Clause 61

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:15 pm ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Service of documents

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 72, in clause 61, page 36, line 33, after ‘by’, insert ‘registered’.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 73, in clause 61, page 37, line 3, after ‘office’, insert

‘or the office of its legal representative’.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

Amendment No. 72 is very simple and needs little explanation. It would merely require documents that are to be served under the Crossrail Act to be sent by registered post. As the Committee will be aware, a registered item of mail is recorded in a register when it moves from a local post office, through the sorting office and on to its final destination. It incurs a small extra cost and provides the added comfort that the item’s location can be tracked through the postal system. Those of us who have just experienced the circumstances of October, including many of my constituents, will understand that, if the document is important, that protection would be not only relevant, but appropriate. It is a small measure that would ensure that the Secretary of State’s documents get to the people concerned, and the excuse that mail got lost in the post would not apply. I therefore hope that the amendment will find the Minister’s favour.

I will not spend long talking about amendment No. 73, whose purpose is to fill a small gap in the clause. The clause states that, for non-UK businesses, documents will be delivered to the company’s

“principal office within the United Kingdom.”

All I am suggesting is that there may be a situation in which the company in question does not have an office in this country. The amendment provides that the documents by delivered to the company’s legal representative in the UK and fills a minor gap. I will not press amendment No. 73 but I am interested to see why the Minister feels unable to accept amendment No. 72, if indeed that is his desire.

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

The clause deals with the service of documents under the Bill. Its purpose is to set out how notices under the Bill should be served. Amendment No. 72 would require that any document served under the Bill by way of the postal system should be delivered by registered post. It is important to realise that that would apply to any person serving a notice, whether they were the Secretary of State, the nominated undertaker or any other member of the public serving a counter-notice. A number of provisions provide for other parties to serve notice on the nominated undertaker, and the amendment would require such notices to be served by registered post. Using some method of registered post might be sensible in some cases. It is in the interest of the person serving the notice to ensure that it reaches the intended recipient, as the person serving the notice would be disadvantaged if, in the event of a dispute, they could not later demonstrate that the notice had been properly served. The hon. Gentleman was right to point that out.

Registered post is more expensive than regular post and cost may be a consideration in some cases—presumably not for the Secretary of State, but possibly for private individuals. The person concerned should decide how they wish to proceed, bearing in mind that it may later be a matter of dispute before a court or other judicial body.

I am instinctively opposed to any measure that might incur the accusation of ushering in a nanny state, and I would have thought that a legislator prescribing the method of post that an individual should use to serve any particular notice is perilously close to territory that might lead the Daily Mail to take issue. That does not concern me, but it might concern Opposition Members.

Amendment No. 73 would allow documents to be served on legal representatives rather than a business partnership. However, clause 61(4) already allows the person on whom a notice would otherwise be served to specify an alternative address to which documents should be served. That allows a person to ask for notices to be served to the office of the legal representative if they so wish. I therefore consider the amendments unnecessary, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing the amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

It is quite amusing for Opposition Members to hear strictures about the nanny state. If the Minister follows that through, I look forward to his joining us more often in the Lobbies to vote against the provisions proposed by his Government. I think that the Daily Mail would rather like the amendment. It gives protection to the small person and allows them to know with absolute certainty that what is being served will reach its destination.

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

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that any member of the public who is in a position where he or she has to serve notice in such a way will not  understand what registered post is or the postal options available? Does he believe that we need to put instructions in the Bill about which envelope to use?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I know that most of my constituents will not have that problem, so I will not be tempted down that route. We have all seen problems with the postal system and we have all lost important documents. I certainly have lost important documents in the postal system with no method of tracking them. I do not see that this minor technical change does anything other than add to the Bill. I am not tempted to withdraw the amendment and want to test the Committee’s will and press it to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 8.

Rhif adran 6 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause 61

Ie: 5 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 61 ordered to stand part of the Bill.