Motion to Regret
That this House regrets that the Railways (Inter- operability) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/345), laid before the House on 26 February, will cost United Kingdom businesses excessively in operating a potentially diverging range of safety and other railway standards from those of the United Kingdom’s largest market, and regrets the failure of Her Majesty’s Government to demonstrate any significant benefits; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to lay new regulations that would enable continued compliance with the activities of the European Agency for Rail to provide the best ongoing business opportunities for manufacturers, rail passengers and freight customers in the United Kingdom; continued and consistent safety improvements; and reduced manufacturing costs as a result of one common set of standards across Europe.
Relevant document: 20th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee A).
My Lords, the previous two SIs that we debated caused a lot of interest—I am grateful to so many noble Lords for their contributions—but they are to some extent the hors d’oeuvre, because this one is the main course. I wanted to table it as a fatal Motion because I feel so strongly about it, but the timing does not really help and I was told it might be several weeks before parliamentary time was found, which would be after the Brexit date that we had—I do not know whether we still do; that is for discussion.
This is a really serious problem: transferring all responsibility for railway safety and standards from the European railway agency to the Secretary of State in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It is very complex, as noble Lords said earlier, but in this case it is also unnecessary: there is a much simpler solution. My impression is that the reason that so many of these pieces of railway legislation, and those on air travel, are presented as a major change is because somebody in government does not like the word “Europe” in the title. We debated this last week when we were discussing the noise regulations in respect of airports, and I suggested to the Minister that there was a serious conflict of interest here, because if the Secretary of State—I am not being personal: any Secretary of State—is responsible for noise regulation at airports but is also pushing for all he or she is worth the third runway at Heathrow, it is in the Secretary of State’s interest that the noise regulations are as lax as possible. The lack of consultation was discussed then, and I fear the same is happening here.
There is a solution, which I shall come to. The European railway agency goes back a long time: I have been involved in it for probably more than 10 years. It means that there is one set of standards for the manufacture, export, testing and everything in the railway sector across Europe. There is the common requirement for safety, accident and other data, which the House also discussed this morning. It is extraordinary that the Government are introducing this massive change for what I call dogmatic reasons.
I give noble Lords an example of what happened about 10 years ago, which was one reason why the ERA was created. A rail freight wagon was developed in this country to take trucks piggybacked on it—mostly cement trucks. It worked very well. It was developed by a company called WH Davis, and it was so successful that it had an export order to operate in France. When it tried to get approval from the French regulatory authority to operate in France, the changes necessary—which were not that big but were significant—would not allow it to operate in this country. So there could not be a wagon that complied with both countries’ standards at the same time. That is a small example of why it was so important to make a European agency responsible for such things, which would also allow manufacturers in one country to apply to the ERA for approval if they thought that approval in one particular member state was being withheld for reasons that might be political.
There is, I am afraid, another more recent example of the Secretary of State’s involvement, involving station platform heights; I am sure that noble Lords are great experts on that subject. One of the reasons why the Government apparently do not like anything to do with the ERA is that it told them they could not have a certain station platform height for HS2, because it was different from the platform heights on similar high-speed lines on the continent. I am told that that caused a certain amount of anger: how dare Europe interfere? This is interesting, because the station platform height regulation applies to only four stations on HS2. All the other stations that HS2 trains will go into have Network Rail platforms, whose heights are all different anyway.
If the Government think that they are very good at such things, let us consider Crossrail station platforms. The Crossrail stations in the central section allow level boarding between the platform and the train—but unfortunately that height is different from all the other stations that Crossrail trains will go into at each end of the route, at Reading, Shenfield and wherever else. That means that someone in a wheelchair will need help at every station outside the centre: they will need not only a portable ramp, but a staff member to help them on and off the train. When I asked why we could not have one common station platform height for the centre sections and the outside sections, I was told that the European railway agency thought about the plan and questioned it, but because this is a metro service it does not have the wherewithal to challenge the Government. This is what the Government have achieved, which is unclear and will cost everybody a lot of money for a very long time.
It may be surprising, but the whole railway industry is I think in favour of the status quo with the European railway agency. Whether it be Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group, the Railway Industry Association, the Rail Freight Group—I have already declared an interest as a former chairman of that—or the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, they all want the status quo to continue. I have talked to them all, and if they have not gone public on this too much it is because many of them have had to sign ridiculous non-disclosure agreements. Let us hope that that will stop as soon as the Brexit debate finishes.
