compulsory registration.
It is not for me to discuss it, but Amendment 15 moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, suggests a tightening of these regulations and proposals. I hope that as far as compulsory rather than voluntary registration is concerned, the Minister has heard what my noble friend has had to say, regardless of whether he presses the point with his usual ardour.
Amendment 16 withdrawn.
Amendment 17 not moved.
Debate on whether Clause 12 should stand part of the Bill.
With respect, if we could not have a response from the Minister last time, for procedural reasons, may I speak on the clause stand part?
The noble Lord certainly can speak on clause stand part.
Then perhaps the Minister will be kind enough to reply to the points I made earlier when, in my view, my noble friend prematurely withdrew his amendment without us hearing the full response from the Minister about whether it is voluntary or otherwise.
I apologise. I thought I covered that in my response. We do not think there should be a mandatory scheme for domestic trailers. We think there should be a mandatory scheme only for the trailers that are going to countries in the 1968 Convention. We do not want to impose an unnecessary burden on the 1.4 million people who use trailers domestically.
Clause 12 agreed.
Clause 13: Inspections and information
18: Clause 13, page 9, line 7, at end insert—
“( ) Regulations must make provision for mandatory safety standard requirements which all registered trailers must satisfy, with inspections of such trailers to be undertaken on an annual basis.”
My Lords, this amendment follows on from Amendment 16. Basically, I am asking the Government to introduce a scheme for mandatory safety standard requirements, which all registered trailers should then comply with. The amendment asks for these to be conducted on an annual basis.
Obviously, the amendment will not bring back Freddie Hussey but it might prevent deaths such as his occurring in the future. This was a terrible and tragic case. Mrs Hussey was with Freddie on a footpath and he was crushed by a huge trailer that came loose. They were simply doing what most parents and children do every day—walking along a footpath—and he was cut down by a 2-tonne trailer. His parents ask simply: how can vehicles more than 1 tonne in weight which travel at speed—and, if they come loose, will not stop—not need safety checks? It is madness. An MOT or safety check could have prevented this and picked up on the bent handbrake. It was the bent handbrake—obviously not properly serviced—that caused the problem.
A trailer can often—and in many circumstances will—weigh more than a car and other vehicles on the roads but obviously if trailers are in the wrong hands and are not well maintained and have not been properly checked, they are lethal. As we know from recent terrorist attacks, vehicles are lethal weapons and they kill people—large numbers of people. The safety issue here is paramount.
Paragraph 58 of the DfT’s own impact assessment says, under “Indirect benefits”:
“Trailer registration may also bring about safety improvements by facilitating enforcement of existing regimes related to trailer roadworthiness … the act of completing registration may prompt owners to check and address any roadworthiness issues”.
That is blindingly obvious but, as the impact assessment says, if road safety improvements can be made, the modest reductions in accidents could result in significant societal changes and improvements. Mr and Mrs Hussey might argue that young people—always more vulnerable on or near roads—would be less likely to be the victims of other people’s negligence.
There is a powerful argument behind this safety requirement on trailers. I think the department and the Minister ought to seize the opportunity to make some progress on it. While in general this piece of legislation is there only because of the disaster of Brexit, it would be nice if we could take the opportunity to make use of it to improve safety standards. As I said at the outset, the Husseys are not the only ones who have suffered a loss as a result of poor maintenance, inadequate inspection and the lack of a more rigorous testing regime. I have not seen hard data in terms of numbers but they have a lot of anecdotal evidence and copies of cases reported in local newspapers of young people in particular ending up the victims of poor trailer maintenance. It is something we should take seriously. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, made that point rather well earlier. It is a concern. Because this is an underregulated sector, we have to use the opportunity to better regulate it, secure long-term improvements and reduce the number of deaths on or off the roads that are caused directly or indirectly by trailer malfunction and poor maintenance.
My Lords, I am in a little difficulty on aspects of this, as I was saying to my colleagues before coming to this meeting today. I shall delicately go through my reservations. I accept that trailer safety is very important. As my noble friend has pointed out, in the Hussey case the trailer concerned weighed 2 tonnes. That is a pretty big trailer. I can understand that where big trailers are involved there is a need for some sort of regulatory arrangement. What troubles me is in Amendments 16 and 18. Amendment 16 says:
“Regulations must provide for the compulsory registration of trailers weighing under 3.5 tonnes kept or used on roads, whether the trailer is being used internationally or only in the United Kingdom”—
in other words, effectively all trailers. Amendment 18 says,
“with inspections of such trailers to be undertaken on an annual basis”.
In other words, a little trailer—one of these aluminium boxes that you buy in Halfords for a couple of hundred quid—would have to go in to some sort of MOT-type station for an annual test. I have to say to my noble friend that I have great difficulty in going down that route. Big trailers can of course do a lot of damage.
The answer to this is to make it mandatory, where you have the clipping mechanism for the trailer, to put a lock and chain on as well. That would give an extra element of safety over and above the mechanism in the male and female, they call them; I do not know the actual term. If you had some sort of chain and lock arrangement on smaller trailers, in my view that would be quite sufficient.
We should be very careful about introducing a system for smaller trailers with an annual inspection that could affect hundreds of thousands of people and put them to what I would call unnecessary expense. People are going to complain that it costs 30 quid to test your trailer every year, and that is after you have registered it as well, and it only cost you a couple of hundred. In my view, when it comes to small trailers the situation would be exactly the same as in Scotland over air rifles. The Scotland Office estimates that there are 500,000 air rifles in Scotland, but I am told that up till now only 15,000 people have taken out licences for them so, if those figures are correct, we have criminalised nearly half a million people in Scotland who have so far failed to take out a licence on air rifles. I am worried about systems where you impose on people responsibilities that, on reflection, we might think are really gold-plating what my noble friend has raised, which is an extremely important issue of safety. I apologise to him if I have in any way undermined his case, but I do so with the greatest of respect.
My Lords, I apologise for starting to get worried that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, was not going to move his Amendment 18 so I have spoken substantially. However, this gives me the opportunity to raise another argument in support of the general thrust of the noble Lord’s amendment, while being quite sure that we should not put it into the Bill.
Not only is it a question of the tragic accidents and injuries that the noble Lord referred to, but quite often you see these relatively small trailers causing an accident and disruption on the strategic road network. That can be really expensive to the economy. I hope that my noble friend can write to us before the next stage to tell us how many incidents Highways England has recorded of small trailers causing an incident. Often, because they are badly maintained, because their wheel bearings are shot and because the person using the trailer does not realise that the wheel bearings are shot, you see these trailers littered on the strategic road network—the motorways—with a wheel fallen off or bearings collapsed. That causes an awful lot of inconvenience to other road users, so there may be an economic case, forgetting the tragic cost of the accidents.
One point on maintenance is that there is a safety check as well as an MoT. You could require the trailer to have an MoT or you could require it to have a safety check by going to a garage to give it the once-over, which might achieve an awful lot of what we want without all the bureaucracy that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, worries about. The judgment is, of course, a matter for the department.
