HL Deb 28 July 1999 vol 604 cc1519-21

2.50 p.m.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will seek ways to exclude historic road and rail vehicles from the proposed pressure equipment regulations, shortly to be introduced, so as not to add regulatory burdens to this part of the national transport heritage.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

My Lords, the regulations do not affect any of the day-to-day work of operating, servicing and repairing heritage vehicles. They set out the essential safety requirements which new items of pressure equipment or those imported from outside the Community will need to meet from May 2002. They do not apply where someone is manufacturing or importing for his own use other than in the course of business. Provided these essential safety requirements are met, historic designs and methods of construction could continue to be used as there is no requirement to use state of the art designs.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Is he aware that it will come as a considerable relief to many organisations? Will he confirm that purpose-made replacement parts and associated fittings for historic vehicles will not be covered by the regulations? In view of the widespread concern and fears about the regulations, will he examine the validity of, and perhaps the necessity for, some of the regulations in terms of the directive? Perhaps he would be good enough to chair a conference of all the interested parties to discuss the implications.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, as regards replacement parts, the regulations cover only the boiler itself. If a new boiler is required, that part must conform with the regulations. I believe that that only becomes a problem around once every 40 years; so perhaps it is not significant. A meeting will take place on 9th August with officials, the heritage railways, the National Traction Engine Trust and model engineers. I hope that the meeting will clear up any misunderstandings about the regulations. If it does not, I shall be happy to hold any necessary discussions.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are 80 heritage railways., mainly in Wales and the north of England, manned mostly by volunteers? Those areas desperately need the interest created by tourism, but they are concerned that the new regulations will impose a charge of £115 for Her Majesty's railway inspector to come and inspect them. I do not know whether that refers to the same regulation or another one issued at the same time. The railway operators are concerned that the cost of the charge might be such as to prevent their carrying out necessary safety work. Is there some way in which they could be exempted from the charges? Will the Minister examine the matter?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, there is a good deal of confusion about the issue. There will be no change whatever as regards regular inspection of the operation of such vehicles. It will continue to be carried out by the Health and Safety Executive. The regulations essentially apply to the manufacturers; it is they who will need certification of the design of the boiler before use. There is no change so far as operation and maintenance is concerned.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, my noble friend's answers to the two previous questions have been helpful. He says that the new regulations apply only to boilers and pressure vessels. However, I remain concerned that the heritage business, if we may call it that, which has around 3,000 traction engines and 1,000 railway locomotives, says that the cost of conforming to the new regulations for a replacement boiler will rise tenfold. Can my noble friend devise a method for the main organisations to carry out their own assessments? I am sure that they are technically experienced, and it would save their having to spend 10 times as much as they do at present for apparently no improvement in safety. I suggest to the Minister that this has more to do with bureaucracy than with safety.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, I repeat that this concerns the boiler industry and its basic safety standards. Perhaps I may put the issue into context. We are discussing an industry of 2,000 manufacturers with businesses worth around £3.5 billion and employing some 60,000 people. The regulations have been designed very much with this sector of the economy in mind and are greatly welcomed by it as removing significant barriers to trade. Certification concerns the boilers themselves. However, it is open to heritage bodies to become certified bodies to carry out the certification process.

The DTI has always been concerned about safety—ever since an early President of the Board of Trade was killed by the "Rocket" engine. I mention that because obviously we are debating the heritage industry. In 1830 William Huskisson was killed by an early version of the "Rocket". However, I do not believe that we are unduly concerned with safety in this important area.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, given what happened in 1830, how many accidents have occurred recently? Is it true that there have been no explosions at all involving boilers on historic traction engines? If that is the case, what is the point of the regulations?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, I shall make a simple point. The reason why we do not have accidents in this area is that we have very good regulations.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, is it not a fact that the heritage railways will now be charged for any health and safety inspection by HM railways inspectors? Am I correct in saying that that inspection charge is £115?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, as far as I know, there is no change as regards the Health and Safety Executive stemming from these regulations which, I repeat, essentially concern the boiler manufacturers. However, I shall check whether there has been any change.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree

My Lords, the Minister says that the reason there have been no accidents is that the regulations are excellent. If that is the case, why are new ones required?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, the regulations we are discussing are the pressure equipment regulations of 1999 implementing the European Community pressure equipment directive.

Noble Lords


Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My Lords, I find it strange to be lecturing those on the Benches opposite about the value of free trade and the removal of trade barriers. As I pointed out, the boiler industry is extremely significant, with £3.5 billion worth of business and employing 60,000 people. The industry greatly welcomes the regulations because they remove barriers to trade in Europe and open up very significant markets. If that is a matter of no interest to Members opposite, then I am deeply surprised.

Forward to