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Lord Waddington: My Lords, I think that the noble Lord may have misunderstood what I was saying. I wished to make the point that one cannot consider the length of a Queen's Speech and relate it directly to the number of Bills being introduced. I have not complained about the number of Bills. I wished to make the point that, strangely enough, one discovers time and time again that a speech may be longer than the previous Speech and yet contain the details of fewer Bills. I pointed out in particular that the 1999 Queen's Speech--the longest by far of all Queen's Speeches--contained the details of fewer Bills than did the 1997 Queen's Speech. It cannot be argued that the Queen's Speech was necessarily long because the Government were imposing on Parliament an extremely heavy workload. Other reasons must be found and I have tried to indicate what those were.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I was about to develop my argument by saying that there is no connection between the number of Bills and the length of a Queen's Speech. I am reminded that one of the first points one learns in philosophy is that a connection is not a cause. Indeed, I wished to remind noble Lords only that the number of Bills introduced in this Session compares favourably with the number of Bills introduced during the third Sessions of previous governments.

Indeed, in comparison with some earlier Sessions, I believe that this administration has been positively restrained. Perhaps noble Lords would like to see a further eight Bills introduced over the next week or two. That would take us back to the happy days of 1991.

We are determined to take Parliament seriously and to allow proper time for full debate to take place on our legislation. Major government Bills almost always need to be amended during their passage. However, if

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we make sensible and reasonable concessions, we are told that we are amending too much. If we stand firm on our principles, we are told that we are unfairly resisting argument. I mentioned earlier our new practice of publishing Bills in draft. It would be ridiculous to do that if we were not prepared then to take account of the valuable comments that we receive. I have mentioned already the valuable experience gained on the Financial Services and Markets Act. However, responding properly to consultation means that amendments have to be introduced. Often such amendments help to make legislation both more effective and focused. Furthermore, implementing those changes is one of the most important duties of this House.

However, having said that, I believe that I must agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in his comment that some Bills that we introduced this year have required a certain amount of polishing. I have said before that we are a listening Government. To that end, the Home Office seems to have listened more than most.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, seemed to imply that Her Majesty the Queen should not read the speech at all. I may have misunderstood the noble Lord, but I believe he also raised the matter of the repetition of the speech by the Lord Chancellor in the afternoon. It has been agreed that that practice will stop. No longer will the Lord Chancellor repeat the Speech in the afternoon. As I understand it, noble Lords who are not present on the morning of the Speech will be able to read it in the Printed Paper office. The Procedure Committee has agreed that the practice of the Lord Chancellor repeating the Speech should cease.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I certainly did not mean to say that Her Majesty the Queen should not deliver the Speech. I was not aware of the reform that the Government Chief Whip mentioned. I am glad that it has been lighted upon.

Lord Carter: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, also mentioned a problem with the organisation of the four days of debate that we normally have. I am inclined to agree with him. As the House will know, topics are agreed for the day with the intention that the debate on that day should concentrate on those topics. We have considered informally among the Chief Whips a sub-division of the day, so that the first half of the day was taken up by a certain subject and the second half by another subject. However, it has been suggested that this will be harder to achieve and should be time limited.

The Queen's Speech is, in fact, one debate from beginning to end. If the day were to be divided into two different subjects, there would need to be 12 Front Bench speakers. There would be three to open and three to close on the first subject; and three to open and three to close on the second subject. That would mean that there would be twice as many Front Bench speakers than is now the case, and that would reduce

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the opportunities for Back-Benchers to speak in the debate. We agreed informally that, on balance, it would be better to keep to the organisation that we have now.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, rather confused me because he said that I have not got a throng behind me. The noble Lord should appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, counts as a throng. The point about the length of the Prorogation speech is well made and will be taken to heart.

As I said, the Government cannot win. If Sessions are short, they are accused of railroading their programme through; if Sessions are long, they are accused of mismanaging it. Arguments about the style of the Queen's Speech do not obscure the main fact: we are putting forward a substantial programme of reforming legislation and delivering it successfully.

