First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.



Tuesday 8 December 1992


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The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Arbuthnot, Mr. James (Wanstead and Woodford)

Bates, Mr. Michael (Langbaurgh)

Carlisle, Mr. John (Luton, North)

Clarke, Mr. Eric (Midlothian)

Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

Donohoe, Mr. Brian H. (Cunninghame, South)

Dowd, Mr. Jim (Lewisham, West)

Etherington, Mr. Bill (Sunderland, North)

Freeman, Mr. Roger (Minister for Public Transport)

Hanson, Mr. David (Delyn)

Harvey, Mr. Nick (North Devon)

Heppell, Mr. John (Nottingham, East)

Hordern, Sir Peter (Horsham)

Merchant, Mr. Piers (Beckenham)

Riddick, Mr. Graham (Colne Valley)

Shepherd, Mr. Richard (Aldridge-Brownhills)

Walden, Mr. George (Buckingham)

Walley, Ms. Joan (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

Mr. C. A. Shaw, Committee Clerk)

3 First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Tuesday 8 December 1992

[MR. JAMES HILL in the Chair]

Draft Transport and Works (Descriptions of Works Interfering with Navigation) Order 1992

10.30 am

The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman): I beg to move. That the Committee has considered the draft Transport and Works (Description of Works Interfering with Navigation) Order 1992.

The Chairman: With the agreement of the Committee, it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the other order before us, namely, the draft Transport and Works (Guided Transport Modes) Order 1992.

Mr. Freeman: I am grateful for the opportunity to comment briefly on the two orders. I should begin by explaining the background to them. The Transport and Works Act 1992 introduced a new ministerial order-making system, in place of private Bills, as the mechanism for authorising railway, tramway, inland waterway and certain other works. The new procedure will come into operation on 1 January 1993. The 1992 Act followed a thorough review of private legislation by the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure, which concluded that private Bills took up a disproportionate amount of parliamentary time, to the detriment of hon. Members' other responsibilities for public legislation and constituency business. It recommended that the detailed scrutiny of works proposals should be made outside Parliament and that following, if necessary, a public inquiry, approval should be given by a Minister. The Government subsequently issued a consultation document drawing on that Committee's recommendations. Most responses to that document supported the proposals. Part I of the 1992 Act gives effect, with some modifications, to those proposals. We wanted the legislation to ensure that the powers were sufficiently flexible to enable the order-making procedures to extend to novel or unusual forms of guided transport. We also wanted the procedures to extend to a range of works categories that interfere with rights of navigation. Sections 2 and 4 of the 1992 Act enable the Secretary of State to prescribe by order modes of guided transport and descriptions of works that interfere with rights of navigation. Persons who want to construct works within the prescribed classes will be able to seek an order under sections 1 and 3. Without such powers, types of works to be constructed in the sea or new forms of transport that had not been anticipated in the primary legislation could have been authorised only by means of a private Bill or by amendment of the Act. The Transport and Works (Guided Transport Modes) Order prescribes eight modes of guided transport. If, as hope, the order is brought into force, a person who wants 4 to construct a system, using any of those modes, will be able to apply for an order under section 1. We have aimed to prescribe every known non-conventional, guided-transport system currently operating or under development in this country or overseas. For example, the prescriptions cover guided buses and other novel forms of light rapid transport. In our wide-ranging consultations on the terms of the order, included companies known to be developing and testing novel guided-transport systems. Thje draft order takes into account the findings of our consultations. We are reasonably confident that we have covered all actual or potential passenger-carrying systems in the current technology. I take comfort from the fact that we could, if need be, prescribe future modes by means of further section 2 orders. They would be necessary if we had missed out something, or if new guided-transport systems were developed that were not within the scope of the order. Article 2 of the Transport and Works (Guided Transport Modes) Order 1992 lists the various categories of modes of guided transport which, at present, cover all practicable applications for orders under the 1992 Act. Article 2 of the Transport and Works (Description of Works Interfering with Navigation) Order prescribes 10 categories of works that may be the subject of an application for an order under section 3(1)(b). Article 3 describes the scope of each category of works in more detail. Someone wanting to carry out works in the sea of a description prescribed in the draft order may not require an order under the 1992 Act before proceeding. If the necessary powers or consents could be fully obtained under other Acts—for example, the Harbours Act 1964 or the Coast Protection Act 1949—the Secretary of State may, and generally will, decide not to entertain an application under the Transport and Works Act. The purpose of section 3(1)(b) is to enable promoters to obtain the necessary statutory powers when the only other means of securing such powers would be a private Bill. A good example of when a section 3(1)(b) order would be needed is for a river barrage. As with the first order, the categories and descriptions have been drawn widely to cover all those works which might conceivably need an order under the Transport and Works Act. We have consulted many relevant interest groups and have taken account of their comments in the draft order. I commend both orders to the Committee. They are not controversial and are helpful in permitting industry and those responsible for transport works to make applications under the new Act and will greatly simplify proceedings in the House. I shall be happy to deal with any queries at the end of the debate.