There are strong arguments for staying with the European railway agency. My preference would be to suggest an associate membership, such as the Swiss Government have. I have talked to people in Switzerland, both in railways and in government, and they say that it works fine. They are not on the boards, but they still get things done by talking to people. They mentioned the European Court of Justice. The Swiss do not like it, any more than our Government do. But when I asked whether that was a problem, they said, “No, we just carry on talking about it—but it works”. So I suggest that the solution is something like associate membership of the European railway agency. We should abandon this ridiculously complicated SI—which may get abandoned anyway if we do not bale out.
I hope that in her response the Minister can give me two assurances. One is that, assuming that this SI does not come into force, the Government will consider alternatives to the present idea when they look at it again—which they probably will unless we stay in the EU. The second is that they will discuss with the Swiss Government, the European Union and the European railway agency whether there is an arrangement that could enable the continuation of compliance and information sharing. I repeat: that is what the industry wants. It will save money and provide more export opportunities. It seems to me that there is no downside, apart from the fact that the European railway agency has “Europe” in its name. I beg to move.
My Lords, I endorse everything my noble friend said. This SI represents a significant change, not just in our relationship with Europe, but as far as our industrial potential is concerned.
For too long, this country has given away to, or allowed takeovers of its major industrial production by, foreign Governments. At the time of nationalisation, back in 1948, there were more than 150 railway workshops in this country. Those of us of a certain age are familiar with seeing that “Made in Britain” sign in railway industries in other parts of the world—for example, on locomotives, rolling stock and signalling systems. I was in Hong Kong in the 1970s. The new rapid transit system there depended on the expertise of GEC Alsthom, which built the first trains for that system in Birmingham. Yet we have thrown away all that expertise and allowed foreign companies to take over our industrial production.
This SI will make matters worse. If we are to have different standards from EU—that will happen over the years—the ever-smaller market of the United Kingdom will continue to shrink. Even as we speak, the signalling systems in Europe are being unified. The French and German Governments have just refused—temporarily, I suspect—the amalgamation of two major signalling production companies to create, in effect, a European monopoly on signalling. Again, if this SI goes through, our prospects of competing in these areas will be diminished. That is what it means.
We are moving away from the European railway agency—the ERA—and placing these decisions in the hands of the Department for Transport and the Secretary of State. The Minister will be relieved to know that I will not indulge in any knockabout about the current Secretary of State; after all, even with his powers of survival, I cannot see him being in the department much longer. We are moving away from European standards and allowing him, or some other Secretary of State, to decide standards for rolling stock and railway materials more generally in this country. That is what we are doing. That is how significant this SI is.
I indicated earlier that there were more than 150 workshops in this country at the time of nationalisation. There were 52 at the time of privatisation. There is a small handful of them now, all of which are foreign-owned. People do not invest in this country because they love the British; they do so for various financial reasons. If we are to reduce our market in the way that this SI will, those companies could decide that it is not worth investing in the United Kingdom in the long term and move elsewhere. That is how significant this SI is. I do not know what the Minister can do other than adopt the associate membership my noble friend Lord Berkeley talked about, but I regret that this Motion is not fatal. Unless the Minister can satisfy us and assuage our very real fears, this barmy piece of legislation ought to be resisted.
My Lords, I support my noble friends Lord Berkeley and Lord Snape in their opposition to this measure and add my regrets that we are not pursuing a fatal Motion on this issue. My interest in this is personal. I am a railway clerk’s son from Carlisle and I have always been passionate about the railways. My first job in national politics was as special adviser to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, when he was Secretary of State for Transport, so I have a personal connection. Also, I happened to learn quite a lot about the detail of this SI from being a member of your Lordships’ EU Sub-Committee on the Internal Market, chaired so wonderfully by my noble friend Lord Whitty. The Secretary of State appeared as a witness before us on these questions and it was absolutely plain that the reason he wanted to withdraw from the European agency was nothing more than ideology. He could not stand the fact that standards would be set by Europe. That is what we face all the time from Ministers in this Government. There is no pragmatism about Brexit, so why do noble Lords think we are in trouble? It is because of that absolute absence of any pragmatism.
When we had that hour-long disquisition by the Secretary of State, I raised the issue of the manufacturing plants, which, as my noble friend Lord Snape said, are now foreign-owned but based in Britain. My noble friend Lord Adonis is not in his place but I know that a remarkable achievement of his—one of many, by the way—when he was Secretary of State for Transport was to get Hitachi to establish a plant in Durham that would manufacture trains.
