Clause 30

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:30 am ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Crossrail access contracts: disapplying requirements for approval

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 49, in clause 30, page 20, line 37, after ‘Regulation’, insert ‘and other interested parties’.

I am sure that we will endeavour to live up to your strictures to be alert, Lady Winterton, and will make good law. The clause will remove the requirement for new access contracts to be approved by the rail regulator where they relate to a railway facility forming or to the principal Crossrail tunnel running through central London. The powers under the clause are exercisable by the Secretary of State, albeit after consultation with the Office of Rail Regulation about the terms of the contract.

The purpose of the amendment is to insert the words, “other interested parties”, after the word “Regulation”. While it is wholly appropriate that the regulator should be consulted in such a situation, other parties likely to be affected by the provision are excluded from the consultation. In particular, parties to the contract itself will have something to say on the subject. The amendment is designed to allow other interested parties to communicate with the Secretary of State before she decides to bypass the provisions of the Railways Act 1993 and allow an access contract to come into force without the approval of the regulator. While the motivation behind the clause is clear and I have no objection to it, I think that it would benefit from a more open and fair consultation under the amendment.

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

Good morning, Lady Winterton. May I welcome you back to the Chair?

It is often advisable to start as one means to go on, but I will not do so this morning, because I intend to begin by more or less accepting the principle of the amendment. That pattern is not likely to be repeated throughout the rest of the day. The amendment requires consultation with interested parties on the terms of a proposed access contract for Crossrail services in the  central tunnel that would not be subject to the ORR’s approval. There is nothing in the clause to stop the Secretary of State from consulting as she considers appropriate. The point of subsection (4) is to ensure consultation with the ORR, as the body with expertise and responsibility, on the terms of access contracts.

Although I do not think that it is absolutely necessary, the amendment does have some merit. The only reason that I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it is that I would like parliamentary counsel to see the proposed wording to ensure that it is robust. If the hon. Gentleman agrees to withdraw the amendment, we will bring it back on Report and give it a fair wind.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

It is such a shame that the Minister does not propose to carry on in the same vein all day. He has rather knocked me off my feet by accepting, this early in the day, that one of our amendments would have a good effect. Given what he says, I am very happy for him to pass the wording on to parliamentary counsel and to bring back the proposal on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 50, in clause 30, page 20, line 40, at end insert

‘which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.’.

This is a probing amendment with the purpose of seeking a clarification from the Minister about the appropriate parliamentary procedure called into action by the clause. I may well have misunderstood that procedure, but I should be grateful for clarification. In other parts of the Bill where the Secretary of State exercises her powers by means of statutory instruments, such an instrument is subject to annulment by Parliament. That is not so in clause 30. As the Committee will be aware, statutory instruments may take one of three forms: some are passed by the affirmative resolution procedure, under which they must be approved by both Houses before they can become law; some are passed by the negative procedure under which they are merely laid before Parliament; and some are not laid before Parliament, but Parliament can annul them. The parent Act states in which form the relevant power should be exercised under parliamentary procedure. It would appear from clause 30(5) and (6) that the statutory instrument in question is to be laid before Parliament, but is not subject to annulment. Should I therefore assume that the appropriate procedure is the affirmative resolution procedure? If so, will the Minister explain why it is different from the other ways in which the statutory instrument is used in the Bill?

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

Clause 30 enables the Secretary of State, by order, to remove the need for ORR approval to access contracts or amendments so that the Crossrail service can use the central tunnel or railway facility associated with it. It is essentially new infrastructure, specifically designed to carry Crossrail services, so a reserve power is appropriate to ensure that those services are not subject to approval. The Secretary of State would be required to consult the ORR on the terms of any contract to which the order relates.

In response to the hon. Gentleman’s question, the statutory instrument is not legislative in that respect, unlike the regulations that are made under clause 33, which are subject to annulment. However, the making of an order under clause 30 can reasonably be delegated to the Secretary of State, who would inform Parliament of such a measure. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee will look at the proposal and we will pay attention to any observations and recommendations that it makes. With those reassurances, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

As I said at the outset, the amendment was very much of a probing nature, and I tabled it to understand exactly how the Government intend to use their powers. I listened carefully to the Minister, and I shall be interested to see what the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee proposes. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 30 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31 ordered to stand part of the Bill.