HC Deb 27 July 1960 vol 627 cc1720-6

Lords Amendment: In page 16, line 30, after "area" insert: nor to an order made under the said Act of 1960 revoking or varying an order so made and confirmed".

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

I think that it would be for the general convenience of the House if we discussed, also, the Amendment in page 16, line 31.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Hay

Clause 11 contains a number of miscellaneous Amendments as to the powers of local authorities to institute parking places and what we call general schemes of traffic control. Subsection (8), which these Amendments seek to amend, contain provisions which make it clear that when a local authority is producing a general scheme of traffic control certain protective provisions contained in Sections 26 and 81 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, are not to apply.

I call these protective provisions, because, as the opening words of the subsection makes clear, they are intended to insure that when either parking places are instituted, or waiting and loading and unloading is restricted in a road, access to premises must be preserved.

In agreeing to subsection (8) at an earlier stage of the Bill, we have already approved the general principle that when a local authority makes a general scheme of traffic control these protective provisions shall not apply. In precisely the same way, where the road affected is a trunk road, again they are not to apply. Those are the concluding words of subsection (8).

At a later stage of the proceeding on the Bill in another place it was discovered that there was some doubt about the procedure which would arise when what was being done was not to make an order of a general scheme of traffic control, but to vary or revoke it once it had been made.

Therefore, for the avoidance of any doubt in the matter, and to ensure that any scheme which is made can work properly and be corrected as experience shows it to be necessary, these two comparatively simple though complicated locking Amendments were passed in another place. I hope that we can agree with them.

Mr. Benn

Does the Amendment, or the Amendment associated with it, deal with the disc system?

Mr. Hay indicated assent.

Mr. Benn

It was agreed by the Minister of Transport that to facilitate the experimentation by local authorities of the disc system provision should be made in the Bill for it. I am not legally trained, but, as I understand, the Amendments permit the disc system to be introduced and followed elsewhere, consequential on that scheme. It occurs to me that we have in this part of the Bill, and in the Amendments, the weakness of attempting to proceed by legislating for detail, because the Bill now lays down simply tilt; disc system. The Amendments would make possible the experimentation of the disc system.

There are other techniques of traffic control. Indeed, quite recently I took up with the Ministry another machine which was brought to my notice. The machine prints tickets which can be glued on to a car instead of using parking meters. That would be a considerable economy.

Under the Bill as it stands, even with thy; Amendments, it will not be possible to experiment with anything but the limited type of disc system. I make the general complaint that if we insist, and if the Minister insists, on legislating in such great detail, he will make it more difficult, even though it is his intention to make it easier, for local authorities to approach these problems flexibly and to find other ways of solving the difficulties which confront them.

Mr. Dempsey

Will there be the fullest co-operation with local authorities on this matter? I am concerned with the position in Scotland. Local authority schemes must be submitted for approval by the Department. I cannot think of a set of circumstances arising which would necessitate limiting the prerogative of to al authorities to the extent mentioned in the Amendment, because before a local authority can proceed with any arrangement, or with any plan or scheme, such a scheme or arrangement has to be approved in general, and approved in particular, before the Department in Scotland will consider granting power to the local authority to carry out its proposals. I recognise that it might be necessary to have this legislation, but will there be the fullest cooperation between local authorities and the central Government in the application of this so-called Amendment?

Local authorities endeavour to improve their towns without antagonising the Government Department concerned. I realise that on certain occasions it is necessary for the Government to take action because of the need for monetary control, but it is difficult to see the need for the proposed Amendment. I suppose that the Government have arrived at the conclusion that the Amendment would provide the necessary safeguards, but surely a local authority, when considering road access and parking places, would not approve a plan which would in any way restrict the smooth and easy working of such services. A local authority is not likely to introduce a scheme which would hamper traffic, yet we are here taking steps to make sure that a local authority does not pursue a policy which would inconvenience the swift movement of traffic and other services.

I am a former member of a local authority. I hope that the Minister will assure me that there is no intention on the part of the Ministry to cut the activities of local authorities, and that he does not intend to dissuade local authorities from proposing plans which they hope the Government will accept. I hope that the Ministry will not try to discourage local authorities from dealing with their problems in the meticulous fashion with which they deal with them now. I also hope that the Ministry will not prevent local authorities from playing their part in insuring the smooth working of the Bill when it becomes an Act.

