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The noble Lord, Lord Freud, prayed in aid John Grogan and his contribution at the other end. He has a view but I remind the noble Lord and other noble Lords that, in the amendment before us today, the Government's position was passed by the other House-the elected Chamber-by a considerable majority. That in itself ought to persuade us today. The noble Lord is

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right in the sense that the sanctions regime that I have outlined and which we want to test as part of the pilots would have a not inconsiderable lead time before one gets to a financial sanction. It is right that it should. That is why we need those protections in place. I hope that the noble Lord would support that.

Like my noble friend Lady Hollis, I think that it was unfortunate to refer to this issue as a political football, because we have covered a lot of ground in this House during the progression of the Bill. We have improved it immensely. We have had some quite intense and important debates about what it means, what its parameters should be and how we can best move to do something that I think we all want, which is to help people to move closer to and into the labour market. To characterise it in that way was, I think, unfortunate. Perhaps I have said enough. I gather that the noble Lord is not seeking to oppose what I have moved today. It is up to him. I commend the Motion.

Motion agreed.

Rail Services: First Capital Connect


12.20 pm

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, with permission, I will repeat the Answer to an Urgent Question given in another place about train services provided by First Capital Connect.

"The action by drivers on First Capital Connect appears to be co-ordinated and is highly regrettable given that talks are continuing. Passengers are being seriously inconvenienced and we urge all parties to resolve this unacceptable situation as soon as possible.

Concerted action to stop trains running is irresponsible, but train companies need to ensure that their staffing arrangements are robust so that they cannot be held to ransom in this way. The franchise agreement with First Capital Connect requires the company to use reasonable endeavours to run a full service. We are reviewing this position on a daily basis, but the disruption should be halted immediately by an end to the current concerted action."

12.21 pm

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to the Secretary of State for repeating the Statement made in another place. All noble Lords want to see an industry that is safe and efficient and meets the needs of passengers. I am pleased to say that I have no difficulty in resisting reaching for a long screwdriver and interfering by offering a solution, despite the fact that passengers face misery through no fault of their own.

The origins of the problem, exposed by the current situation, go back some time. Both sides of industry have been relying on rest-day and Sunday working. The drivers needed it to ensure a decent income and the train operating companies needed it to ensure that their drivers were available when required. However, there are only a certain number of shifts to be driven, a certain number of drivers to drive them and a certain amount of money to pay them. Surely the industry could have devised a more robust system to keep these in the balance. I think the Secretary of State agrees with me, but what does he think the

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industry should have done? Does the Secretary of State have a handle on what percentage of drivers work on rest days and Sundays? It seems to me that the rate is very high.

There seems to be some confusion about whether industrial action is taking place. It smells like it, it looks like it, and it has the same effect, especially on the passengers. Rest-day and Sunday working is very lucrative for the drivers. It seems peculiar that many of them suddenly decide of their own volition to not work on a Sunday. It is, of course, extremely disappointing that the drivers decided to disrupt Remembrance Sunday, when old comrades would want to meet up just one more time; in many cases they will not have the opportunity to do so again. It is also surprising that the unions would decide to take this course of action at this particular point in the electoral cycle and when the rail industry enjoys so much cross-party political support.

Franchisees have a duty to maintain the service and the franchise contracts will make provision for how an industrial dispute will be treated. It is therefore crucial to understand whether this is an industrial dispute or not. What does the Secretary of State believe to be the case?

Finally, what can passengers expect in the coming months? Will this problem be resolved or will history repeat itself and matters continue to deteriorate?

12.23 pm

Lord McNally: My Lords, I declare an interest in that just after 7 am this morning I was on St Albans station waiting to catch a train into London, as I do regularly, with several hundred other commuters who have either found those trains cancelled or found themselves packed like cattle into such trains as did arrive. I experienced the same earlier in the week trying to catch a train home.

I remind the Minister that these are people who have paid £3,280 for a season ticket for that right to travel. If I may use a phrase that may be familiar on the Benches opposite, these are not City fat cats; these are workers by hand and by brain, trying to get to work and get home from work. I hope that what I say conveys some of the anger and frustration of those commuters at the treatment that has been meted out to them.