I hate to interrupt my noble friend in full flow, but may I point out to him that that plant in Durham is not a manufacturing plant, it is an assembly plant? That is the great weakness of British industry these days. We put together materials and trains that are built elsewhere. That is what we are going to do in Durham.
I quite accept the point made by my noble friend but it is better than nothing and it provides hundreds of jobs in Durham. While my noble friend says it is just an assembly plant, how could such a plant operate in Britain if we decided to have different technical standards from those on the continent? That would completely destroy the business model on which that inward investment had been made.
I am grateful to my noble friend for his words. Is he aware that Hitachi recently bought a firm in Italy that manufactures trains and signalling equipment? Can he imagine what would happen if it had to manufacture in all these places using different standards for the European markets and the UK?
As always, my noble friend Lord Berkeley makes an excellent point. I think that the Government have to come up with a better explanation for why we should be leaving these arrangements than the simple, “Why should we bother to be part of some European agency when we have left the European Union?”
My Lords, I rise to speak with some trepidation. I am not as expert in these matters as the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley, Lord Snape and Lord Liddle. However, I share their concerns about what the Government are doing by extricating us from years of integration in Europe in important areas of our national life. This is a perfect example of the dangers of the obsessive ideology which seems to believe that we must leave the European agencies which we helped to establish. Leaving them will impose much greater costs on our country, much more regulation rather than less, and indeed doing so will probably take us back around 10 years in the progress we have made across Europe in these vital areas of our national life.
I support fully the call by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for us to remain at least an associate member of the European rail agency as well as the signalling agency. The transfer of responsibility from these agencies, which have enormous expertise and experience, to the Secretary of State fills one with some trepidation, to put it mildly. It may be that my noble friend the Minister, who I am sure shares some of my concerns even though she is in a difficult position, can provide some assurances that the Government will consider alternative plans that allow us to remain part of these agencies whether or not we leave the EU with a deal. Obviously, I hope that we have no chance of leaving with no deal, but so far the Government have refused to consider the idea of revocation if that is the only way to avoid it.
We need to continue the important activities of compliance and information sharing that are a part of these agencies. Just because there is some link to the ECJ, for example, is not a good enough reason to leave agencies that are so important to many areas of our national way of life, prosperity, security and safety. I urge my noble friend to respond positively with some of the assurances that the noble Lord is seeking.
My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for bringing forward this Motion, and state that had he had chosen to table a fatal Motion, I would have supported him all the way. It is a supreme irony that Britain, the country that brought the railways to the world, is now insulating itself from world progress on the technology.
As we work through these SIs, they produce a range of solutions to the problems that the transport sector faces. Some of the solutions are relatively neat, while others are pretty clumsy. Then there is this one, which is simply downright stupid. That stupidity has been recognised by all the key railway industry organisations, which are seriously worried about the future. I also draw attention to the fact that the SLSC sub-committee which looked at this SI has expressed its view that an important policy issue is being raised here.
Interoperability means the application of EU-wide technical and operational standards. That applies to the rail infrastructure, the vehicles and the component parts. It is based on technical specifications, known as TSIs, devised by the European rail agency. It is important to note that the UK is very well represented at that agency by its technical experts. We have been a leading member and we have a vote, which of course we are going to give up. TSIs automatically apply to the UK, so we have not had to create our own regulations, but that does not stop us creating our own additional standards. These are proposed by the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board.
There are a number of key issues about this SI. It is made under powers in the Transport Act 2000, and so would normally be done by the negative procedure. As all of this is very controversial, as I shall set out later, I am concerned that future SIs on this subject should be passed by the affirmative procedure. Can the Minister give us that reassurance today?
This SI cuts us off from the European rail agency, as the noble Lord has explained, and transfers powers to the Secretary of State. I am with the noble Baroness in saying that this does not fill me with confidence, because the European rail agency was set up to harmonise standards to enable the rail industry to better compete with other forms of transport. It effectively shadowed the systems in place for aviation and the maritime industry, and the Government have decided to remain members of those international organisations.
At the heart of the European rail agency is the sharing of data. As I have said many times, data is the key to safety. By leaving the agency we are cutting ourselves off from that data. As I have pointed out, even if you continue to share the data on a good will basis, you tend to get out of step, because standardised methods of collection of that data are a key aspect in it being robust. Once you are on the outside of the system, you can no longer rely on that data. It does not have to be like this. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, pointed out, the Swiss are an associate member. Although they do not have a vote, they participate fully in other ways.