My Lords, when I was 17, I owned a motor car which was six years older than I was. It was in the days when a good tyre was one where you could not see the canvas. I was happy with my motor car. Suddenly the dreadful news of the MoT fell on the world. My motor car, which cost £7 and 10 shillings—about 200 quid, I suppose, in today’s money—had to have an MoT. In the early days of the MOT, you still did not need tread to get through, you just needed not to have canvas. We were terrified: this was going to be the end of the world for the motoring community. In the real world, it has not turned out like that at all. The MoT has progressed and become more refined. As we were discussing on another Bill in a similar area, 90%-plus of road accidents are now down to the driver. Vehicles are now extraordinarily safe because of this progressive legislation.
We talk about a small trailer, but even the smallest trailer weighs about half the weight of the vehicle pulling it. It will have kinetic energy similar to the car. We have a system to manage the kinetic energy of the car called the MoT, drink-driving rules, and so on, and we have created safety in the car. Here we have on the back an almost unregulated vehicle with its own kinetic energy. The case for managing that at first sight looks overwhelming.
Conversely, we need to understand the incidence. This goes to the centre of modern lawmaking, because if it is sensible, it is about proportionality. We do not have the data in front of us, and therefore we will not formally support the amendment at this stage. The arguments made by my noble friend about the nanny state effect and the community feeling that it is unreasonable are real.
I hope that the amendment will secure the Minister’s attention on how to reach proportionality. If there are few accidents and very few fatalities, then arguably the proportionality argument says, “Don’t interfere any more”. If that is not true, however, then the Government of the day have to look at it very carefully, explain to us what the research is, convince us that it is top of the agenda in terms of progressing regulations and come to a situation where society accepts that if there is to be regulation it is worth while.
Perhaps I could speak again, because I have been reflecting on what was said. There is another way to deal with this, which is why I intervene: we have gross weight figures. If we had a few more court cases about people using trailers that exceeded the gross weight, that might send out a message “pour encourager les autres” to comply with the law. That is one way to deal with it, along with the lock and chain. I am talking about the smaller trailers, which are worrying me, and which comprise the great volume of trailers.
I come to my second point. I do not have a trailer at the moment but until a few years ago I did. It was a small trailer, probably half the size of one of these desk tops here. We used it once or twice a year. If you are registering it, MoT-ing and all that, that is quite an expense if you use your trailer very rarely. As I say, unless they are in business, people do not drive around with their trailers all the time. They are for occasional use.
There are circumstances in which an MoT could be applied, and that is when a trailer has a brake. If it has a brake, it really is a different piece of machinery. All that most trailers have is a wire that connects the vehicle to the trailer to feed the lights—nothing more. However, where you have a trailer with a brake, my noble friend’s case holds water that there might well need to be some sort of system. I imagine that the two-tonne trailer that my noble friend referred to had a brake; I do not know.
Since we are in declaring-interest mode, I, too, used to have a trailer a few years ago. It is the point about the brakes that interests me, because it seemed to have an automatic brake on the driveshaft when it connected to the car, so when the car was accelerating or driving normally the trailer was dragged, but when one put on the car brakes, the momentum of the trailer pushed forward on a hydraulic ram that automatically activated the rear brake. I have no idea what it was called, and I am sorry that I cannot describe the technology more accurately, but many trailers have these automatic brakes that come on when the vehicle brakes.
I did not know about that; I did not know it existed. Knowing the noble Lord’s former constituency well, he probably had a fairly substantial trailer. It was probably pretty large because he represented a very rugged area.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, makes a good point about the size of the trailer. Trailers up to 3.5 tonnes can be operated by a brake system. The point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, was that on the overrun brake system with a handbrake, the handbrake should be applied automatically in the case of trailer breakaway, but of course if it is not properly maintained that will not happen. A trailer with overrun brakes is much more complicated and there is much more to go wrong, whereas a tiny trailer of the sort that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is referring to has just two wheel bearings and a couple of tyres—that is basically it—and there is not that much to go wrong that a reasonably competent driver cannot detect. When the department looks at this, it may conclude that the bigger trailers with overrun brakes need to come in scope but that the economic and safety case has not been made for tests for the light, little ones that the noble Lord is referring to.
The difference of course is that one is more likely to be a commercially operated trailer as against one which is owned by an individual using it for general purposes.
Desperate though we are to hear from the noble Baroness, and I know that she is equally desperate to put us right on this amendment, I am concerned about the tone of the debate. My noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe has talked about the nanny state and not wishing to overregulate trailers. My noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours said that this is about small trailers. He had one himself that he drove around the countryside and everything was fine. However, noble Lords ought to reflect on the fact that no matter how small they are, these trailers can travel at a fair old speed, depending on the mood of the driver. Even a small one breaking away on a motorway, for example, could cause an enormous amount of carnage.
I spent my working life in the railway industry, where the smallest wagon is inspected on a regular basis. That is probably the reason the railway industry has gone for a decade without killing a passenger in a moving train accident. The same does not apply on our road network. For my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe to talk about the nanny state ignores the fact that we are still killing a couple of thousand people and seriously injuring more than 10,000 on our roads. The smallest trailer, if badly maintained, could play its part in adding to that carnage.
My noble friend shakes his head, but he must be aware of the issues when he is driving on a motorway. Because of the lack of traffic police these days—we can play a game called “spot the traffic policeman”; the only time I see one is when I watch the television because I do not see any on our roads—I have been overtaken by people dragging those little trailers that my noble friend has just referred to. They drive in a cavalier way at 65 or 70 miles an hour, although strictly speaking they are supposed to be restricted to 50 miles an hour. If one of those trailers were to break away at 70 miles an hour, I do not care how small it is, it could cause a great deal of carnage on the road. I disagree with my noble friend’s view that the nanny state should keep out of legislation in this particular instance and I think that there is a proper case for inspection and regulation. I hope that the Minister will refer to it when the happy time comes and she is allowed to respond to the debate.
My Lords, I cannot sit still any longer. I have listened carefully to the debate. For the avoidance of doubt, I have driven a trailer. For about 25 years I would pull a trailer once a year for our summer holidays going camping. It requires a different driving technique and I agree with the noble Lord that even a small trailer, if it has not been hitched properly, has been overloaded or is being driven badly, can be extremely dangerous.
I have decided to take part in this debate to ask the Minister if she agrees that the Government should look at the issue of trailer safety in the round, although this Bill may not be the place to do that. However, it is obvious that years ago in the minds of people at the Department for Transport, there was an association between the size of the vehicle being driven and the danger posed. I notice, having reached a certain age where one has to apply for a new driving licence, that without separate permission and a test, you are not permitted to drive large vehicles even if you drove such vehicles in the past. The concept that as you get older, certain aspects of driving are more difficult, has been applied to the issue of size, so I think that there is a case for the Government to look at the issue of the safety of trailers as a whole, not only in the context of the Bill.
My Lords, I, too, would hate to be left out of this debate. I have been driving for 65 years and I have never seen an accident caused by a trailer. I have never seen one tipped over at the side of the road. However, having said that, times have changed. These trailers are much more powerful than they used to be, so we ought to look at the legislation and decide what needs to be done.
