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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I understand that the noble Baroness asks why we did not talk to the industry about the impact of the measure. There has been endless consultation. Consultation on the working time directive started in 1993. Consultation took place in 1998 on the railways social partners agreement and on the horizontal amending directive. Regulatory impact assessments have been undertaken of that. Major consultation is also being undertaken on the draft regulations.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I believe my noble friend said that the cost of the measure to the railway industry—I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group—based on the regulatory impact assessment would be minimal. Is he aware that at a meeting of representatives of the railway industry and his officials in January which I had the honour to attend, we were told that the impact assessment covered hospital doctors, maritime workers and railway workers with one global figure for the lot? The industry was asked desperately for information to enable the Government to work out what the regulatory impact assessment should cover. Does my noble friend agree that more work needs to be done before he can state that the measure will have no impact whatever on the industry?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, our assessment of the cost to the transport industry as a whole is 100 million. It is difficult to obtain a precise figure for the rail freight industry as it is difficult to obtain the precise number of workers from employment surveys. Given that there are about

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715,000 transport workers but only 10,000 railway freight workers, it is fair to say that the impact is likely to be minimal.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the problems with the supposedly level playing field of Europe is that it is more in the nature of a race course where the member states impose their own handicaps in terms of their willingness to abide by the particular regulations? Is it not the case that the British feel—I think that it is certainly true of the road hauliers—that they will be disadvantaged in trading terms by reason of the fact that the British on the whole tend to honour regulations which many of their European competitors do not?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, that is a common cause of complaint for which there may be some justification. We are talking about the railways not the road haulage industry. I believe the noble Lord will find that the same complaint is made on the part of other European countries. I believe that there is nothing to suggest that overall we do significantly better than others in terms of implementing the measures we are discussing.

Lord Brookman: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that we tend to lose sight of what the directives are really all about? They are about a better life for workers in various industries, are they not? Should we not be glad that our Government, a Labour government, have gone along with the directives?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I very much agree. Given that that important social legislation has been around for 10 years and it has taken five years to implement the railways social partners agreement, a complaint about how long it had taken to implement would be much easier to understand than one that states that the legislation has been rushed through.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, how will the new directive be policed? How many people will be involved?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot give figures as to how many people will police the directive. It replaces normal employment legislation. I shall write to the noble Earl and give him the figures.

Heavy Goods Vehicle Operator's Licence

2.51 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to amend the remit of the heavy goods operator's licence to enable overall traffic impact to be taken into consideration.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we believe that local authorities are best placed to deal with

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planning and local traffic matters, and that their current powers are sufficient. They may also object to traffic commissioners against applications for goods vehicle operators' licences. When deciding such applications, traffic commissioners have wide powers, including the consideration of the suitability of the operating centre itself and any exit or entrance leading from a public road. We have no plans to amend the existing licensing system.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer, but is he aware that once a licence has been granted, the local authority has no power in the matter? Will he accept that we have a democratic deficit, as the law does not allow elected representatives of the local community to have any say in proposals to vary the terms of a licence? For example, is he aware that, in the town of Alsager in my area, the town council is being told that it has no power at all in the matter, even though a recent proposal to vary the terms of a licence will actually double the heavy goods traffic on the B road through the town?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, surely an issue of that kind should be dealt with by the local authority's own powers. It can make traffic regulation orders to stop heavy lorries using unsuitable roads by imposing weight or dimension restrictions. That is how a local authority can avoid an addition of heavy traffic. It should not and could not be done through the heavy vehicle operator's licence. Of course, there is a provision for a review of such licences every five years and, on those occasions, local authorities have the same say. I should add that local authorities can appeal to the Transport Tribunal against decisions of the traffic commissioners.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, is the Minister aware that although the regulations allow the traffic commissioners to take into account the question of exit and entrance to a road, they cannot take into consideration the suitability of the road because it is the public highway and assumed to be suitable? Would he consider amending the powers of the traffic commissioners so that they may take into account the whole of the route over which a lorry will pass? That is what affects people, and that is the matter about which people are complaining.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, what noble Lords are asking for is a duplication of controls. The traffic commissioners obviously have responsibility for the technical aspects of vehicle operation. They also have responsibility for the operating centre, which is where the vehicles are kept, leave from in the morning and go back to when they have finished work. However, everything else that the noble Lord wants can be controlled by traffic regulation orders, which are the responsibility of local authorities.

Surely a liberal democratic party ought at least to believe in local autonomy, and say that the issue should continue to be under local democratic control

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rather than under the control of appointed traffic commissioners. I am astonished at the idea that the situation should be called a democratic deficit.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords—

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, matters are in fact under the control of local authorities, but it is up to the police to enforce them. They have to follow a lorry for the whole distance restricted, which is absolutely impossible given that police resources are at present so overstretched.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I did not hear a question.

Emergency Telephone Calls

2.55 p.m.

Baroness Sharples asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any 999 telephone calls are answered by a call centre in New Delhi.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, no 999 telephone calls are answered by a call centre in New Delhi. They are all directed to the appropriate emergency service by a network of call centres in the UK.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, a while ago I was by driven by a very charming Indian who on a previous occasion had witnessed a bad accident. When he dialled 999 and informed the operator that he was on Western Avenue, the operator said that he did not know where that was. When asked where he was situated, the operator replied, "New Delhi".

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, that could have been an Indian in another part of the country, and it could have been a joke. I am assured categorically that no calls are handled otherwise than in the UK. Two centres have been put out by BT, one in Bangalore and one in New Delhi, but they are to deal with the company's directory inquiries and conferencing work.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, would the Minister care to have a bet with me that practically no one in this Chamber knows what to dial instead of 999 in Europe?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I would be happy to take that bet because I am well briefed to answer the question, but the noble Baroness may be right about the rest of the House.


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