10.36 am

Ms. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): The Opposition do not object to the orders being debated together, but I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that during the lengthy proceedings on the Transport and Works Bill we expressed concern about the way in which the legislation would impinge on inland waterways. We do not want new modes of transport to replace inland waterways, with canal beds being drained and new modes transport being introduced in their place. I do not want the Government to think that in accepting the orders being 5 debated together we are accepting the argument that inland waterways will be replaced by alternative modes of transport. It is important to put that on the record. The Minister gave a commitment to the development of new modes of transport. We support any measure to reduce the amount of private business in the House, but several important points arise. Only three of the guided mode categories mentioned are in operation, and with limited application. Magnetic levitation is used on the short route at Birmingham international airport, there is a monorail system at Merryhill shopping centre in Dudley and a track-based system with side guidance at Gatwick and Stansted terminals. Those systems were designed to serve specific developments. No general passenger services use any novel forms of guided transport in this country. Probably all the forms of guided transport mentioned in the order are in operation or have been tried in other countries, so the Government's record of innovation is not impressing. The order recognises new forms of guided transport such as guidance by electric wire underground, by a slot in the road or by tracks on or off the road with side guidance. Why have other countries managed to develop, where appropriate, all those forms of transport whereas Britain has not? Many public authorities want to establish light rail or guided transport systems. A Department of Transport document published in May 1992 showed that about 20 light rail proposals were at planning stage. There are examples of schemes at an advanced stage awaiting finance: line 1 from Birmingham to Wolverhampton has already received parliamentary powers for a scheme estimated to cost £80 million, in respect of which the passenger transport executive has applied for section 56 grants. The Government have recognised the viability of the scheme but have been unable to offer any grants. A Bill is being promoted for a tram link scheme in Croydon, which will cost a proposed £135 million. The scheme is a private sector joint venture but it is expected that a Government grant will be required. The Leeds supertram is the subject of a Bill in Parliament. The line will be 10.6 km long and will run from central Leeds via the proposed Royal Armouries museum—an example of proposed relocation of London-based activities. The cost of the scheme is estimated at £100 million and the PTE is preparing an application for section 56 grant. The order must be considered against that background. Few Schemes have come to fruition in the past 12 years, apart from those in Manchester, which I hope to visit soon, and in Sheffield which is being constructed. Government support for well tried and tested technology such as light rail has been limited. New guided forms of transport might be cheaper and cover shorter distances than the traditional light rail, but will the Government's previous record on modern light rail systems be reflected in their lack of support for new forms of transport? The fact that so many local authorities are considering rapid transit systems proves their commitment—and that of cities and highway authorities—to tackle congestion and pollution before it is too late. It is obvious that the private sector cannot or will not support such schemes unless there is substantial Government support. Unless Government 6 grants are forthcoming, the order will merely be a piece of paper, as will order-making powers already granted for authorising light rail systems. My main concern is that transport policy should be integrated, but Labour Members can envisage no opportunity for that. The Committee proceedings of the Transport and Works Bill were lengthy and we now have orders and regulations here and there, none of which are integrated into the main body of legislation. I appreciate that the Minister was not responsible for that Bill in Committee but I find it difficult to understand how the assurances of his predecessor, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin), can be fulfulled. The Inland Waterways Association was concerned that the Transport Act 1968 should not be diluted. The Minister must clarify what he considers to be temporary and permanent stoppages of the waterways. It is important that the Minister acts on assurances given in the Committee stage of the 1992 Act. A local group might try to raise money to bring back into use a disused canal or derelict waterway, so the distinction between temporary and permanent stoppages needs to be made clear. During our considerations of the 1992 Act there was much discussion about the kind of consultation that the Government would have with the Inland Waterways Association. The Government gave many commitments to consult with the association. The assurances that were given have not been honoured. What link does the Minister see between the order and SI 2902, which gives asurances on procedures in respect of applications and objections? There is confusion over that issue. The order states that the Secretary of State will agree orders only if they are not agreed within the terms of harbours revision orders. It is unclear which applications can be dealt with by the Minister and which can be dealt with under the harbours revision order. The Minister must give assurances that, whenever formal consultation is under way, the Inland Waterways association, will be properly consulted. There are omissions, in SI 2902. I also bring to the Minister's attention a letter dated 1 December which was sent to the Department of Transport by the Inland Waterways Association, asking for assurances on that aspect of consultation. I fail to see how we can agree to the order until those basic commitments to public consultation, which were readily made by the Government in our previous proceedings on the 1992 Act, days before the general election, are fulfilled.