On a note of personal explanation, I am seized of the risk of trailers: there is clearly a strong case for regulation and testing. Nevertheless, there are at least 1.5 million vehicles that would have to be tested and therefore the issue of proportionality should be properly considered. To get to the bottom of this, we need good data. As a minimum, I expect from the Minister a commitment to gather data so that this can be carried forward.
I was the Opposition Front Bench spokesman for transport in your Lordships’ House; if I was in the noble Lord’s position again, I would make exactly the same speech.
I thank noble Lords for taking part in this debate. First, I will cap the stories of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, about tyres and MoTs. When I first got a car, also aged 17—I am probably older than the noble Lord—I was driving along quite happily and suddenly there was a nasty clunk and the car went down on one side. I looked out of the window, wondering what had happened, and saw a wheel going past me—it was mine.
Obviously, Freddie’s death was absolutely tragic. As a mother and a grandmother, I cannot imagine what those parents must be going through. Of course, we take trailer safety incredibly seriously. The issue was discussed at Second Reading, but I will go into it a little bit further to explain the point.
The UK has a world-leading road safety record, which extends to trailers. The number of casualties as a result of collisions involving a towing vehicle is relatively low compared with other road user groups. There has also been a steady decline in incidents and breakdowns involving a trailer since 2009. There were still around 5,000 incidents per year, equating to 13 incidents per day, as of 2015. The Government are committed to continuing to make progress on this.
The key safety issues for trailers generally relate to how vehicles towing trailers are driven and how securely the trailers are attached to vehicles, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said. It is important that we continue to improve safety through education, enforcement and improving the safety of vehicles. Almost all new trailers are already subject to type approval ahead of their entry into service, and in the case of larger trailers an annual testing regime is already in place. I appreciate that noble Lords may well be familiar with these measures, but it may be useful if I speak about this a little more.
The current type approval scheme applies in much the same way as motor vehicles are subject to approval before they can be legally sold in the UK. It has been in place since 2012. Approvals are generally issued for a type of vehicle on a model-by-model basis. I can give reassurance that overwhelmingly under this regime all new trailers are subject to type approval before entering into service, with very limited exemptions. These exceptions include certain agricultural and forestry trailers, and trailers not intended to be towed by a vehicle with a maximum speed over 25 kph.
In the case of imported units, or self-built trailers which have not been type approved, there is a scheme in place for individual approval. To ensure that this system operates correctly, the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency already has the power to undertake inspections or tests of a trailer as it sees fit. The annual testing regime applies to most commercial trailers weighing over 1,020 kilograms and almost all trailers weighing over 3,500 kilograms. As my noble friend Lord Attlee mentioned, commercial trailers in this category are subject to the DVSA issuing consent to sell prior to entering into service, at which point a ministry number associated with a manufacturer’s number is allocated to an individual trailer, and it is plated accordingly. This test is applicable on an annual basis from 12 months following the date at which the trailer is first sold or supplied. The test may be undertaken at a DVSA facility or an approved testing facility, although in all cases the test is completed by a DVSA inspector and to a consistent standard. In 2016-17, around a quarter of a million trailers were subject to the annual test.
Again, limited exemptions apply to this regime, such as for trailers used in very limited circumstances and rarely used on roads, such as trailers designed to carry coffins. Also exempt are trailers used only for the carrying of abnormal loads and subject to different regulations. This includes the likes of so-called abnormal indivisible loads—large loads which cannot be divided into two or more parts—and mobile cranes.
The Government continue to review the scope of annual testing and, as such, changes to the scope are made when necessary. Further changes to the regime will be made this coming May. Importantly, this Bill will not make any changes to the approval or testing regimes that are already in place.
The department and its agencies are working on an ongoing basis to improve towing safety. In 2016, the DVSA published guidance to help drivers check that they are towing trailers safely and legally. The guidance includes important information on checking the tow-ball and connections, wheels and tyres, lights and indicators, and loads and weight limits. Highways England is also actively engaged with the towing community and in increasing safety standards for towing. The national trailer working group was established to bring together key stakeholders to identify what can be done to improve trailer and towing safety and to reduce the number of incidents involving trailers. As noted, the UK already has an excellent safety record for trailers, and the Government want this to continue to improve, via effective awareness, education and enforcement.
Although I understand the sentiment of the noble Lord’s amendment, I hope he agrees with our view that it is not necessary. The department and its agencies recognise the importance of trailer safety, and indeed towing safety more generally, but we believe that the current regimes are already functioning well to this end. We continue to review these regimes and our approach to enforcement on an ongoing basis. I hope that the discussion of the existing and ongoing measures offers the reassurance necessary for the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment, which is beyond the intentions of this legislation. I reiterate that the Bill makes no changes to the testing regime.
The Minister gave us a figure for the number of accidents. I wonder whether she could look at the number of fatalities and write to us with that information.
Absolutely, I have that information here. Trailer and caravan-related collisions accounted for 2% of the 1,787 total number of those killed or seriously injured in collisions in 2015.
But that does not tell us what happened or give us the explanation for the accident. It may well have involved a large trailer that was overweight; small trailers might be excluded. In case there are amendments on Report, perhaps the Minister can give us some information on that matter.
Yes, absolutely. We will look further into it and see what other data we can find.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords who have supported this amendment. I am disappointed by the Minister’s response, although I am grateful for it and for the information she has given us. I think that one death is one death too many, and the case I mentioned was particularly tragic. Let us be clear about this: it involved a tonnage lower than the 3.5 tonnes level. Nevertheless, it was clearly sufficiently heavy to be fatal. As I understand it, the victim was crushed by the weight of the trailer, and that was obviously the cause of his death.
The circumstances of the crash are such that although the driver, who was brought to court, was clearly responsible for the death, he received a sentence of 200 community hours and a six-month driving ban, whereas had he been over an alcohol limit we all know that he would likely have faced a term of imprisonment, because that is what is applied. Had he been on his mobile phone, quite possibly a similar penalty would have been imposed, but because it related to a defect, the penalty was rather different. One can understand the anger and frustration of the parents: they want a sense of justice. That is why they have a web page calling for justice for Freddie. While we can all express sympathy, we will never bring Freddie back, but they are very compassionate people and they want to make sure that something is done that drives down the number of fatalities, however low it is. I accept that 2% is quite low, but there are a large number of accidents: 5,000 was the figure given, and 1,700 killed or seriously injured is in itself no small number.
I accept the general point that road safety has been steadily improving over the years, largely because of improvements in vehicles and because we have become better drivers as a consequence of improved training and so on. But I think there is still an issue here. The weight level needs to be lower. More work needs to be done on this. Although obviously I will withdraw the amendment today, it would helpful if we could have some further discussions before the next stage of the Bill, and I retain the right to bring a similar amendment back—perhaps an amendment that the department and the Minister would find more agreeable—on Report. This is a significant issue and we should always try to do as much as we possibly can to improve safety. After all, it is the steady accretion of intelligent regulation that has driven down the number of road-related accidents and deaths over time. For instance, going back to the 1960s, people were not that happy when safety belts were introduced but they have made a massive difference to the outcome of road traffic accidents, as have many other features that have mandatorily been imposed on motorists, including alcohol limits, which have made a very significant difference as well.
