HC Deb 28 October 1976 vol 918 cc837-42

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 7, line 34, at end insert Clause A:

"A.—(1) If a highway authority considers that, for the purpose of avoiding danger on or facilitating the passage of traffic over a highway for which it is the highway authority, it is appropriate to make an order under this subsection in respect of the highway, the authority may make an order (hereafter in this section referred to as a "control order") specifying the highway and providing that, subject to subsection (5) of this section—

  1. (a) no person shall sell anything on the highway or offer or expose anything for sale on the highway; and
  2. (b) no person shall, for the purpose of selling anything or offering or exposing anything for sale on the highway or of attracting from users of the highway offers to buy anything, put, keep or use on the highway, or on land within fifteen metres from any part of the highway, any stall or similar structure or any container or vehicle.

(2) The highway authority for a highway in respect of which a control order is in force may vary or revoke the order by a subsequent order.

(3) Section 84C(1) to (5) and (6) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 (which relate to the procedure for making orders under the provisions of that Act mentioned in subsections (1) and (5) of that section) shall have effect as if subsections (1) and (2) of this section were included among those provisions.

(4) If a person contravenes a control order which is in force for a highway, the highway authority for the highway may by a notice served on him require him not to contravene the order after a date specified in the notice (which must not be before the expiration of the period of 7 days beginning with the date of service of the notice); and—

  1. (a) if a person on whom a notice relating to a contravention of a control order is served in pursuance of this subsection contravenes the order after the expiration of that period, or causes, permits or procures another person to contravene it after the expiration of that period, he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50;
  2. (b) if a contravention in respect of which a person is convicted of an offence in pursuance of the preceding paragraph is continued by him after the expiration of the period of 7 days beginning with the date of the conviction he shall, as respects each day on which the contravention is so continued, be guilty of a further offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £10.

(5) A control order does not apply—

  1. (a) to anything done at premises used as a shop or petrol filling station either—
    1. (i) in pursuance of planning permission granted or deemed to be granted under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, of
    2. (ii) in a case where the premises are, without such permission, lawfully used as a shop or petrol filling station, or
    3. (iii) without prejudice to the generality of sub-paragraph (ii) above, in a case where by virtue of section 87 of that Act (which relates to enforcement notices) an enforcement notice in respect of that use of the premises cannot be served;
  2. (b) to anything done at a market in respect of which tolls, stallages or rents are payable;
  3. (c) to the sale, offer or exposure for sale of things from or on a vehicle which is used only for the purpose of itinerant Lading with the occupiers of premises or which is used only for that purpose and for purposes other than trading;
  4. (d) to such a vehicle as is mentioned in the preceding paragraph or to containers on the vehicle;
  5. (e) to, or to containers used in connection with, the sale, offer or exposure for sale, by or on behalf of the occupier of land used for agriculture and on that land, of agricultural produce produced on that land;
  6. (f) to the provision, in a lay-by situated on a highway, of facilities for the purchase of refreshments by persons travelling on the highway or on another highway near to the highway;
  7. (g) to anything as respects which the control order provides that the order is not to apply to it.

In paragraph (e) of this subsection "agriculture" and "agricultural" have the same meanings as in the Agriculture Act 1947.

(6) References in the preceding provisions of this section to a control order are, in the case of a control order which has been varied in pursuance of subsection (2) of this section, references to the order as so varied."

10.16 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Guy Barnett)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

With this amendment we are to discuss Lords Amendment No. 2.

Mr. Barnett

The House will no doubt remember that when it considered the amendments made to this Bill in the other place, it disagreed with a new clause designed to control roadside trading in England and Wales.

That clause, which was inserted against Government advice, would, broadly speaking, have prohibited the sale of food and articles on the verges and laybys of all trunk and principal roads in England and Wales, and enabled highway authorities, by order, to prohibit such sales on other roads. Although certain produce and premises would have been exempt from control the ban would have applied automatically and extended for a distance of 15 yards on either side of the road.

The Government found the clause unacceptable for two main reasons. First, it contained no element of discretion. It would have imposed a blanket ban on roadside trading on all major roads in the country whether a problem existed to be dealt with or not, regardless of the wishes of the local authority. Secondly, it would have had a detrimental effect on the provision of refreshments for travellers, and particularly for lorry drivers.