When one sees Amendments of this nature, one wonders if the Department is suspicious that local authorities will not be inclined to co-operate to the full with the Government. They always do, but they must be guided by local needs, and I hope that the Minister will bear in mind the great work which local authorities do on a voluntary basis. I hope that he will assure me that the object of the Amendment is to ensure close co-operation between local authorities and the Government, and that it is not the intention to antagonise or dissuade local authorities from performing their functions.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Hay

If I may speak again, by leave of the House, I hope that I can straight away disabuse the mind of the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) of some of the ideas that are apparently there now. If he will study the Bill and, in particular, this and the succeeding Clauses, he will see that, far from curtailing or restricting the powers of local authorities in these matters, it is doing precisely the opposite. Not only are we giving local authorities extended powers but, in many cases, we are taking away checks and fetters which, at the moment, prevent them from fully acting in their own areas as they wish. This Amendment is intended to deal with a Clause that itself removes an impediment from local authority actions.

As I tried to explain earlier, the whole point of this subsection is to enable local authorities to bring into force a general scheme of traffic control in certain streets in their areas, but no longer to be hindered in doing so by those protective provisions, which go back for some years, in the interests of frontagers to the streets. This is a matter we have discussed before, and upon which the House has decided. I need not go over the arguments. All that we are trying to do is to ensure that these impediments do not operate when what is sought to be done is to vary or revoke an order already made under subsection (8).

I now turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). First, it is true that the disc experiment is involved. I was careful to avoid referring specifically to that experiment in my earlier remarks because the disc system is only part of the sort of thing that can be done by a local authority under a general system of traffic control. It is true that under Clause 11 (3) parking meters in off-street parking places and the disc experiment are authorised for local authorities outside London. That provision is closely tied up with the extended powers we are giving in subsection (2), which allow for general schemes of traffic control.

I should like to give an example of the way in which the Amendment will work in connection with the disc experiment. If a local authority wanted to extend a disc order by authorising parking in an additional street where parked vehicles might 'be held to cause some interference or inconvenience to the premises in the street, it might be impossible for it to do so by way of a variation order if this Amendment were not made.

It is true that in this House we may be a little too careful to write out the minutiae of Bills but, on the whole, that is a good fault, and it is probably better to try to do the thing properly than to leave the matter at large and allow people to litigate, as often happens.

Mr. Ede

It is not a fault; it is a virtue.

Mr. Hay

It is a matter of semantics. I chose to refer to it as something of a fault that we should try to legislate in great detail. I hope that with the explanation I have given of what we are trying to do the House will agree to the Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 17, line 20, at end insert: (11) An order made by the council of a county district by virtue of the last foregoing subsection may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order made by them and confirmed by the Minister, and the provisions which, by virtue of subsection (8) of this section, do not apply to an order made by virtue of the last foregoing subsection shall also not apply to an order made under this subsection.

Mr. Hay

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This Amendment is similar in its intentions to the two that we have just been discussing. Those dealt with the powers of local authorities to amend or revoke orders made under subsection (8). Subsection (10) provides for the making of general schemes of traffic control, but only by small non-county boroughs or urban districts with populations of less than 20,000. Under the provisions of Section 26 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, such non-county boroughs or urban districts are prevented from making such an order, and subsection (10) of this Clause provides that where a small local authority of that kind wants to introduce a general scheme of traffic control the county council may delegate to it the right to make an order under Section 26, so that it may then make an order jointly under that power and the power it already possesses under Section 81.

Subsection (10) also provides that the Minister of Transport may delegate to such a non-county borough or urban district the right to make such an order as respects trunk roads, which belong to the Minister of Transport.

Because, in cases like this, an order under the powers of Section 26 will not be made by the local authority specified under that Section but, instead, by a non-county borough or urban district to which the powers have been delegated, it seems to us that the power to amend or revoke given by Section 27 (3) of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, would not apply. The Minister would have power under that subsection to amend or revoke any such order, but neither a non-county borough nor the county council which had given it delegated powers would have any power to amend or revoke the original order. This was a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation, which we wanted to try to put right.

The new subsection was introduced in another place and provides that any order made by a non-county borough or urban district by virtue of subsection (10) may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order made by it, and confirmed by the Minister, in the same way as the original order made under subsection (10). It also provides that what I have referred to as the protective provisions relating to access in Sections 26 aril 81 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, shall not apply any more than they did in the case of the original order.

Briefly, the result of the Amendment is that these small local authorities will have power to amend or revoke an order made under subsection (10) in almost exactly the same way as with an order made under subsection (8). In both cases amending orders made by the local authority which made the original order will be free from the protective provisions of Sections 26 and 81.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 17, line 29, leave out "subsection (2)" and insert: under or by virtue of subsection (2), (10) or (11)".

Mr. Hay

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This is a drafting Amendment. Its intention can be explained simply by saying that it seeks to ensure that the procedure regulation which the Minister will be making under Section 29 will cover orders for general schemes of traffic control made under subsection (10), to which I have already referred, and Amendments to those orders made under the new subsection (11).

Question put and agreed to.