We should always look for those opportunities and, as the impact assessment says, this is one. It is a question of getting the balance right between regulation and continuing as we are. I make a strong appeal to the Government, the Minister and the officials to give that some further thought, because there is more we can do here.
Amendment 18 withdrawn.
Clause 13 agreed.
Clause 14: Registration marks and registration plates
19: Clause 14, page 9, line 24, leave out “may require or authorise” and insert “must require”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 19, I shall speak also to Amendment 20. These two amendments say in effect that if a trailer is registered, it must have a registration mark and that registration mark must be fixed to it. The Minister will probably call my attention to the Interpretation Act or something. Really, it is just a probing amendment to receive an assurance from the Minister that these “mays” will in practice be interpreted as “musts”. I beg to move.
If it is about fixing the certificate to the trailer there will be a danger that that can be easily removed, particularly on small trailers. On timber trailers there will be a particular problem, so if the Government were to go down the route of smaller trailers, which obviously I hope they do not, they may have to find some way of burnishing it into the wood or people will simply steal certificates and put them on their own trailers. If it is an aluminium trailer, again, it could be unscrewed unless it was riveted on in some way. All I am arguing is that if we go down this route, let us have a system that works and does not allow people simply to—if I may use the term—nick a certificate from one trailer and put it on to their own trailer for a few days while they are using it and then return it to the original trailer.
My Lords, I am going to enjoy this because I am going to be extremely mischievous. A moment ago my noble friend the Minister mentioned abnormal load vehicles. Sometimes an abnormal load vehicle is a simple trailer—quite a big one, but relatively simple. However, other abnormal load trailers comprise modules of axles and various types of frames that are bolted together for different purposes. It is not exactly clear what the trailer is, and this could present a problem when such trailers travel on the continent. I do not expect my noble friend the Minister to come back to me on this right now, or even to write to me, but perhaps her officials could give some thought to abnormal load vehicles made up of modular components where there is not simply one trailer on to which a number plate or a ministry registration plate with the chassis number can be bolted, because they are outside the scope of plating and testing.
My Lords, I will take the opportunity to reassure all noble Lords that once the scheme is operational, all trailers will be assigned a registration mark following a completed registration application and the payment of the appropriate fee. That will be followed by the issuing of a digital document to the registered keeper which shows the assigned registration mark which the keeper will use to obtain the registration plate from the supplier.
Although amending “may” to “must” could appear to be a small change, it would have consequences that must be considered carefully. The rest of the powers in Part 2 may be exercised. As I have said, the Government are fully committed to delivering the scheme, but we think it is right to have discretionary powers. Using an example from later in the Bill, Amendment 20 would require the registration mark to be displayed on a trailer at all times following registration, but whether the trailer is used domestically or internationally could change over time as and when the trailer is sold, so we do not think that it should be mandatory at that point, which is the reason we have taken discretionary powers. But I reassure noble Lords that the registration process will happen as the scheme becomes operational.
My noble friend Lord Attlee and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, mentioned the regulations. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, again made an important point about fraud. We are considering that issue carefully and are consulting on the regulations with the industry. We will also be considering the different types of trailers and how the registration mark should be fixed to them. I am afraid that I do not have a response for my noble friend on modular components, although I very much wish I did. I will look into it further and come back to him.
My Lords, I think that that was a satisfactory answer and I will read it with care. I hope it boiled down to the fact that the overwhelming volume of the trailers that are registered will have a mark and it will be fixed to them. The second-order advantages, particularly in terms of theft, will come in only if the general approach is overwhelmingly positive. I note that the Minister is nodding, which I hope will go in the record. With that nod, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 19 withdrawn.
Amendment 20 not moved.
Clause 14 agreed.
Clauses 15 to 20 agreed.
Clause 21: Regulations
21: Clause 21, page 13, line 4, at end insert—
“(2A) A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 17 (offences) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 21, I will speak also to Amendments 24, 25 and 27. This group and the next group of amendments are vehicles to effect the recommendations of the Select Committee on the Constitution and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I hope the Minister will agree with everything I have to say because traditionally the Government respect those committees for the very careful work they do. It is good to see the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, here. I am sure he will speak to these amendments. The work of these committees is essential to keep our law sensible, balanced and correctly scrutinised.
The 11th report of the Select Committee on the Constitution, published on 8 March, says at paragraph 7:
“If there are exceptional circumstances which require the creation of criminal offences by regulations, they should normally be subject to the affirmative procedure”.
It then goes on to talk about sifting. Clause 17(7) of the Bill says:
“Regulations under this section may not provide for an offence to be punishable with imprisonment or with a fine exceeding level 3 on the standard scale”.
But clearly there is a criminal offence and as a general rule we do not believe that any criminal offence should be introduced with a negative instrument. I hope the Minister will agree.
Turning to the subject of Amendment 27, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee says:
“Although the Government do not currently know what regulations under clause 2 will contain or how significant they will be, the Government propose that the negative procedure will always apply to such regulations. For the reasons given at paragraph 9 above, we recommend that there should be a sifting procedure”—
I will come on to that—
“allowing a scrutiny committee to recommend an uprating of the negative procedure to the affirmative procedure”.
Paragraph 9 says:
“We also recommend that there should be a sifting procedure for regulations under clause 1—akin to the one we recommended for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill—allowing a scrutiny committee to recommend an uprating of the negative procedure to the affirmative procedure”.
The Select Committee on the Constitution also made some references to Clauses 8 and 17. Therefore, for simplicity’s sake, we recommend that all the regulations under Clauses 1, 2, 8 and 17 should be subject to a sifting procedure which can decide whether any should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. I beg to move.
My Lords, as the chairman of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, I am delighted to say a few words on Amendment 27. No doubt my noble friend the Minister swotted up on all the briefs and the grand issues relating to Brexit and European trailers; little did she know that she would have to hear confessions from Members on all sides of the Committee about their experiences driving good trailers, big trailers and dodgy little trailers—and wheels falling off.
I am not sure whether I can trump the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, but as a boy up on the farm in the Highlands I was able to drive a tractor by the age of 10 and drive it on the highway by the age of 12. When I was allowed legally to drive a car on the highway, my first car was a three-gear Ford Prefect which, on a long downhill slope, I once got up to 62 miles an hour—I could drive the tractors a bit faster.
The Delegated Powers Committee has recommended the sifting committee procedure for Clauses 1 and 2. We recommend it for Clause 1 because, as we say in our report,
“the content of any regulations made under clause 1 will depend on future international agreements … there is no current indication as to what regulations under clause 1 might say or how important they might be, if they are needed at all … it cannot be known in advance that the negative procedure will always be suitable for regulations made under clause 1 … it might transpire that some regulations made under clause 1 might require the affirmative procedure”.