In the previous debate in this House on 3rd August the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) and the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) supported the former clause in principle. They spoke of the need for a general provision to replace the many private Act provisions which, they said, are well used by local authorities. They referred to the lack of hygiene, the litter and the road safety aspect of uncontrolled roadside trading. I agree that certain types of roadside trading need some measure of control and, as requested by the hon. Members opposite, we have been considering how this can be achieved without running up against the objections that I mentioned earlier.

The new clause before the House is the result of our deliberations and represents, I think, the best approach to the problem. Its most notable feature is, in my view, its more reasonable application. It avoids a general ban and gives discretion to apply control to the highway authority. If the authority decides that trading activities on a particular stretch of road are causing problems it may make an order prohibiting the sale of goods on a length of road specified in the order. But first it must advertise its proposals and consider representations in the same manner as if the control order had been made under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967. A control order may not apply to certain people who we believe have a right to be exempted—the farmer selling produce from his land adjoining the road, the itinerant trader, and people running mobile canteens and the like catering for lorry drivers and other road users.

It is difficult—perhaps impossible—to provide a clause in national legislation which satisfactorily regulates every kind of roadside trading activity. Some kinds of activity need control, others do not. Many different interests are involved. Road users want roads to be safe. They also want places where they can stretch their legs and buy a drink or a snack. On the other hand, local residents may resent their areas being cluttered with litter simply to meet the needs of travellers who are only passing through.

The clause attempts to deal with these various requirements and to prevent the need for each local authority which wants powers to restrict roadside trading from seeking them in local Bills. As such it is squarely in line with the principles underlying the Bill. I hope the House will agree that the procedure set out in the clause provides the best possible solution to a most difficult problem, and I commend it to the House. I should add that the second amendment is entirely consequential.

Mr. Tim Sainsbury (Hove)

I am glad that the Minister has been able to come back to us and honour what I might call his pledge to take note of what was said in our earlier debate. He said that this was the best possible solution, but I do not entirely agree. However, it is much better than having no power to deal with this difficult problem, particularly in regard to the generation of litter.

I hope that he can assure us, since the power rests with the highway authority, that where the highway authority is not the local authority, if the local authority makes representations to the Department, the Department will listen and will bring forward an order where that seems appropriate.

The advantage of the clause in enabling litter to be, if not eliminated, at least concentrated so that it can be more easily and cheaply removed is considerable. I welcome the clause and hope that it will be effectively implemented not only by the local authorities, but by the Department.

Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)

I, too, wish to thank the Minister and another place for bringing us back to this subject. We do not often have this procedure in which we consider a Lords amendment in lieu of one which this House has thrown out.

The amendment is a compromise and does not go all the way—certainly not as far as the Association of County Councils would like—but it would be churlish not to acknowledge the effort made by the Minister to meet the points raised by my hon. Friends in this House and by their Lordships. I do not quarrel with the exemptions. The amendment has probably got it about right. This is an open-ended matter. I am, perhaps, being slightly traditional when I say that I am less happy about the appearance of 15 metres rather than 15 yards in the Bill. The Minister may or may not agree with me. I welcome the greater discretion given to local authorities in the new clause.

If we are dealing with trunk roads, we shall be dealing with regional controllers. In my experience, they are extremely competent and knowledgeable men who will be extremely co-operative when a local authority makes an application. However, if there were to be difficulties, perhaps on a technical argument or for some other reason, I presume that the local authority could go to the Secretary of State. I hope that this will not need to happen. but there may be difficulties, and, as the Secretary of State makes the decision, I presume that a local authority could go to him, at least informally, to get the matter sorted out. I hope that the House will agree with the Lords amendments.

Mr. Guy Barnett

Both hon. Members have referred to regional controllers who will undoubtedly take very seriously representations from county councils. They are concerned with safety, the unobstructed passage of traffic and the avoidance of nuisance on trunk roads. If a county can demonstrate its problem and intends to make control orders covering its principal roads, it is hard to imagine a regional controller holding out against making an order for trunk roads. I hope that clears up any doubts which may have existed.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendment agreed to.