The replacement of the agency as the setter of standards by the Secretary of State is extremely worrying. There is a specific intention in this SI, unlike in others, to diverge over time from EU standards. In other circumstances, in other SIs, the Government have explained that they want to carry on shadowing what exists, but not so for railways. This is a clear politicisation of the railways issue, simply because the current Secretary of State has a bee in his bonnet and wants to diverge whenever possible from EU standards and organisations. We have a very important rail manufacturing industry, supplying a buoyant export market to the EU. It is certainly not in its interest to have to manufacture to two different sets of standards, which would obviously cost more.
The SI talks about consultation with the industry. In my view, that is an empty offer and completely meaningless; the industry has already been consulted and has made it clear that it does not want the divergence. The DfT is already under attack for failing to co-ordinate and lead the rail industry effectively, and here we are heaping more and more powers on the Secretary of State in a series of SIs. That will not improve matters. There is no transparency here, in contrast to the EU processes for the railway industry—there is not even a role for a statutory adviser. We have an inept Government, whose response to the chaos they face is simply to take more and more powers for themselves.
The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, referred to the visit by the Secretary of State to EU Sub-Committee B. We asked him about his wish to diverge from EU standards, because we had already heard evidence from the rail industry organisations that they did not want that. The only benefit he could come up with was that we could build our platforms to a different height, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has explained. There are two problems with this: first, we already have a derogation on this; and, secondly, it seems we already build platforms to a number of different heights. For example, as the noble Lord said, for Crossrail there will be step-free access in the tunnels from the platform to the train, but not on the existing Network Rail platforms. Someone has come up with the idea of actually building trains with lower floors, so you do not need to worry about the platform heights; I give the example of Merseyrail. Where there is divergence in standards, any new product will be assessed against the UK standard by a UK-approved body. As the secondary legislation sub-committee pointed out:
“As a result, there may be situations where new products already holding conformity assessment documents issued against”,
“TSIs will need to be reassessed”,
for the UK market. That is stupid. That bureaucracy will cost a lot of money for those purchasing in Britain.
These regulations require,
“rail vehicles first authorised in the EU to undergo … additional authorisation for use in the UK”.
The impact assessment says that this,
“is not expected to impose an additional cost or administrative burden on rail operators”.
So they will go through the whole process twice, yet it is not an additional cost. That is simply incredible, in the true sense of that word: of course it imposes additional costs.
The impact assessment itself is quite extraordinary. It is a narrative assessment; it has no costings. Yet in 2011, when the original regulations were introduced, the Government had no trouble coming up with a total cost for the period 2012-22—a total cost of £35.8 million, with total benefits of £111 million. So they could assess it then, but we cannot assess it now, after several years of experience. Despite not being able to provide costings, they have been able to provide some additional costs—but not some additional benefits. Is that really true? I find it absolutely incredible.
I refer anyone who wants to see what I am talking about to paragraphs 11.3 to 11.7 on page 7 of the impact assessment. This is a painful attempt to stretch the argument. It even refers to allowing HS2 to build higher platforms, which it could do anyway. It entirely overlooks the fact that most HS2 trains will stop at existing stations and platforms, coping with existing standards and heights.
The fingerprints of the Secretary of State are all over this SI. I therefore have no confidence that it will do anything other than undermine our rail industry.
I first declare an interest as a founding chairman of the RSSB and its chairman for five years. Many of the transport SIs have assigned duties to the Secretary of State, and on each occasion I have asked who will advise the Secretary of State and whether it is a statutory or necessary process. As far as I can see, in this case it is not clear who would advise the Secretary of State, and I think that is deficient. I will not make a long speech, because, broadly speaking, I agree with my noble friend Lord Berkeley—not something I do that often, but on this occasion he has got it absolutely right.
One reason for the affluence we all enjoy today—this has been a truth since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution—is the impact of volume. When you think of it, a small family car costs less than one year’s labour costs for a car worker. Imagine standing there with a heap of coal and a heap of iron ore, and you have to build a car in a year by yourself. How do people achieve these things? It is through volume, research, mechanisation and complexity. Complexity is constantly brought into our lives at very little cost, because of volume. This law of volume means that the £13.50 watch on my wrist, as a one-off, would probably cost several hundred million pounds to develop from scratch. Volume is king, and the curse of the railway industry is that it does not, in general, have volume production. Therefore, it is unable to amortise production costs in the same way as industries such as the automotive industry. The ERA was the basis of allowing volume to be created. This is particularly important with the signalling revolution that is under way in Europe and this country.
