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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the second of the Motions standing on the Order Paper in the name of my noble friend Lady Hayman. These regulations are being made under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979. The purpose of the regulations is to increase by 4.9 per cent. the amounts of compensation paid under the Act to those who first satisfy all the conditions of entitlement on or after 1st September 1998.
The Act provides for lump sum payments to be made to sufferers from certain dust-related diseases, or, when the sufferers have died, to their dependants, where there is no realistic chance of success through the courts.
I feel sure that all noble Lords will recognise that no amount of money will ever compensate individuals and families for their suffering and loss. These regulations do, however, allow us to ensure that the compensation provided for in the original Act maintains its value. I commend the regulations to the House.
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, I wish to ask my noble friend who is introducing the amendment regulations to what industries the regulations apply. My understanding is that for many years the pneumoconiosis regulations applied only to the mining industry. I now understand that they apply also to the Welsh slate industries and to a number of other industries.
The regulations are very welcome and the Government are to be congratulated on the increase announced by the Minister today, although victims suffer greatly as a result of the illness. I wish to get it on the record tonight that we are talking about not only the coal-mining industry, but also the slate-mining industry, particularly in relation to Wales.
The diseases covered in the Act are pneumoconiosis, which includes silicosis associated with slate-quarrying, mentioned by my noble friend; asbestosis and kaolinosis associated with china clay; byssinosis, associated with cotton dust exposure, which affects areas such as the North-West and people who worked in the textile industry; and diffuse mesothelioma, asbestos-related cancer.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the third Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Hayman. I welcome this opportunity to explain in more detail the proposed amendment to the regulations.
There are two elements. The first amends Part VI of the Transport Act 1968 so that the European Union regulation which requires the fitment and use of tachographs can continue to be implemented correctly within Great Britain. The second element extends an existing exemption from the same regulations for health authority vehicles to include vehicles used by National Health Service trusts.
The first change arises from a recent High Court judgment which has thrown doubt upon whether Part VI of the Transport Act 1968 accurately reflects the intention of the relevant European Union regulations on drivers' hours and tachographs.
The regulations apply to vehicles used for the carriage of goods, but the recent case was dismissed on the grounds that the vehicle was not a "goods vehicle". That stemmed from the wording in Part VI of the Transport Act 1968 which refers to "goods vehicles" rather than,
This first so-called "change" merely reinstates what until recently was the generally accepted meaning of the European Union regulations as they have been enforced up to now by the Police and Vehicle Inspectorate. It does not introduce any new requirement.
Secondly, the rules on tachographs apply only to vehicles being used for commercial purposes. So a tachograph will not have to be fitted to an off-road vehicle which is being used, for example, to tow a horse-box, caravan or trailer for private or recreational purposes.
Thirdly, not all commercial activities are caught by the regulations. There are a number of exemptions, depending on the nature of the operation being undertaken and, in some cases, the distance travelled.
I now turn to the second change. There is an exemption from the European Union regulations for vehicles used by public authorities to provide public services which are not in competition with professional road hauliers. This exemption is applied in Great Britain by a 1986 regulation which exempts vehicles being used by health authorities as ambulances to carry staff, patients, medical supplies or equipment. This wording does not extend to vehicles used by National Health Service trusts set up under the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990. As National Health Service trusts are already established as public authorities in law, it is only right that this exemption should be extended to include them. I commend the regulations to the House.
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, perhaps I may raise what I regard as an important point in relation to National Health Service trusts. In what position does this place the passengers who are carried by patient transport services which are organised by National Health Service trusts?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, in order to be certain that in an area of what may be detailed law I give my noble friend absolutely accurate information, I should prefer to take advice and write to him. I shall place a copy of the reply in the Library.
Ambulances are exempt from the provisions of the order regulations because they are exempt from EU drivers' hours rules, but they are still subject to the UK domestic drivers' hours rules. I shall write to my noble friend.
Viscount Simon: My Lords, notwithstanding what the Minister has just said, drivers' hours are there to protect the public from people who drive for excessive hours and are therefore dangerous when they are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. It may be an ambulance, heavy goods vehicle or whatever. Consequently, I do not understand why ambulances should be exempt. An ambulance driver can be equally as tired as anyone else behind a wheel. As such people are supposed to be in the business of providing transport to and from hospitals for people who are or have been ill, it does not make sense to me. Can the Minister explain?
This proposal would change certain legislative provisions governing the issue of British driving licences. It would introduce some flexibility into the present arrangements for allowing drivers from certain other countries to exchange their licences for British ones without having to pass a British driving test. As well as saving the time and expense involved in passing a test, this would benefit some drivers by enhancing their availability for a wider range of employment.
The proposal concerns persons taking up residence here from a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA). At present, anyone coming to live here from outside the EEA may drive small vehicles for up to a year on their licence. Thereafter they must generally pass a British driving test to continue to have the right to drive, unless they hold a licence issued in a country which is designated by law for the purpose of exchange of licences. Once a country is so designated, its licences may be exchanged, as a matter of course, subject only to the holders meeting the normal British requirements on health and minimum ages.
The current provision for designating countries was first introduced in 1983 and has not been significantly amended since. It enables the Secretary of State to designate a country for exchange of licences, if satisfactory provision for the granting of licences to drive motor vehicles is made by the laws of that country. Of the criteria usually used to determine whether the provision is satisfactory, the principal one is whether the driving test is of comparable standard to the British test, although the arrangements for granting a licence are also important. Twelve countries have been designated to date.
The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, was kind enough to intimate in advance that he wishes to know how the proposal deals with countries made up of states which have separate administrations for driving licences. In such cases the standards in all states would have to be acceptable to allow the country to be considered as a candidate for designation. Should there be any further information or more detail that would be of help to the noble Lord, I shall be pleased to write to him.
The proposed order will remove the requirement that certain persons holding licences issued by a country outside the European Economic Area must pass a test in Great Britain so that, first, where a person holds a licence issued by a country which is not currently designated for exchange purposes, he need not pass a test if the Secretary of State is satisfied that his licence was properly issued or was at least properly issued in respect of some of his driving entitlements; and, secondly, where a person holds a licence which is issued by a country currently designated for exchange purposes and includes entitlement to drive some classes of goods or passenger-carrying vehicle, he need not pass a test in order to upgrade his entitlement to include those vehicles if the Secretary of State is satisfied his licence was properly issued in respect of them.
The protection of the general public will not be reduced by the proposed order. The proposal will remove a burden from what is likely to be a significant number of new residents, without compromising road safety interests. As such, I commend it to your Lordships.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 25th March be approved. [26th Report from the Deregulation Committee].--(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)
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