As the Minister may know, I can show him a few scars from another period of industrial irresponsibility. My then mentor, Jim Callaghan, said in 1978, "This is not trade unionism as I knew it". It certainly was not, but we did think that capricious and spiteful trade unionism which hurt the many out of all proportion to any dispute was a thing of the past. Such actions hurt fellow workers, the vulnerable, working mothers and children trying to get home from school. Certain trade unions seem to have learnt nothing from the experience of the 1970s. They have forgotten that their industrial militancy brought in a Conservative Government who trebled unemployment and brought in legislation that curbed trade union powers-some victory. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, indicated, does this clever way of seeming to cause damage without offending the Trade Union Act need to be looked at?

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Is there a need to tighten that Act as regards action taken by workers that is not proportionate in terms of the damage they do either to other workers or to the running of life in general?

I have to put it on record that there is in St Albans and elsewhere a lack of confidence in First Capital Connect. Is the Minister aware that we are now saying goodbye to the third managing director of First Capital Connect on this line in the past year? We have said goodbye to Elaine Holt and Karen Boswell, and Mr Jim Morgan will, apparently, leave his post on Friday. Does that indicate management continuity and a management steady hand? Does it explain why things have got so out of control?

I put to the Minister an old hobby-horse of mine: why do a Labour Government not end first-class travel on commuter trains until standard-class passengers are guaranteed a reasonable journey?

12.28 pm

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl and the noble Lord for their responses. As the noble Earl said, passengers face misery on this line. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, is one of those passengers and has properly expressed their anger and frustration. I make it clear to the House that I share that anger and frustration. I not only share the anger and frustration of passengers who are being deeply inconvenienced by this totally unjustified action, I also share the concern which the noble Earl expressed about the deep damage being done to the cause of the railways by this action. As Secretary of State I seek to promote the railways as strongly as I can as a form of transport for the future which is efficient and green and should be regarded by passengers as reliable. Action of this kind, which calls into question the reliability of the railways, will cause deep damage to the cause of the railways as regards securing future investment decisions of a kind that we in this House all wish to see. I deeply regret the action. I call on the staff to continue to work and I call on the unions to engage with the management to see whether it is possible to bring about a speedy resolution to the underlying pay dispute. However, this concerted action is not justified and is deeply regrettable. I hope that it will be ended forthwith.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked specific questions about industrial relations law and First Capital Connect. We obviously keep the state of industrial relations law under review, but the immediate issue here is that First Capital Connect staff work in a way that ensures that the service can be properly provided. That is what we wish to see. First Capital Connect is expected to use all reasonable endeavours to provide a full service.

It is not my job to use the long screwdriver that the noble Earl mentioned to seek to manage the service myself. I spoke this morning to Mary Grant, the group rail manager of First Capital Connect, who assured me that every effort was being made to run as full a service as possible. I made clear to her our expectation that that would happen. It is important that First Capital Connect continues to use all reasonable endeavours to restore the service, but this situation could be ended immediately if the concerted action on the part of the staff was ended. That step should be taken immediately.

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Motion to Adjourn

Moved by Lord Faulkner of Worcester

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I can advise the House that the time for resumption of business will be displayed on the Annunciators.

Motion agreed.

12.31 pm

Sitting suspended.

Coroners and Justice Bill

Returned from the Commons

3.48 pm

A message was brought from the Commons, That they agree to the amendment made by your Lordships to the Coroners and Justice Bill in lieu of the amendments to which they have disagreed, and do not insist on their disagreement to the remaining amendments.

Policing and Crime Bill

Returned from the Commons

3.48 pm

A message was brought from the Commons, That they agree to the amendments made by your Lordships to the Policing and Crime Bill without amendment.

Motion to Adjourn

Moved by Lord Bassam of Brighton

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it falls to me to beg to move that the House do now adjourn until 4.30 pm to await the Royal Commission.

Motion agreed.

3.49 pm

Sitting suspended.

Royal Commission

4.30 pm

The Lords Commissioners were: Baroness Hayman, Lord Strathclyde, Lord McNally, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Baroness D'Souza.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, it not being convenient for Her Majesty personally to be present here this day, she has been pleased to cause a Commission under the Great Seal to be prepared for proroguing this present Parliament.

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When the Commons were present at the Bar, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster continued:

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, Her Majesty, not thinking fit personally to be present here at this time, has been pleased to cause a Commission to be issued under the Great Seal, and thereby given Her Royal Assent to divers Acts, the Titles whereof are particularly mentioned, and by the said Commission has commanded us to declare and notify Her Royal Assent to the said several Acts, in the presence of you the Lords and Commons assembled for that purpose; and has also assigned to us and other Lords directed full power and authority in Her Majesty's name to prorogue this present Parliament. Which commission you will now hear read.