On Clause 2, to shorten our report to the basics, we cite the Explanatory Memorandum which states that,
“it is not yet clear what sort of a regime or regimes will need to be introduced and, in the interest of ensuring that the provisions cater for agreed scenarios and are not too wide, it is necessary to legislate by way of secondary legislation once negotiations have been concluded and the nature of any permit scheme that needs to be introduced is clear”.
“Although the Government do not currently know what regulations under clause 2 will contain or how significant they will be, the Government propose that the negative procedure will always apply”.
For that reason, we think that there should be a sifting mechanism where colleagues in the House can decide which ones are tiddly statutory instruments and the negative procedure is okay and which ones require the affirmative procedure.
We stress in paragraph 10:
“We are not seeking to make a sifting mechanism a general feature of our legislative landscape”—
we are not seeking to attach it to every Brexit Bill.
“However, the circumstances of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union have given rise to unique legislative challenges”.
We know that next year we may have 800 to 1,000 statutory instruments to get through, perhaps in a short period of time. In those circumstances we have recommended the sifting procedure to the House. I know that the Leader of the House, the Lord Privy Seal, has rejected that already, but we recommend it for the Bill because the first five clauses begin with the words, “Regulations may”. That is almost unique. Because there will be so many regulations and some will be routine, trivial and therefore not crucial, some will be mega important and may require the affirmative procedure, we commend the sifting mechanism—exactly the same procedure as we identified in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, using the same secondary legislation scrutiny procedure, not creating any new all-singing all-dancing committee—to the Committee, and I commend it to my noble friend.
My Lords, my Amendment 23 is an attempt to tackle the issue in a parallel manner. It takes on board the Delegated Powers Committee report which I think we can say was not entirely favourable. Last week, I quoted the committee as saying that the Bill is,
“more of a mission statement than legislation”.
As the noble Lord just said, the committee specifically referred to Clauses 1 to 5 all beginning with the words, “Regulations may”. It also chastised the Department for Transport for not producing some illustrative regulations alongside the Bill and urged us to probe the Government in Committee. I am trying to follow its advice.
As the committee report highlights, 16 of the 24 clauses contain delegated powers, all of them subject only to the negative procedure. Amendment 23 attempts to rectify this, ensuring that the substantive clauses of the Bill are subject to the affirmative procedure.
I also want to note that the Constitution Committee said specifically that Bills like this are difficult for Parliament to scrutinise and—this is the key phrase—present a fundamental challenge to the balance of power between Parliament and the Executive. Given the reference just now by the noble Lord to the number of statutory instruments that we have coming through, it is important that we continue to maintain a more stringent attitude to SIs than is indicated by the Bill as currently written.
Amendment 21 particularly highlights Clause 17, which would give the Secretary of State the power to create offences by statutory instrument. Labour’s Amendments 24, 25 and 27 relate to the sifting committee for statutory instruments, which was recommended in the report of the Delegated Powers Committee. I believe that these are very sound suggestions and I support them. There are good reasons for adopting a more rigorous attitude towards this and I am sure that the Minister would be the first to admit that at this stage the Government do not have absolute clarity as to how they are going forward. To my mind, that is an even stronger argument for why we should have some form of sunset clause and sifting to ensure that the important elements of this Bill are properly scrutinised in the future.
My Lords, I have no idea why your Lordships keep banging on about affirmative orders and want everything to be done by the affirmative procedure. It is good that we have my noble friend the chairman of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee with us, and we have his counsel. However, in my opinion, and it may be wrong, his committee keeps recommending the affirmative procedure when it is not appropriate.
These are insignificant matters. We are talking about having an international permit for heavy goods vehicles and about registering trailers. The Bill does not provide for significant or severe penalties—they are limited in the Bill. But my noble friend the Minister can make drastic changes by means of negative instruments. For instance, using Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, she can change the construction and use regulations, having decided one day that every car must have a 20 kilogram dry-powder fire extinguisher. That would be really painful and a tremendous waste of money, but she can do that under the negative procedure. Or she could put a requirement in the construction and use regulations that it is very easy to fall foul of. That would be undesirable, but again, she can do so under the negative procedure.
It there was a problem with the regulations that will arise from this Bill or with a negative instrument—perhaps the penalties are too severe, although they are limited, or have other unintended consequences—the negative instrument can be prayed against; I think the praying period is 40 days. Industry and stakeholders have very good means of alerting Her Majesty’s Opposition to any problems with new regulations. If there are undesirable effects, the Opposition and other parliamentarians have a range of tools they can use to flag them up. Her Majesty’s Opposition can require a negative instrument to be debated on the Floor of the House, and they can also make sure that it takes place in prime time.
I recall the noble Earl saying similar things last time, but he knows as well as I do that the precedents for that kind of activity—that kind of movement against negative instruments—indicate how difficult it is to actually change anything. He knows there is an outcry if we try to deal with things like that in the way that he describes. Is it not therefore better to have a more precautionary approach? Although the issues here might seem small, the big issue of whether we can trade properly abroad and with our neighbours is fundamental to the whole economy. I think the noble Earl would accept that the tenor across the Room today has not been that of a group of people seeking minute regulation. There has been a very reasonable attitude towards increasing regulation.
On the precautionary principle, the problem I have is that we are using precious time to debate things that we do not need to. When I was an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, I dealt with affirmative orders while thinking, “Why in God’s name are we debating this?” One day, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, came in with a defence order—a Foreign Office order or something. She made a big speech, and I just smiled at her and then the order went through.
The other point that the noble Baroness raised was about the difference between an affirmative order and a negative one. The ability to debate it and to change it is no different whether the order is affirmative or negative. The only difference is whether it has to be debated or whether it gets debated only if we can flag it up: our ability to amend it is no different. I am going to get killed now.
I will try smiling at my noble friend to see if he may back down slightly. I admit that there are times when my committee says, “The negative procedure here is wholly unacceptable and this should be affirmative”—but not in this report. Here, we say, “The Government don’t know, the Explanatory Memorandum doesn’t know and we don’t know how many regulations there will be, which ones will be important and which will be less important”. They might all end up being negative or they might all be so crucial that they are affirmative, but I trust my noble friend Lord Trefgarne to make a sensible judgment on this—
I know some Members of this Committee will be reassured by that.
All we are saying is: let the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee look at the proposed regulations, as we suggest for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Let the committee sift them and conclude, as I think it probably would, that 80% of the regulations in the main will be suitable for the negative procedure and the remaining 20% should be affirmative, and then it can recommend that to the House. That does not stop the House, the Opposition or others ensuring that other negative regulations are prayed against, but suggesting a sifting mechanism is not a demand that everything be made affirmative. On this occasion I am not banging on that everything should be affirmative; I am banging on about giving the sifting committee a chance to make a decision that the House can accept or reject.
My Lords, my noble friend is the expert. When I made observations about procedure and so on, was I incorrect in any respect?
Sorry, I do not follow my noble friend.
My Lords, I suggested that the only difference between a negative order and an affirmative one was our ability to flag it up for debate. We cannot actually change a negative order or an affirmative one; we just accept or reject them. My point is that we are actually no better off in holding the Government to account whether an order is affirmative or negative. If the industry flags it up as a problem, we have all the tools that we need to hold the Government to account.
