§ "(6A) The Secretary of State shall publish the regulations made under this section in a fully updated form on at least an annual basis.
§ (6B) The Secretary of State shall produce and release electronically all the extant regulations made under this sect ion."").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment is simple: it seeks to provide that the construction and use regulations are published once a year, fully updated. In addition, the regulations would be available electronically on the net. Quite understandably, there are frequent amendments to these regulations but it is very difficult to access the extant regulations. I am fully confident that the Minister will have no difficulty with the amendment. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, deals with a different matter and I suspect that I shall not be able to support him. I beg to move.
I am grateful for the noble Earl's friendly introduction to my amendment. I do not have a view on Amendment No. 400, but I should like to speak to Amendment No. 402, which stands in my name.
As the Committee will be aware, the Government have announced that they intend to introduce 44 tonne lorries generally in this country, probably at the end of the year. Can my noble friend tell the Committee the means by which they intend to change the legislation; in what kind of order and how will it be done?
The Government have made it quite clear that the lorries permitted to operate at 44 tonnes will have to have six axles and so on; they will also have to have Euro II exhausts. Back in 1994 the Government allowed 44-tonne lorries to operate under certain circumstances to combined transport terminals. There arc not an enormous number operating— probably not more than 100 in the country—but they do provide a very useful and important commercial service as part of generally inter-modal operations. Freightliner, which is probably the biggest inter-modal operator in this country, has 90 of these vehicles, and just under 10 per cent of its loads, it believes, need this 44-tonne derogation.
Without getting into the debate of whether 44-tonne lorries generally are a good or bad thing—we have been through that—Freightliner, quite rightly, is rather concerned that having bought these lorries and operated them quite happily for six years, it may well not be allowed to operate them next year, even though other 44-tonne lorries will be operating. These lorries were not built with the Euro II exhaust because that design was not around earlier.
So my amendment seeks to suggest that the original road vehicle construction and use regulations which permitted this should not be changed for 10 years after this Act commences. I am sure that the wording is not 528 right but I also hope that my noble friend will see the point of the argument and may be able to come up with an alternative solution.
§ Earl Attlee
Perhaps I ought to withdraw my somewhat acidic comments about the noble Lord's amendment.
§ Lord Whitty
Amendment No. 400 seeks to consolidate and make available in electronic form the construction and use regulations. These regulations contain a detailed prescription of the technical design and construction standards required of vehicles. They are very complex and that of itself places a practical limit on those who can use them. Generally, only manufacturers and others with a professional interest in the subject are likely to consult them. We do, of course, provide advisory material for maintenance and other purposes and for private individuals where necessary, much of which can be seen on the Internet.
Specialist publications, including electronic media, already make available commercially the consolidated position. In addition, Her Majesty's Stationary Office has placed all statutory instruments made since January 1997 on its website, and that is freely accessible.
There have been numerous amendments to these regulations since they were made in 1986. It is undeniably the case that consolidation is now warranted. We are also considering whether some restructuring would be beneficial, for example, by separating the regulations into subject themes. The Road Vehicles (Lighting) Regulations 1989 are a precedent. That would make the regulations easier to follow. and to amend in a transparent fashion. However, that option represents a very substantial drafting exercise. We are starting to give the task due priority, along with other drafting work. Once that is completed the number and net complexity of any future changes will vary year by year. In some years there might be few amendments whereas in other years there could be a substantial number. The question of whether to republish every year needs to be taken into account and we therefore need a rather more flexible requirement than automatic annual consolidation.
Once we have consolidated and, if appropriate, restructured the construction and use regulations, they will appear on the HMSO website, as will subsequent amendments. Given that that is already in the pipeline, I do not believe that it would be cost effective to divert resources to achieve what the proposed amendments seek.
On the rather different subject of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, I am sorry to have to disappoint him. We have already indicated that we are tackling some of the problems in the 10-year plan arising from the issue he raises. He questions under what powers we will conduct the introduction of the 44-tonne lorries. The Government will be making regulations under the Road Traffic Act 1988.
The issue concerns the existing inter-modal operators who have already taken advantage of the current 44-tonne weight limit and have invested in 529 equipment as well as demonstrating a commitment to inter-modal road/rail freight movements. The noble Lord was concerned that the Euro II engine requirement which will come into effect on the new extension of 44-tonne lorries—which will come into effect now on 1st February next year—will affect disproportionately the inter-modal operators which already exist. Euro II engines became compulsory anyway for all lorries put into service in late 1997. We have had discussions with the inter-modal operators and have established that the relatively small number of 44-tonne vehicles which came into service before that date will, by and large, have reached the end of their useful life by the end of 2003.
For that reason we announced last week that we will not repeal the existing 44-tonne combined transport regulations until the end of 2003. Therefore, we are giving a three-year extension to non-Euro II engine compliant vehicles rather than the 10 years which the noble Lord requests in Amendment No. 402. We believe that will deal with the bulk of the problem which he identifies. With these explanations I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.
I am grateful to my noble friend for that explanation. I have slightly different information. Although 10 years was my and their first stab at the time period, perhaps something in the middle is right. I shall certainly go away and speak to the noble Lords further. Perhaps I shall come back and perhaps I shall not.
§ Earl Attlee
It is good that the time is not right to test the opinion of the Committee. I was a little disappointed with the Minister's reply. The construction and use regulations are very detailed. Sometimes it is important to be able to look up in a reference book when a particular requirement comes into force. For instance, how young does a vehicle have to be before it needs to be fitted with sideguards?
Perhaps the Minister can say why the Northern Irish road haulage fraternity has the benefit of one volume of the Northern Ireland construction and use regulations?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 401:
After Clause 256, insert the following new clause—