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Lord Bradshaw: I support the request for clarification. We support the requirement that the regulations be subject to affirmative resolution. They have not been drafted and we have had no opportunity to scrutinise them. Furthermore, as we shall say time and again, we are adamant that the rail accident investigation branch is as independent as possible. Its deliberations should not be subject to what the Health and Safety Commission or the British Transport Police may believe, unless there is a clear breach of criminal law, or statute law relating to health and safety. We want officials to have as restricted an opportunity as possible to interfere within the work of the RAIB.

We will return to that matter many times and will be asking that the new branch has clear and independent powers which are known to Members of the House and the public and that they are not left open to the intervention of other parties, interfering in the work of the branch.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Berkeley: I support the principle behind these amendments in connection with what the RAIB will

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do and how it will do it. I appreciate that it is early days, but I take into consideration the experience of the Air Accident Investigation Branch, the way in which it appears to operate and how it has dealt with the few serious accidents that have occurred. If the Government are not able to publish the regulations while the Bill is before your Lordships' House, will it be possible to develop a series of protocols setting out the principles under which the RAIB would work? Who will have precedence in examining accidents? Will the Health and Safety Executive and the British Transport Police be involved in any way? Can the branch give early indications that, for example, it believes that criminal investigation may be necessary or not? Will the Minister publish such principles before the next stage of the Bill, or can we meet him to discuss what they might be?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I begin by expressing reverence—some may say extreme reverence—for the wishes of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The committee's report on the Bill made two recommendations. The first was that the regulations introducing the HSE rail levy in Clause 104 should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure on the first occasion on which they are used. The second was that changes to the upper and lower limits on the number of people on the British Transport Police Authority should be subject to the negative resolution procedure. We shall implement those recommendations in government amendments to be made on Report.

But of course it works both ways. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has not recommended that the three regulations which are the subjects of Amendments Nos. 1, 14 and 44 should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and there are good reasons for that. The regulations for the railway accident investigation branch will set out the working arrangements for the branch in the same way that the working arrangements for the air and marine accident investigation branches are set out in regulations. They explain what type of accidents the AAIB and the MAIB are to investigate and both sets of regulations are made under the negative resolution procedure, as is provided for under this Bill.

For that reason, and because the Cullen recommendations fundamentally are that we should follow the air and marine accident investigation branches in setting up the rail accident investigation branch, we believe that we should follow the same procedure for parliamentary scrutiny.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asked about consultation and when we can expect to see the draft and final regulations. The chief inspector of rail accidents designate and the department are already working closely with the industry, the HSE and the police to ensure that the definitions in the regulations will be correct. The draft European safety directive, which will come forward towards the end of the year, will also set down its own definition of accidents and we will have to take account of all of those in setting

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out our regulations. We propose to begin consultation after Royal Assent. We also propose that the regulations will be first published in draft and will be available next April, or soon afterwards. In all of those respects, we are following precedent and the wishes of our committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, asked for an assurance that the RAIB will be fully independent and I can assure him that that will be the fundamental principle behind the regulations.

Amendment No. 44 is different from Amendments Nos. 1 and 14 because it is unnecessary. Clause 79(4) is already subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Clause 87(4) explains that regulations under Part 4 of the Bill shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

On that basis, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Viscount Astor: I thank the Minister for that helpful response. I note he said that the Government will bring forward amendments as recommended by the Select Committee. It is always helpful when the Government take on board its recommendations, as they usually do. But I am sure the Minister will agree that on both sides there can be exceptions to the case; and that when looking at the recommendations one considers what should be included or excluded.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: That works only one way. We agree to what the Select Committee recommends, but the Opposition do not always do so.

Viscount Astor: That is the way opposition works. I am grateful for the Minister's explanation of why Amendment No. 44 is not necessary. His comments on the draft regulations and the timetable were helpful. I note that he did not try to explain the proposed,

    "ULTRA rail based transportation system",

in Cardiff, but no doubt he knows all about it. I shall not test his knowledge on that and I am grateful for his response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Establishment]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 2, line 25, at end insert—

"( ) The Rail Accident Investigation Branch shall be constituted with regard to regional representation, including consultation with the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, and the Northern Ireland Assembly."

The noble Viscount said: The amendment follows a debate in Committee in another place about consultation with the regions and with regional parliaments. There is concern about what will be the constitution of the rail accident and investigation branch in terms of consultation with the three devolved powers. The issues of transport cross some of the boundaries and we are dealing with safety and risk to human life which is important.

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I imagine that the Minister will answer that there will be full consultation, but one might require further safeguards to ensure that that is the case. That is the purpose of Amendment No. 2. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: Although I go along with the spirit of the amendment, if the Minister is mindful of agreeing to it, I hope that he will subsequently amendment it so that the Bill does not refer to Scotland as a region. The acceptable phrase would be,

    "national and regional representation".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Two separate issues are involved. The first is the composition of the branch and the second is consultation with the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly government and the Northern Ireland Assembly, when it is restored. On the second, I can give an assurance that there has been and will be close consultation with those bodies and that they have all supported the creation of a rail accident investigation branch. If a rail accident occurs in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, the chief inspector will keep the regional governments informed on progress. There is no problem about consultation.