Before the noble Lord answers that, I have a question. I know he was never the noble Earl’s Chief Whip but, in the days when he was a Chief Whip, would he have felt that a smile would have made a difference?
In my time as Chief Whip in the other place, I tried to model myself on Lord Dixon, whose style I rather liked as Chief Whip of the Labour Party.
I think what my noble friend means by “flag it up”—I stand to be corrected because I am not an expert on procedure—would require praying against it, and that would take some time. The sifting procedure that we propose is a 10-day system where, when the statutory instruments went before the sifting committee, the SSLC, they would be flagged up within 10 days to go to the affirmative procedure. That satisfies the Government’s requirements that it be done expeditiously.
We accept that next year we will possibly have hundreds of regulations coming through. I know that we want to get some though in advance—we may get many through—but we could have a period next year where we have a huge batch of regulations to get through because we are leaving the EU. Some may need to be done by 29 March while others may be done later, but we will not be able to have a 40-day praying period: we cannot take all that time to decide whether a regulation being passed by the negative procedure might need to go up to the affirmative procedure. The sifting procedure we have proposed is not like the super-affirmative procedure, which is far too slow. The special procedure we have proposed in this amendment, as well as in the EU withdrawal Bill, will allow for a rapid sifting so that recommendations can be made for a regulation to be upgraded to the affirmative procedure.
My Lords, my noble friend is very helpful. I cannot conceive how any regulation under this Bill would need the affirmative procedure, but we will see what the Minister says.
My Lords, we proposed this amendment to stimulate this sort of debate. We felt that the recommendation from the committee was particularly sensible because it was proportionate. In fact, it will probably allow the committee to make sure that very few orders have to go through the affirmative procedure, and that is why we hope the Government will accept the amendment. It is a practical way of dividing orders, given the fact that, at this time, we do not know what sort of orders will come in front of us.
My Lords, I recognise and fully welcome the point that appropriate scrutiny should be given when considering regulations. As discussed, there are a number of ways that this could be achieved. Noble Lords have proposed a number of amendments that would apply the affirmative or sifting procedure. Some of these build on the recommendations made by the DPRRC and the Constitution Committee. I thank the committees for their work; I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, that their work is absolutely essential to making our lawmaking better. I fully understand the support of noble Lords for these recommendations but I am afraid I would like to set out our thinking on the different clauses at some length.
Clause 21 stipulates that regulations should be subject to the negative procedure. In this, the Government are following the precedent of the haulage operator legislation already in force across the UK. As such, we believe the powers we have drafted are suitably limited and proportionate for the delivery of a permit scheme, and for the delivery and enforcement of the trailer registration regime. We also believe that the negative procedure provides for an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny.
I turn to Clause 17 on offences. As my noble friend Lord Attlee highlighted, there are safeguards in Clause 17 limiting the Secretary of State to creating summary-only offences. Again, that is consistent with other offences created within the Bill. The second safeguard is that for some of the offences created in regulations the Bill requires that an appropriate defence must also be included in regulations, although I do understand the noble Lord’s concern around how offences are usually treated. One other argument for doing this in the way we have proposed is that everything would be set out in regulations in one place. But, as I said, I take the noble Lord’s point and will consider that further.
The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, would extend the affirmative procedure not only to Clause 17 but additionally to Clauses 1, 2 and 12. I want to spend a bit of time on the provisions in Clauses 1 and 2 as they affect non-EU related issues. The clauses were designed to put into effect agreements with the EU and other countries on international haulage. What will need to go into the regulations will not only reflect what has been negotiated with the EU but also, as we discussed last week, what has already been agreed with third countries. As well as providing flexibility while the outcome of the negotiations is unknown, the negative procedure for these regulations also acknowledges that future amendments to permit schemes would not be restricted by requirements to return to primary legislation on each and every occasion, which if they were affirmative we would have to.
In Part 2 of the Bill, the provision of Clause 12 allows for the creation of the registration scheme that will enable users of UK traders to satisfy fully the conditions in the 1968 Vienna Convention. The detail of that scheme, as with existing vehicle registration powers, may need to adapt to meet future requirements. We will be consulting on the detail of the trader registration scheme with industry, and again we will be replicating many aspects of the existing vehicle registration scheme that is created under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, such as setting out the process for issuing registration documents and specifications for registration plates. Regulations for vehicle registration made under that Act are made under the negative procedure. Once that scheme is in place, we may need to amend or update the regulations over time—for example, as the DVLA processes change. To give an example, the equivalent regulations for motor vehicle registration have been amended 12 times in the last 10 years. Those are our arguments for not having the affirmative procedure throughout. As I say, I understand noble Lords’ concerns about the first time that these regulations come in.
The sifting committee procedure proposed is similar to that set out in Schedule 7 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that is currently before the House. As my noble friend Lord Blencathra said, the process of leaving the European Union has certainly thrown up some unique legislative challenges, not least for our noble friend Lord Trefgarne and the sifting committee. The requirement was included in the withdrawal Bill, given the issues and significant powers that, of necessity, are provided by that Bill. We think the proposed powers that we are considering here are far more limited and primarily technical in nature, as my noble friend Lord Attlee said. This amendment as it stands would also require Parliament to go through the same procedure for regulations made in respect of our arrangements with non-EU countries, which provide a sufficient number of permits for the levels of trade. I do not believe the agreements need such scrutiny.
I point out to the Committee that Clause 8, which is referred to in the amendment, would set out in the Bill the offences and penalties for failing to carry a haulage permit and failing to comply with an inspection. There is no power to make regulations under Clause 8 itself; it simply relates to regulations made under other clauses, so in this case there would be no regulations for the sifting committee to consider.
On the question of timing, I think we all welcome the news from Monday that the UK and EU negotiating teams reached another important milestone in the Brexit process by agreeing the terms of a time-limited implementation period, but of course as a responsible Government we want to continue to plan for all scenarios. We need to take responsible and, importantly, timely steps to ensure that the haulage industry can prepare. As we have said before, we are hoping to get the scheme in place by the end of the year, and obviously we would need to get everything through before then. I admit that the timetable is challenging.
We are working closely with the DVSA and the DVLA to align the systems, but stakeholders have already raised with us the pressure that they will be under involving the registration of vehicles. The run-up to Christmas is the busiest time of year for hauliers, and of course they are asking for as much time as possible. I am keen for us to give them sufficient time to put in applications, and I am sure noble Lords will also support that aim.
I recognise that the aim of the amendments is to ensure that Parliament can take appropriate scrutiny, and I want to consider that carefully. I am conscious that Parliament needs sufficient time to properly scrutinise legislation but, as I said, I am sure that noble Lords will also be alive to the interests of UK hauliers when making judgments on handling. As we have discussed, there are various options available to ensure that the regulations are subject to appropriate scrutiny. I have listened to the arguments made today and I will consider them carefully ahead of Report. At this point, I hope the noble Lord will be willing to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, in the light of the Minister’s response, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 21 withdrawn.
