Schedule 16

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:00 pm ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Protective Provisions

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 75, in schedule 16, page 218, line 23, leave out from ‘arbitration’ to end of line 27.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 76, in schedule 16, page 225, line 4, leave out from ‘arbitration’ to end of line 8.

No. 77, in schedule 16, page 229, line 33, leave out from ‘arbitration’ to end of line 37.

No. 78, in schedule 16, page 232, line 45, leave out from ‘arbitration’ to end of line 49.

No. 79, in schedule 16, page 236, line 6, leave out from ‘arbitration’ to end of line 10.

No. 80, in schedule 16, page 239, line 46, leave out from ‘arbitration’ to end of line 2 on page 240.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

Amendments Nos. 75 to 80 are identical, in that they would make exactly the same adjustment to each of the six parts of schedule 16. The schedule gives protection to various bodies whose work might be affected by the construction and operation of  the Crossrail network. It deals, in turn, with highways, utilities, water issues, electronic communication networks, waterways and finally the Port of London Authority. In each case, there is a sub-paragraph that deals with dispute resolution. Disputes will be settled by arbitration if the two parties agree; if the two parties do not agree, then, with the proviso that the dispute is not about money, it will be up to the Secretary of State to appoint someone to find a solution.

I do not want to regurgitate the concern that we have had all the way along about arbitration. All I will say is that, given the fact that there will be a very real relationship between the nominated undertaker and the Secretary of State, we do not want the situation where—we have been through this before—the defendant is trying his own case.

It seems to me that the arbitration process that should be employed should be fair and independent, and the Secretary of State should not intervene in that process. The decision of a third party arbitrator will enjoy the benefits of authority and impartiality. The Secretary of State, however much they believe themselves to have a duty of responsibility, cannot be seen to be independent. Therefore, it should not be the job of the Secretary of State to resolve disputes of this kind.

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

Schedule 16 contains protection for various bodies and statutory undertakers whose interests and functions may be affected by the powers of the Bill. In each case, there is provision for determination of disputes, with the nominated undertaker to be referred to arbitration if the parties agree or if the dispute relates to the amount of payment. Otherwise, the dispute is determined by a person appointed by the relevant Secretary of State; that is the Secretary of State for Transport, together with—where it is a different Secretary of State—the Secretary of State who has the responsibility of overseeing the statutory undertaking in question. In other words, for the water industry it would be the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and so on.

The hon. Gentleman’s amendments would require all disputes to be referred to arbitration. May I refer him to the response that I gave in relation to the similar issues in respect of amendments Nos. 26 and 27? Giving the Secretary of State the ability to determine disputes on various matters is well precedented for projects of national significance and follows similar provisions in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996. Arbitration can be a time-consuming and costly experience that may not be consistent with the timely implementation of the project.

In this case, however, we have gone beyond the precedent in CTRL in spelling out that disputes are to be determined by a person appointed by the Secretary of State and we have also provided that any disputes about the amount of money payable will be settled by arbitration: such disputes would not hold up implementation of the project in the way that a dispute over approval of plans of the works might do. The statutory undertakers concerned have the additional reassurance that the Secretary of State responsible for them will be one of the Secretaries of State appointing the person to determine the dispute.

The provisions have been discussed with the statutory undertakers concerned and include amendments that  have been agreed with them. The Secretary of State has given assurances about how the powers will be exercised. My understanding is that the statutory undertakers are now content with these arrangements and I urge the hon. Gentleman not to seek to impose such a modification on the arrangements when they are not seeking that themselves. I invite him to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

As the Minister said, we have had this discussion several times. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act has been our precedent on a number of occasions although I think that we have accepted this afternoon that we should not necessarily follow it slavishly.

I listened carefully to the Minister. The latter part of his argument was the most compelling in that he said that he has already undertaken consultation and has already worked with the nominated bodies that might be affected by the clause. They have had the chance to put in their own amendment, which has been accepted. That being so, it would be wrong of me to try to impose something that was not being sought by the people I am seeking to protect and who already feel that they have the protection. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 16 agreed to.