Perhaps I may return to the point made by my noble friend Lord Gilbert about the famous split infinitive in the previous Queen's Speech. If we had removed it, the Speech would have sounded odd. It would have stated:

    "A Bill will be introduced which will make it unlawful for public bodies racially to discriminate".

That sounds wrong. The Queen's Speech is meant to be easily read and understood. I have the backing of Fowler's Modern English Usage which states:

    "Rigid adherence to a policy of non-splitting can sometimes lead to an unnaturalness or ambiguity and no absolute taboo should be placed on the use of adverbs".

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for replying to the point I raised. If he needs any assistance in removing split infinitives, I shall be only too happy to help.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend.

This has been a useful debate. Noble Lords have made a number of important points. I undertake to draw them to my colleagues' attention.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.14 to 8.35 p.m.]

Transport Bill

Further consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 206.

Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 240:

    Page 121, line 17, at end insert--

("( ) In considering any proposals relating to or that may affect the carriage of goods by rail, the Authority shall consult all such persons--
(a) providing services for the carriage of goods by rail, and
(b) having any other interest in the carriage of goods by rail,
as appear to it to be appropriate.").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak also to Amendment No. 246 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, and Amendment No. 248 in my name.

On Amendment No. 240, noble Lords will recall that I tabled an amendment in Committee proposing a rail freight council to act as the formal consultative arrangement with the SRA and anyone else in respect of rail freight customers, mirroring as far as possible the workings of the rail passenger council. I shall not repeat what I said in Committee about the need for such a body. My noble friend Lord Whitty said in response:

    "Freight services tend to be used by private companies that are better placed to represent themselves and to take up complaints directly with the freight operator concerned".--[Official Report, 17/7/00; col. 718.]

My noble friend is right in one sense. However, the other problem is that in the railway industry, size matters. Railtrack is very much larger than the train operators, and that shows; and the customers are generally very much smaller than the train operators, and that shows. It is important to set up a consultative arrangement between the SRA and those that are not licensed train operators, those that might be in future, or other customers. My noble friend was very nice about me personally, but, of course, one does not make legislation around people.

Having consulted widely in my own industry--I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group--I proposed an alternative version to the amendment, requiring the Strategic Rail Authority to consult widely as appropriate. That would avoid the cost to the rail freight council and means less bureaucracy. In the present circumstances, the industry needs some such provision.

I accept that the wording of my amendment is probably not entirely satisfactory. I hope that my noble friend the Minister may say that he will take it away and consider it. He may even say that he will include something along these lines in the Secretary of State's directions to the SRA. The industry believes that it can grow as is envisaged in the 10-year plan, but it needs the ability to be consulted, as of right, by the SRA on matters concerning rail freight.

I support the proposal in Amendment No. 246 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Freeman. I do not know when the Strategic Rail Authority will publish its strategy, but I have heard rumours that it may be delayed until the new year; I do not know why. I find it extraordinary that the SRA cannot produce a strategy before then. The Government published their 10-year plan in July, and I should have thought that three months was an adequate time in which to produce a strategy. Certainly, the rail freight industry would very much like a rail freight strategy, whether or not it is published at the same time as that of the SRA. If the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Freeman, is to achieve the more regular publication of a statement of policy and strategy, as well as that for financial assistance, I believe that it deserves every support.

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I turn, finally, to Amendment No. 248, which is very much a probing amendment. I welcome the new clauses in the Bill and the intentions about rail freight grants, but both I and my colleagues are confused about how the grants will be paid regarding flows of rail freight between England and Scotland. It is quite clear that grants for flows in England will be paid by the SRA out of DETR funding and that grants for flows within Scotland will, similarly, be paid for by the Scottish Executive out of Scottish funding, block grant, or whatever.

However, there is a little confusion regarding the position between England and Scotland. For example, are the freight facilities grants paid in whatever location they need to be spent? The answer to that question is probably yes. But what about the track access grant, which is the grant for so many miles in each country? Will it be split on a mileage basis, or in some other way? The SRA has started a consultation process on grant schemes covering different types of grant. Can my noble friend the Minister say who will provide the grants, who will assess them and where the money will come from both in England and in Scotland? I beg to move.

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