22: Clause 21, page 13, line 4, at end insert—
“( ) No regulations may be made under sections 1 to 5 or 12 to 18 of this Act unless a draft of an instrument containing those regulations has been laid before both Houses of Parliament within three months of the passing of this Act.”
My Lords, I refer once again to the report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, particularly to paragraphs 2, 3 and 4. Someone devised these wonderful words in paragraph 2:
“The Bill is wholly skeletal, more of a mission statement than legislation … Clauses 1 to 5 all begin: ‘Regulations may …’ … 16 of the 24 clauses contain delegated powers, all of them subject only to the negative procedure”.
Paragraph 3 states:
“It would have helped us had the Department for Transport, in addition to providing a delegated powers memorandum, produced some illustrative regulations alongside the Bill. As it is, we are in the dark because the devil will be in the regulatory detail.
We appreciate that the position remains unclear for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, the Minister may wish to assist the House in its consideration of the Bill at Committee Stage by providing illustrative examples (however tentative and qualified) of at least some of the regulations to be made under the main delegated powers in the Bill”.
That has not proved possible, so we have tabled the amendments to give effect to the desire expressed in that paragraph. I beg to move.
My Lords, my Amendment 28 in this group is to Clause 23. It provides a sunset clause which would cause Clauses 1 and 3 to expire after three years, which is a period that the Secretary of State could extend by affirmative resolution. This was recommended by the Delegated Powers Committee.
Amendment 22 to Clause 21, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, requires the Secretary of State to lay a draft of the regulations he intends to make under Clauses 1 to 5 and 2 to 18 before the House within three months of the Bill passing. I understand the purpose of this: to improve scrutiny and introduce a sunset clause, but I am not sure that we support the three-month timeframe in this case. We expect the Secretary of State to consult thoroughly before making the regulations and, to my mind, three months is not a realistic period. I understand that the need to make law quickly has to be balanced by the need to make law well, and that always requires consultation, but the Minister has our sympathy if she has to keep to a three-month timescale. I think that that is overly ambitious, but the principle of a period within which the work has to be done is very good.
My Lords, I have some sympathy for the noble Baroness’s amendment. I have general concern about Acts of Parliament hanging around on the statute book that have not been commenced. I have drafted an amendment that I have not used yet—I will willingly share it with the noble Baroness—and discussed it with officials, along with my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham. Some pretty high-profile bits of legislation have hung around causing hellacious problems when the Government did not implement them. I have sympathy with her amendment, but I suspect that there are reasons why it is not appropriate for the Bill, although we need to stop legislation hanging around that has not been commenced.
To clarify, the reason for this is that with most Bills we pass here, the Government believe that they need the legislation—whether we like it or not—and have a clear idea of how they are going to implement it. This Bill suffers from a number of uncertainties over exactly how it is going to work in practice and even whether it will be needed. It is worth remembering the Minister’s opening words, which were to the effect that this was a Bill the Government hoped they did not need.
The amendment I have in this group is just to tease out when the Secretary of State might bring forward the licensing arrangements. We would like to have some idea of the timetable. I accept that this is a Bill the Government do not want to use and I suspect that the industry would rather they did not either. Most of us would think that it would be better to have the current system than what is on offer here, not least because operators will end up being charged. But I would like some idea of the timetable and how the Secretary of State intends to organise these regulations.
I rather take to Amendment 28 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. It is very valuable for Clauses 1 and 3. Obviously, I support Amendment 22, moved by my noble—and good—friend Lord Tunnicliffe.
My Lords, this debate relates to the previous group of amendments, although the Government’s view is slightly different, as I will explain.
As I said, we aim to pass regulations under the Bill as soon as possible to implement both the trailer registration scheme and the permits scheme. However, we cannot be sure that this will be within three months of it passing because, as well as having to reflect a full and proper consultation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, it will have to reflect the agreed future haulage arrangements with the EU. The implementation period may also extend the time by which we may need to make regulations; certainly with regard to the permit registration scheme.
We fully understand the practical implications of not having a permit or trailer registration scheme in place. As I said, we will bring forward regulations in good time to deliver these schemes. I am afraid that I am not able to give the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, a specific timetable at the moment. We do not believe that we should include this specific requirement in the Bill simply because it may not be possible to deliver it.
Moving on to the sunset clause for the delegated powers in Clauses 1 and 3, which is similar to the recommendation from the DPRRC, I understand and indeed agree with the intention of sunset clauses to avoid creating new delegated powers that may be not be used, but we do not believe that to be the case with this Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is right to say that we hope we will never use this Bill for the EU agreement because obviously we hope that we will have continued liberalised and open access to our European neighbours, but we will be using the legislation in Part 1 to regulate for permits for international road haulage by UK hauliers once regulations made under it come into force. This means that it would cover all the permit schemes where UK hauliers are required to carry permits, whether that be unlimited in the European Union or whatever may come from that, if needed; existing and future agreements with non-EU countries; and, indeed, the ECMT permit scheme—which we have not heard about so far today.
If the agreement between the UK and the EU does not require the use of permits, the regulations will not prohibit haulage to EU member states without a permit, but they will for other agreements. We believe that the regulations under Clause 1 should also continue to allow us to regulate the permit requirements of our existing and future international agreements, so the delegated power will not be left unused and a sunset clause would be unsuitable in this case.
I understand the concern about using EU exit legislation for other purposes but I hope that noble Lords do not view this clause as granting new, wide-ranging delegated powers. Clause 1 is a re-enactment of Section 1 of the International Road Haulage Permits Act 1975, which the Bill will repeal. This enables the Government to regulate permit arrangements with other countries, and it is important that our preparations for leaving the EU provide a consistent legal basis for all the permits we administer. The amendment would not only restrict the use of the clause, it would also be a restriction on the existing powers the Government already have under the 1975 Act.
Moving on to Clause 3, again we do not believe that there should be a sunset clause in this specific case for a different reason. It allows for the relaxation of the requirement to carry a permit in exceptional circumstances, and we need to use that to cover existing international agreements. I apologise—that is the same reason as for the first group.
Beyond the first set of regulations made under the Bill, they would need to be updated and amended as our new international agreements change or as permit agreements are made. That deals with the temporary exemption.
On the trailer registration part of the Bill, I re-emphasise that regardless of what agreement is reached with the EU, we would still enact this to align with the Vienna convention. I recognise that the amendment would provide for a sunset clause to be extended, but given how we are seeking to introduce the regulations under the clause, we would inevitably need to seek to extend it indefinitely, so we do not think that it would be beneficial.
Have I missed something? Has an estimate been made of what the registration fees are going to be?
We do not have an exact estimate for the registration of trailers at the moment, although obviously we will aim to keep the fees to a minimum and on a cost-recovery basis. We will use our existing systems to issue them.
Could we be given some idea of what the fees will be by Report? The figures will certainly influence the debate on smaller trailers.
We will do our best. We have examples of existing similar schemes and we are talking about figures in the area of £10 or £20. We do not have fixed rates because we do not yet know the extent of the registration scheme, and therefore how many marks will need to be issued. However, I will produce as many details as I can and write to the noble Lord.