I therefore agree with the general approach taken by my noble friend Lord Berkeley. I hope the Minister will produce some warm words about future aspirations. It would be madness not to become an associate member of the ERA, if we are able to negotiate that. I doubt whether this is the right instrument to require that, and therefore I do not support this regret Motion in the absolute sense of how it is written, but I support the general philosophy behind it.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for securing this debate and other noble Lords for their contributions. I greatly respect the depth of knowledge and experience that the noble Lord and many other noble Lords have in this area, and I am sorry that there is a strong difference of opinion.
The technical notice published in October set out the Government’s position in the event of no deal and the UK no longer being a member state, and that is that we will not seek formal participation in the European Union Agency for Railways. The reason for that is that this will provide scope in the future for potential convergence should we consider that to be beneficial for passengers and industry. It is likely that associate participation in the agency by third countries will be conditional on their adopting and applying full Union law for railway safety and interoperability, and the Government’s position is that if we leave the EU with no deal it would not be appropriate for us to continue to be compelled to accept rules that we would not be able to vote on. That is the position of the Government on the European Union railway industry.
These exit regulations specifically make the changes that are necessary to ensure that the rail vehicle and infrastructure authorisation regime continues to function correctly. They put in place a domestic rail standards framework that will replicate the technical requirements —the TSIs—in force on exit day. These changes are needed because we will no longer be a member state and those deficiencies will be there if they are not corrected. Therefore, I am pleased that the noble Lord downgraded his fatal Motion to a regret Motion.
The noble Lord’s Motion states that divergence from the EU standards will cause excessive costs to UK businesses, but I can reassure noble Lords that any decisions about potential divergence will not be taken lightly. This SI does not imply that there will be divergence but allows the possibility of divergence to happen. The flexibility to align or diverge will not necessarily increase costs; in some cases, it could decrease costs. The post-implementation review of the railways interoperability regulations found that the inability to diverge is causing excessive costs in some cases. For example, the Private Wagon Federation noted that EU standards prevent the UK from using older freight wagon types that are allowed in some other member states. It is concerned that that is increasing costs for the freight industry. Network Rail has also raised concerns that the costs associated with a rigid approach to the application of EU standards could sometimes outweigh the benefits.
Many noble Lords cited the concerns of the industry on this position. The concern is around future divergence rather than the position itself, and I agree that it is important to get it right. Decisions on divergence will always be made on the basis of consultation with industry and stakeholders, taking into account UK interests, and we would not choose to diverge if this process identified excessive costs to the UK or safety concerns.
I disagree that we have an aversion to the word “Europe”. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, we are seeking continued participation in many European organisations. In this area, we will continue to play a leading role in European standards organisations. The BSI will continue to play an active role in the European Committee for Standardization and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization, for which membership is not an obligation after we leave the EU. We will also continue to be an active member of the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail, COTIF, which will help us to shape international rail technical standards. This would also allow us to share information when we are no longer a member state. As I said in the previous debate, we are committed to sharing information.
There were a couple of questions in the previous debate on why we would cease to share information. To clarify that, we would cease to share information about non-ORR issued licences from the UK. After two years, we would not have any of those and so we would continue to share information about our ORR-issued licences. We are committed to continuing to share information, and there are plenty ways we can do that outside the European Union rail agency.
We want to continue to work closely with the agency in the development of rail standards. We of course understand the importance and the advantage of working closely with our European neighbours, both for our manufacturers and the infrastructure here in the UK. We understand from the Rail Safety and Standards Board, the RSSB, that there has already been some discussion with the agency on the ways the two organisations will continue working together after exit to share best practice on the development of standards and rail safety. That might take the form of a memorandum of understanding between the two organisations, and we would encourage a close working relationship. However, the exact nature of our relationship with the agency should we leave with a deal will be subject to wider discussions with the EU on a future partnership. This is a statutory instrument in the event that we leave with no deal.
I appreciate that there are concerns about the process for developing these new NTSNs after exit and how we make decisions about the appropriate technical contact. I assure noble Lords that the Department for Transport will work closely with the RSSB as the main UK industry body for the development of the rail technical standards to inform NTSN decision-making. The RSSB has agreed to run consultations on proposed new NTSNs in response to new EU standards. These will be run in parallel with the European consultations as the standards are developed. Those TSIs are published online and there will not be a hold-up in decision-making here so that we can step with the standards. The RSSB will report any identified impacts of divergence from or alignment with the EU standards and make a formal recommendation to the Secretary of State so that the final decision will be made taking into account those views.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on the importance of parliamentary scrutiny. This SI in itself does not give rise to further delegated powers but covers the publication of NTSNs. Future SIs in this area would be subject to the negative procedure because they will be made under the Transport Act. However, there is always the ability to debate them on the Floor of the House, as we are doing with this one.