A Commission for Royal Assent and Prorogation was read, after which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster continued:

My Lords, in obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, and by virtue of the Commission which has now been read, We do declare and notify to you, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled, that Her Majesty has given Her Royal Assent to the several Acts in the Commission mentioned; and the Clerks are required to pass the same in the usual Form and Words.

Royal Assent

4.45 pm

The following Acts were given Royal Assent:

Law Commission Act,Autism Act,Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act,Driving Instruction (Suspension and Exemption Powers) Act,Perpetuities and Accumulations Act,Green Energy (Definition and Promotion) Act,Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act,Health Act,Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act,Marine and Coastal Access Act,Welfare Reform Act,Coroners and Justice Act,Policing and Crime Act.

Prorogation: Her Majesty's Speech

4.47 pm

Her Majesty's most gracious Speech was then delivered to both Houses of Parliament by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in pursuance of Her Majesty's Command, as follows.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government's overriding priority has been to help families and businesses through difficult global economic times. My Government remains committed to delivering a fair and prosperous economy. The strength of the financial sector is vital to the future vibrancy of the economy. Therefore, legislation has been enacted to ensure fairer and more secure protection for bank depositors and to improve the resilience of the financial sector.

12 Nov 2009 : Column 919

Legislation has been enacted to create saving gateway accounts to encourage people on lower incomes to save more by offering financial incentives. Legislation has been enacted to promote local economic development and to create greater opportunities for the community and individual involvement in local decision-making. An Act has been passed to increase financial support to industry and to widen the support offered to exporters. An Act has been passed to reform the welfare system, to increase the requirement for people to move from benefits towards sustained employment and to provide greater support, choice and control for disabled people.

My Government has remained committed to protecting the public and ensuring the nation's safety. An Act has been passed to increase the effectiveness and public accountability of policing, reduce crime and disorder and enhance airport security. An Act has been passed to deliver a more effective, transparent and responsive justice system for victims, witnesses and the wider public. The Act will improve the Coroner's Service and the process of death certification, to provide an increased focus on bereaved families, including the families of servicemen and women. Legislation has been enacted to strengthen border controls by bringing together customs and immigration powers. The Act will also ensure that newcomers to the United Kingdom earn the right to stay.

My Government has remained committed to ensuring that everyone has a fair chance in life. Legislation has been brought forward to promote equality, fight discrimination and introduce transparency in the workplace to help address the difference in pay between men and women. My Government has brought forward legislation to enshrine in law their commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

Because the health of the nation is vital to its success and well-being, an Act has been passed to strengthen the National Health Service. The Act creates a duty to take account of the new National Health Service constitution that sets out the core principles of the service and the rights and responsibilities of patients and staff. The Act also introduces measures to improve the quality of healthcare and public health. An Act has been passed to reform education, training and apprenticeships, to promote excellence in all schools, improve local services for children and parents and provide a right for employees to request time for training.

My Government has continued to take forward proposals on constitutional reform, including strengthening the role of Parliament. Legislation has been enacted to strengthen the regulation and enhance

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the transparency of party finance and expenditure. An Act has been passed to create an independent authority to regulate and administer the allowances of Members of Parliament.

Legislation has been enacted to manage marine resources and to create a new right of public access to the coastline.

My Government has continued to work closely with the devolved Administrations in the interests of all the people of the United Kingdom. My Government remains committed to the Northern Ireland political process and have brought forward further methods for sustainable, devolved government.

Members of the House of Commons, I thank you for the provision that you have made for the work and dignity of the Crown and for the public service.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my Government has worked towards European action on economic stability, on climate change, on energy, enlargement and security.

My Government has worked for a co-ordinated international response to the global downturn, including by hosting the G20 summit on financial markets and the world economy in April. My Government has continued to work as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, including at its 60th anniversary summit.

My Government has continued to press for a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East, continued progress in Iraq and for effective measures to address international concerns over Iran's nuclear programme. My Government has continued to work with the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan for security, stability and prosperity. The Duke of Edinburgh and I were pleased to receive President Calderon of the United Mexican States and President Patil of the Republic of India.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, by virtue of Her Majesty's Commission which has been now read we do, in Her Majesty's name, and in obedience to Her Majesty's Commands, prorogue this Parliament to the 18th day of November, to be then here holden, and this Parliament is accordingly prorogued to Wednesday, the 18th day of November.

Parliament was prorogued at 4.53 pm.

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