Finally, and more broadly on the same issue, the registration scheme will be a one-off registration, will it not? It will not be an annual registration scheme.
It will be a one-off registration scheme unless the trailer is sold or subject to change of use. At that point the change of ownership would need to be registered. However, it will not be done on an annual basis.
So effectively the trailer will have a form of log book. A log book is used to register changes of ownership.
Perhaps I may help my noble friend. I refer to the V5 registration document that presumably the trailer must have when it is sold. There is of course an advantage in that the buyer of the trailer would have more confidence that the vehicle had good title, so it is not a total loss.
Yes, it would follow the same information that is contained in that log book, but in order to do the full registration, when ownership is changed it would have to go through the DVSA system so that we were informed of that and could issue the permit.
The reason I am trying to get these things on the record is that they will influence the debate on smaller trailer units.
I fully understand that and will send the noble Lord more details on it. To go back to the fee, as I said, it is very difficult to determine the exact cost but I understand that it is an important consideration. We are confident that the fee will be significantly less than the current vehicle registration fee, for example, which is £55, but we are not able to provide any more detail on that at this time. That also goes towards trying to ensure that we get the right balance when deciding which trailers need to be registered and which do not, why we have not included 750 kilogram trailers and why we do not think this should be mandatory for domestic use—it is a not insignificant cost for a family going on a camping holiday once a year.
I hope I have explained why, in this case, the legislation will not go unused, despite whatever agreement we reach with the European Union, in the case of either the permit scheme, which will be used for existing and future schemes with other countries, or the trailer registration scheme, which will come into effect anyway because of the earlier convention. In the light of that, I hope that this discussion has reassured the noble Lord to the extent that he feels able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I will study the Minister’s response with care and decide whether to bring forward anything on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 22 withdrawn.
Amendments 23 to 25 not moved.
26: Clause 21, page 13, line 8, at end insert—
“( ) Before making any regulations under this Act, the Secretary of State must consult—(a) the Road Haulage Association;(b) the Freight Transport Association;(c) the National Caravan Council;(d) the Caravan Club;(e) the Institute of Grocery Distribution;(f) the British Retail Consortium;(g) the Food and Drink Federation; and(h) such other persons or organisations as the Secretary of State considers it appropriate to consult.”
My Lords, I will be brief on this amendment. The DPRRC report mentioned that the Government have given no examples of the regulations that they intend to make under the Bill. Given the wide-ranging consequences these could have—not just for industry but also for hobbies and leisure; indeed, for the whole of life—it is essential that there is full consultation before regulations are put before Parliament. We have suggested a range of organisations; some are obvious and some are less obvious, but I am absolutely sure that it is not a comprehensive list. However, it is presented here as an opportunity to ask the Minister about the details of how the consultation will take place, the nature of the consultation and which organisations will be consulted. I can see immediately that the list we have put forward—apologies come from my noble friend Lord Teverson who is at Defra discussing the marine safety audit—does not include, for example, trade unions, given that there are obviously employee interests in this as well as employer interests.
I do not need to delay the Committee any further. It is simply a question of whether we can have some details on the consultation process. I beg to move.
My Lords, to cut my contribution short, I shall quote from page 8 of the Explanatory Memorandum:
“A consequence of ratification is that unregistered trailers could be turned away at the borders of other countries who have ratified the 1968 Convention. Therefore, for operational reasons, a trailer registration scheme needs to be implemented”.
I would have thought that critical to the process of consultation was the AA, because at our borders that organisation is the last port of call for people who need advice on what is going to happen when they go abroad. The leaflets that it circulates are about subjects such as travelling abroad, insurance arrangements and health arrangements. You can pick them up in its kiosks at Dover, or I suppose at any port where you have a roll-on, roll-off ferry system. They should be made available. That is my case, and I hope the AA is consulted.
My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point. I am not sure we should have a list in primary legislation because that gives the Government top cover if they have not consulted someone. However, just as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, suggested the AA, I would add the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. That is an extremely important point.
My point about negative instruments is that if interested parties have a problem, they can flag it up with us. However, if they are not consulted about it or if they are consulted but do not get anywhere at the official level, they can approach parliamentarians and we can take it up with the Government. We have a parliamentary toolkit that we can use. The noble Baroness makes an important point about consultation, but I am sure that the Minister will be able to reassure us.
My Lords, Ministers and officials in my department have been engaging with stakeholders on an ongoing basis throughout the development of the Bill, as have the departmental agencies responsible for the development of the respective systems associated with the Bill, and obviously that consultation will continue as the Bill progresses through both Houses and the regulations are drawn up. While we are not able to provide illustrative examples, we have given as much information as we can in the policy scoping documents that were circulated and form the basis of the further conversations that we are having with stakeholders.
We will have further consultation with the broad range in the coming months, including all those referenced in the noble Baroness’s amendment and many more. We speak regularly to the AA, the RAC Foundation and DHL. We had a round table with the industry a couple of weeks ago in London, there will be another one on Monday in Birmingham and we will continue to do that. Obviously we want to get these regulations right and make them work as best they can for the industry, whether it be the National Caravan Council, the haulage industry or any of the people who are affected by this. There will also be a public consultation on regulations in both parts of the Bill later this year to allow a further contribution to the process.
The department takes very seriously the need to consult. As I have said, we are fully aware of how both haulage permits and trailer registration will have an impact. We want to ensure that the regulations under the Bill are appropriate for those affected by them and minimise any burden as much as we possibly can. We are already involved in ongoing discussions in order to understand their views and concerns. We do not think a statutory consultation is necessary on top of that because it would be of limited value. I am happy to keep noble Lords informed of our consultation, and I think they will be pleasantly surprised by how much we are doing.
I am sympathetic to the aims of the amendment and indeed grateful for the opportunity to explain our consultation plans further. I hope that this discussion outlines why we do not feel we need anything further on consultation in the Bill and that the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, in that list of the great and the good, the most obvious omission was touched on in the closing remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson: the trade unions are not mentioned. What consultations have taken place with the trade unions? After all, it is their members who will be driving the wretched things from here to the continent and back again, so I am sure the Government will bear in mind the need to take the trade unions along with them regarding their proposals.
Before the Minister answers, if she amended the construction and use regulations, would she consult the trade unions about that?
My noble friend makes a very good point as always. No, we would not consult trade unions unless it were relevant to do so.
I understand the noble Baroness’s and noble Lord’s point: many of the people who will be affected by this will indeed be employees travelling to and from the continent. We need to make sure that the regulations work for them as well as employers, and that the people who will be responsible for registering the trailers and applying for the permits are consulted too. We have not yet had any formal consultations with the trade unions, but I will certainly take that away and we will look to involve them at the appropriate point.
In view of the Minister’s response, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 26 withdrawn.
Clause 21 agreed.
Amendment 27 not moved.
Clause 22 agreed.
Clause 23: Commencement and transitional provision
Amendments 28 and 29 not moved.
Clause 23 agreed.
Clause 24 agreed.
Bill reported without amendments.
Committee adjourned at 4.11 pm.