New Clause 1 - Advisory Council

Part of Automated Vehicles Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 19 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 3:00, 19 Mawrth 2024

Thank goodness I am prepared, because never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would get on to new clauses today. I rise to speak to new clause 1. I should say that it is my daughter’s birthday today. She said, “Daddy, all I want for my birthday is for you to get the Government to accept your new clause in Committee.” How could they refuse? This is the Minister’s last chance to do that for me. To be honest, she is 14 and has not called me daddy for about a decade; she will kill me for saying that just now. But this is the last chance. I never understand it when Ministers agree wholeheartedly with an amendment then refuse to accept it. I mean no offence to the current Minister—I have sat on God knows how many Bill Committees over the years, and I do not understand why that happens in every Bill Committee I have ever sat on.

I return to new clause 1 before you call me to order, Sir George. I pay tribute to Lord Liddle for moving a version of the new clause in the House of Lords on Report. I equally support new clause 3, which is obviously very similar and which the Labour Front Bencher will speak to in a moment. The only real difference between the two new clauses is that there is no real reference to the devolved institutions in the Labour version, but there is in ours. However, I will certainly support new clause 3 if it goes to a vote.

Our new clause seeks to maintain a broad principle, enshrining an advisory council in statute while expanding the range of organisations to be included in the council to the devolved Administrations and ensuring that Scottish and Welsh trade unions and emergency services are part of it as well.

As has been mentioned a number of times, and as I said on Second Reading, the changes that could be unleashed by the large-scale deployment of automated vehicles are immense. Entire industries and sectors stand to be completely transformed, perhaps not in the short term but certainly in the medium and long term. Logistics and haulage, personal transport, public transport, personal delivery services—the list is almost endless. Automated vehicles may well be a massively positive force for good in society, improving safety and quality of life for us all.

However, there will be a potentially difficult transition period for many in our society, and we need to take a much more proactive approach to that. Those employed in those industries are undoubtedly best placed to analyse and comment on how new technologies will impact on their jobs and their sector. They need to be involved in the process from the start, because they are involved in the sectors now. Too often in the past, innovation and scientific progress have been shorthand for workers being dumped on the scrapheap by the million, with no collective working to shape the future of their industries. That cannot be allowed to happen with automated vehicles and the changes that they will bring to our society.

If we are serious about ensuring that the benefits of automation are spread across society, that means giving workers’ representatives a real voice in the future of the technology and how best and most appropriately to deploy it over the coming years. It also means ensuring that every stakeholder is round the table, not at the whim of whichever Minister occupies the hot seat. A right should be outlined in legislation, and new clause 3 and my new clause 1 would do that.

We do not want a situation where developing technology and its regulation are subject to capture by the industry’s vested interests alone. These technologies, if fully rolled out, could completely transform the society we live in today into something virtually unrecognisable, at least in the longer term. We need voices from across the spectrum challenging the Government and policy makers —and also the industry, on the real-world implications of its innovations, not just the wonder of the technology itself.

My new clause would ensure that those voices have a legal right to be heard directly by the Minister, putting across their side of things. In particular, it would ensure that the devolved Administrations and their relevant agencies have that voice too—a voice that unfortunately seems to have been ignored by the UK Government in clause 50.