10.47 am

Mr. Freeman: The Transport and Works Bill was dealt with by my hon. Friend the Minister for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin), who has been translated to higher, perhaps better, things. I am responsible therefore, for the implementation of the 1992 Act's provisions. I am enthusiastic about my role because the Act represents a major step forward in parliamentry procedure and will unclutter our proceedings. I do not believe that democratic procedures will be harmed in any way. When called for, there will be a full public inquiry into whether works are interfering with navigation or are guided transport. The hon. Minister for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Walley), referred to our record on innovation in guided transport. I think that that record is commendable. The 7 Tyne and Wear system, which is now 10 years old, has worked extremely well. The Docklands light railway, in the past six months, has progressed remarkably well, with an extension to Beckton and I hope, in due course, with Parliament's approval, to Lewisham and Greenwich. The hon. Lady referred specifically to Manchester and Sheffield. The Manchester system is now complete, is operating and has required £100 million of resources, part of which was a section 56 grant. Construction has just begun on the Sheffield system and will cost £240 million, part of which will be financed by cash grant and the remainder by credit approvals to the passenger transport authority. We do not have the resources in the 1993–94 fiscal year to assist with the early construction of the light rapid transit system between Wolverhampton and Snow Hill, Birmingham, but I assure the hon. Lady that we shall keep the matter under review and, when resources are available, we shall reconsider it. It is the only scheme which has passed its parliamentary stages and its appraisal test. I have followed the scheme personally over the past three years and know the advantages that it would bring to the west Midlands.

Ms. Walley: The Government say that they are committed to environmental protection in transport policy. To what extent is the Minister making decisions on the schemes to which he referred against the £18 billion commitment to the road programme?

Mr. Freeman: The budget for local public transport is running at approximately £100 billion. That has not changed following the autumn statement, nor have the resources available for the road programme changed significantly. We continue to support the schemes to which we committed ourselves last year. The Sheffield scheme takes between £50 million and £55 million of that vote per annum and will take three to four years to build. When it has been completed, the Department will turn its attention to another light rapid transport system, unless additional resources are made available in the intervening years. The autumn statement permitted retention and use of 100 per cent of capital receipts between now and 31 December 1994 and I hope that some local authorities, especially the passenger transport authorities, will be able to devote more resources—for example, from the sale of local bus companies—to public transport schemes. That decision will be for local authorities to make, but I hope that they will take the opportunity. We propose no change in the section 56 machanism for funding approved schemes by local authorities to improve local public transport. We have a good public transport scheme in this country. The hon. Lady referred to the guided bus scheme in Leeds. We have provided some money in 1992–93 for development of that scheme, in which part of the road space will be taken up with guide rails at the side of the carriageway. The bus—typically a diesel bus or with power coming from overhead lines—will be free to run either in the guideways, or without the guideway system and through the streets in the centre of Leeds. I have seen the system in Essen in Germany. In some circumstances it is to 8 be welcomed because it gives the bus priority and encourages motorists to leave their cars at home and to use buses. The bus has priority in its own guided rail system where motor cars cannot go and if the road is congested, the bus may arrive at its destination faster. The hon. Lady referred to inland waterways. I understand what she said, and that is on the record. The orders do not cover inland waterways, but I give the hon. Lady an undertaking that when we discuss other orders on inland waterways, I will deal fully with her anxieties.

Ms. Walley: I am grateful for the Minister's assurance. I shall follow up his proposal to ensure that vital aspects of consultation can be followed before further binding legislation is introduced.

Mr. Freeman: The hon. Lady asked three other questions, which I shall answer briefly. She asked about the difference between temporary and permanent under the first order. The order covers permanent structures which may be affected by tidal flows, sea barrages and so on. We consulted widely on the two orders and I assure the hon. Lady that we will do so on all orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992. We have a good and sensitive record on that. If the hon. Lady is concerned about organisations which we may not have consulted, she should let me know what they are and I shall follow up those organisations which we would need to talk to. The hon. Lady referred to the statutory instrument that will determine the procedures to be followed. It may or may not be debated—that is out of my hands. The hon. Lady was right—it is another instrument which will be considered in due course. It will be designed to help industry understand what steps would have to be followed—to consult at an early stage with the Department of Transport, to distinguish between schemes that require parliamentary approval in principle, to state how the inquiry procedure would be followed and to state which works fall outwith the Act's provisions. I think that you, Mr. Hill, would want me to reserve my remarks about that statutory instrument to when it is debated and I shall be happy to return to that.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Transport and Works (Descriptions of Works Interfering with Navigation) Order 1992.

Draft Transport and Works (Guided Transport Modes) Order 1992

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Transport and Works (Guided Transport Modes) Order 1992.—[Mr. Freeman.]


Committee rose at three minutes to Eleven o'clock.



Hill, Mr. James (Chairman)

Arbuthnot, Mr.

Bates, Mr.

Carlisle, Mr. John

Clarke, Mr. Eric

Clifton-Brown, Mr.

Etherington, Mr.

Freeman, Mr.

Heppell, Mr.

Horderm, Sir Peter

Merchant, Mr.

Riddick, Mr.

Shepherd, Mr. Richard

Walden, Mr.

Walley, Ms.