However membership of the branch deserves attention. This is not a branch of interests; it is one of professionals. It comprises a highly skilled professional team of professional rail accident investigators. They must have the highest level of expertise in accident investigation, rather than be appointed on the basis of the region from which they come. I do not believe that analogies with, for example, boards under Ofcom in the Communications Bill is relevant. I hope that the amendment about the composition of the board will not be pressed now or later.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful for the Minister's reply and I shall study it carefully. I understand the noble Earl's point about Scotland not being described as a region. I do not know how the Welsh view themselves; are they a nation or a region—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is a principality.

Viscount Astor: The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, corrects me and says that it is a principality. Is a principality a nation or a region? I suspect that it is a nation.

I am grateful for the Minister's reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [General aims]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 2, line 27, after "Branch" insert ", working in conjunction with the Railway Safety and Standards Board,"

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to my Amendment No. 5. The clause outlines the general aims of the rail accident investigation ranch. My amendment would ensure that the branch would have to have regard to the rail

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safety and standards board, with a clear commitment to that on the face of the Bill rather than merely implied.

Amendment No. 5 seeks to explore the relationship between the RAIB and the rail safety and standards board. The board may be in place before the RAIB, but we are trying to explore the thinking on the relationship between the two bodies. Will the railway safety and standards board be similar to the RAIB? It would be helpful to know more about the inter-relationship between the two. Furthermore, to whom will the railway safety and standards board report? Will it be the Office of the Rail Regulator?

As I said at Second Reading, many of the bodies that are being created and many of those which already exist are being brought together in the Bill. We support the aims behind that, but believe it important that the bodies work together and that we, the general public and all those involved in the industry, understand how the relationships between the new bodies and the reporting structures will work. We want to ensure, first, that they do not overlap and, secondly, that there are no gaps. I beg to move.

4 p.m.

Lord Bradshaw: I cannot support this amendment. I have already said that I want the rail accident investigation branch to be independent. We should be careful about qualifying whatever it does by specifying "by reference to", such as the railway safety and standards board, the Office of the Rail Regulator, the Health and Safety Commission or anyone else.

The railway safety and standards board, which has been reconstituted and is about to embark on its new career, has a specific job to do related to railway operations and engineers. It is a job for the railway industry to decide on its own standards and, presumably, to justify those standards by dint of lives saved/pounds spent. Obviously, such consideration appears to have been forgotten.

At the same time, I believe that the rail accident investigation branch needs to separate itself completely and judge the matter according to its own lights. I would be most reluctant to support either the question of consultation with the rail accident investigation branch and I would be equally concerned about reference to the Office of the Rail Regulator. I believe that the new regulatory board should be an economic regulator, as is the case with people in other industries such as electricity, gas and so forth.

In the railways, we have burdened ourselves with an enormously complicated safety structure which people not only do not understand but is costing huge sums of money. Huge meetings take place because all parties want to be represented. I believe that if we are to overcome railway costs, we must demystify and simplify the structure and therefore I will not support the amendment.

I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 10 and 11, which are in the same group. I am sorry that I overlooked them. We believe that there is an absolute priority for an investigation to take place to find out

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what happened. I shall not go over old cases but we all know of many which have still not been the subject of reports after a disgracefully long time. I make it clear that the rail accident investigation branch should have the duty to inform either the police or the Health and Safety Executive as appropriate if it has prima facie reason to believe that an offence has been committed.

But if it believes that it is what we might call an ordinary accident and that no one has committed a criminal offence, in my view neither the Health and Safety Inspectorate nor the police should be involved. The British Transport Police should be confined, if I may use that word, to securing the perimeter of any accident site against trespassers and to rescuing any persons who may have been killed or injured in the accident. It is not a job for policemen who are not trained in railway safety to root around the wreckage looking for God knows what, which is what it amounts to.

There are still 68 police officers of the British Transport Police fully engaged in investigating past accidents. What we need—as happens with the Air Accident Investigation Branch—is for a very swift conclusion to be reached as regards what happened so that swift action can be taken. Within days of the Korean aircraft crash in Essex proper action was taken with that class of aircraft, on a world-wide basis, to ensure that the relevant fault was corrected.

That was done without trying to attribute blame to anyone and in the interests of safety. We need to get away from the culture of hunting desperately for someone to blame and back to a system where the primary purpose of an investigation is to ensure that such accidents do not happen again and that proper action is taken to prevent them.

It is a matter of gathering evidence. We shall discuss later whether the courts will be able to penetrate the RAIB or to subpoena witnesses. I have conducted a large number of these inquiries. People who are summoned to give evidence are assured that anything they say will not be taken down under oath and given in evidence. If there is to be frankness, evidence must be given quickly against the background of a cast iron assurance that it is given totally in confidence. I believe that that underlines CIRAS, the confidential reporting system which has recently been established.

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