Clause 26

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Amending pre-commencement access contracts: construction of Crossrail

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 43, in clause 26, page 17, line 19, after ‘State’, insert

‘and such other persons as the Office of Rail Regulation considers appropriate’.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 47, in clause 29, page 20, line 15, after ‘State’, insert ‘and other interested parties’.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

The wording of the amendment means that we might be about to rehearse the same argument as has just been articulated. Its purpose is to ensure that appropriate consultation and an appropriate consultation process are carried out. In the present context, that should be prior to the adjustment by the Office of Rail Regulation of the pre-commencement access contracts. Clause 26(4) gives the ORR power to require concerned parties to submit proposals on how they should amend such access contracts, and the Opposition welcome that. Giving the parties to agreements the power at least to contribute to the decision-making process of the regulator will greatly improve the chances of effective modifications to such agreements.

Subsection (5) says that the ORR must consult the Secretary of State as part of that process. We welcome that too, especially as it puts the ORR under no particular obligation to abide by the Secretary of State’s directions. The requirement is one of consultation only. However, the consultation procedure ends there, and it seems short-sighted to presume that no one else will be affected at that stage by the changes to pre-commencement access contracts. The amendment is intended to ensure that the ORR is open to the concerns of other appropriate and relevant parties and that it consults them in a relevant and appropriate fashion.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The amendment would require the ORR to invite representations from parties other than the Secretary of State when it considered that an access contract needed amending if use of the railway facility to which the contract related would be affected by the construction of Crossrail.

The amendment is not strictly necessary, but I accept that it might have some merit, so I would like to consider it with officials in the Department. The ORR does not need authority to consult as widely as it considers appropriate, because nothing in clause 26 prevents it from doing that already. The ORR would in practice need to consult at least the parties to the affected access contracts before it could decide whether and how the contracts needed amending. Subsection (4) enables the ORR to require the parties to propose the directions that should be given. The ORR has established consultation policies and a track record of  facilitating a very open process on access matters, so the decision on what is appropriate consultation can be trusted to it. I have explained my position on the amendment. However, if the hon. Gentleman insists on pressing the amendment, I shall have to ask my colleagues to vote against it.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

If one is on the Opposition Front Bench for any Committee stage of any Bill, one knows that any minor victory is to be celebrated. This is potentially the second minor victory today in which the Minister has agreed to take back two of my amendments to look at with his officials. I shall probably celebrate with a Martini later this evening. I am therefore delighted to withdraw the amendment and I look forward to talking to the Minister about it in future. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.