If divergence is being considered—which, of course, is the main, understandable concern of industry—we will first notify Parliament through making a Written Ministerial Statement before any final decisions are made. That Statement will refer to the report from the RSSB consultation process and outline the nature of the proposed divergence, the rationale for it and set out the potential costs and benefits. As I say, this SI in itself does not lead to further divergence. However, if it is decided that divergence would be to the benefit of the UK industry and passengers, that would be consulted on and clearly set out to Parliament.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned the impact assessment. It provides a narrative analysis rather than a quantified assessment of net costs and benefits to businesses. That is purely because we do not yet know what any future divergence might look like. On day one, we are replicating standards in the EU word for word. We are simply publishing them through the new NTSN process. We do not yet know what, if any, future divergence there will be, so it is not possible to understand what the costs may be. Future divergence would be subject to a full impact assessment, and at that point we will be able to understand the costs and benefits.
These regulations ensure that we have a functioning rail interoperability regime and that the authorisation process for vehicles and infrastructure continues to function if we leave the EU without a deal. It is important for the rail industry, passengers and the freight sector that the regulations are in place for exit day to provide clarity about the application of technical standards. We developed these regulations in close collaboration with the UK rail industry and safety authorities to ensure that they provide the clarity and flexibility that they need. The regulations have broad support from the rail industry, and stakeholders have said it is a high priority that they are in place for exit day.
This SI is needed if we leave without a deal. The future relationship with the European agency will be subject to future discussions.
Will the Minister say something about what would happen in the event of the Prime Minister’s deal—in other words, not the cliff edge—and whether this SI would no longer apply? Would the Government bring back a similar SI or would they carry on as we are at the moment? What options are open?
If the exit day is changed as agreed, the exit day in this SI would change as agreed. I do not want to predict what is going to happen over the next couple of days or the length of an extension, if there is one. Our position is still that we do not want to seek membership of the European Union Agency for Railways.
I understand noble Lords’ concerns in this area. I will take them back to the department and inform the Secretary of State of the strength of feeling on this. I hope I have provided reassurances on the consultation, the impact assessment and parliamentary scrutiny of any future divergence, which is the main and understandable concern of industry, whether manufacturers, importers, exporters or whatever.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, made a key point about volume. This is not an attempt to diverge from standards; it is simply that if we are no longer a member state, we will not have a vote in the European Union Agency for Railways, so these regulations remove the obligation to take its rules. If we decide to diverge, we will have full consultation and a full impact assessment and we will ensure that we inform Parliament. While this is a no-deal exit SI, the future relationship is always subject to conversation with the Commission and member states, should we get to an implementation period. We will have close conversations with them on this agency and other European agencies in the future partnership agreement.
I am not able to go any further on our future position with the European Union Agency for Railways at this stage, but the noble Lord’s position on it is clear and I will ensure I take it back and discuss it with the department. Given the assurances that there are no set plans to diverge, that we will consult, publish an impact assessment and inform Parliament, I hope that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his Motion.
I am grateful to the Minister. She has tried very hard to justify something which is probably impossible to justify. She talked about divergence, as did many noble Lords. Unfortunately, when people say there is going to be no divergence, it happens for political reasons. That is not just under this Government; it has been around since time immemorial. It helps to have an agency which is completely separate from the political process. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, if it can work for air and sea, why can it not work for rail?
It may not matter, but I can see cost, bureaucracy and a loss of business coming from this SI. I very much hope that we do not leave the European Union in the manner that requires this SI to be implemented, but I have not heard what would happen in the event of our agreeing with the European Union another way out or even staying in—that is a different matter because we would stay in the ERA. I also have not heard a good argument for us not staying with the European Union Agency for Railways under associate membership. If Switzerland can do so, why not us? Switzerland has very good railways. We all have a process for derogations. We have been having derogations from the ERA for a long time. I am told that it has stopped giving us derogations, probably because it is so fed up with us at the moment, but that will not go on for ever.
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. There seems to be solid support for stating in the European Union Agency for Railways, with the exception of the Minister and my noble friend on the Front Bench—he and I do not always agree on everything, and that is fine. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
21 March 2019
Division on Lord Berkeley’s Motion
Lord Berkeley’s Motion disagreed.View Details