HC Deb 15 November 2000 vol 356 cc1039-42

Lords amendment: No. 121, to insert the following new clause—Quiet lanes and home zones—

.—(1) A local traffic authority may designate any road for which they are the traffic authority as a quiet lane or a home zone.

(2) The appropriate national authority may make regulations authorising local traffic authorities who have designated roads as quiet lanes or home zones to make use orders and speed orders of such descriptions as are prescribed by the regulations in relation to any roads designated by them as quiet lanes or home zones.

(3) A use order is an order permitting the use of a road for purposes other than passage.

(4) But a use order may not permit any person—

  1. (a) wilfully to obstruct the lawful use of a road by others, or
  2. (b) to use a road in a way which would deny reasonable access to premises situated on or adjacent to the road.

(5) A speed order is an order authorising the local traffic authority by whom it is made to take measures with a view to reducing the speed of motor vehicles or cycles (or both) on a road to below that specified in the order.

(6) The appropriate national authority may make regulations specifying procedures for the making, variation and revocation of—

  1. (a) designations, and
  2. (b) use orders and speed orders,
including procedures for confirmation (whether by the appropriate national authority or any other body).

(7) The appropriate national authority may give guidance to local traffic authorities about matters to which they must have regard in determining whether or not to designate a road as a quiet lane or home zone.

(8) In this section— the appropriate national authority" means—

  1. (a) the Secretary of State as respects England, and
  2. (b) the National Assembly for Wales as respects Wales,
cycle" has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Act 1988, local traffic authority" has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, motor vehicle" means a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads, and road" has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

(9) Regulations under this section shall be made by statutory instrument and may make different provision for different cases or areas.

(10) A statutory instrument containing regulations made by the Secretary of State under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.")

Mr. Hill

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

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendment No. 122.

Mr. Hill

Both the amendments are new clauses. One deals with quiet lanes and home zones, and the other with rural road speed limits. Both were introduced by the Government in response to Liberal Democrat amendments that were withdrawn.

Amendment No. 121 will give legal status to the concepts of quiet lanes and home zones, by enabling local traffic authorities to designate them. It will then give the appropriate national authority power to make regulations which, in turn, will enable local traffic authorities to make two new types of order in quiet lanes and home zones: use orders and speed orders. The appropriate national authorities are the Secretary of State in England and the National Assembly for Wales.

Use orders will be particularly valuable in home zones, because they will give legal status to uses of the road for purposes other than the traditional one of "passing and repassing"—for example, purposes such as children's play, or simply standing around and talking. Safeguards will ensure that rights of passage, and access to premises, are protected.

Speed orders will enable the local traffic authority to introduce measures in individual quiet lanes and home zones to reduce traffic speeds below levels specified in the orders.

The amendment does not provide for pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders to be given formal precedence over motor vehicles, which was included in the Liberal Democrat amendment. The Government have thought carefully about that and I am glad to say that we are entirely at one with the Liberal Democrats on the objective, but we believe that it can be achieved within the existing law. We would not want to duplicate existing provisions.

Amendment No. 122—the rural road hierarchy clause—is less complex. However, I believe that it embraces the essence of the amendment tabled by the Liberal Democrats. The clause commits the Secretary of State to undertake a review of all the considerations required to implement the rural road hierarchy, to engage the devolved Administrations and to publish a report within 12 months.

Mr. Brake

I am obviously disappointed that the Government have not chosen to allow precedence to be given to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders. However, I seek clarification on one aspect of the amendment. Am I right in thinking that the Secretary of State will be required to authorise each home zone scheme? I hope that the Minister will confirm that that is not the case because it would be extremely impractical.

Mr. Drew

I very much welcome the changes. Believe it or not, the subject of speed is the hottest topic in my neck of the woods. Next week, as I seem to do every week, I shall meet constituents to talk about speeding, which is a nuisance in their lives and threatens, in particular, younger people.

I am concerned about the need for strategic planning to make the most effective use of home zones, speed control and changes in use. Does my hon. Friend agree that that should be categorically stated in local transport plans and the partnership agreements that arise from them? Does he also agree that we should be making it clear to local authorities that they have an obligation not just to roll such schemes forward one at a time, but to ensure that there is cohesion and definite strategic thinking as regards their operation?

Mr. Don Foster

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) in welcoming the amendments, and thank the Minister for generously acknowledging that they are based on amendments that were proposed by my noble Friends in another place.

It is fair, therefore, that I should pay tribute to the Government, and I acknowledge that they have already provided the opportunity for a number of home zone schemes to take place on a trial basis. It is interesting that the Government have agreed to the schemes taking place on a wider basis before we have had the results of the trials. Will the Minister say how those trials are proceeding?

Does the Minister agree that one problem is that local authorities have not given adequate attention to preparing the public for the introduction of home zones? They have not done enough to get the signs right to ensure that people can find their way around the areas covered by the schemes. Will he ensure that the Department provides advice on that to local authorities?

Has the Minister had an opportunity to see the recent work in Bradford? The local authority has introduced new speed limits as part of a home zone-type scheme. I was extremely impressed, as I am sure he would be, to see that it has not only used the traditional 20 mile-an-hour sign with a red circle around it, but—for whatever reason and by whatever authority I know not—ensured that the signs include illustrations by local school children of the benefits of cars travelling at slow speeds. If the Minister is not aware of that scheme, will he find out about it and let me and other interested Members know by what authority Bradford did that, so that I can at least get my local authority legally to pick up what is a very good idea?

Mr. Hill

I shall begin by responding to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake). He asked for confirmation that each home zone would not require authorisation by the Secretary of State. That is the case. The Secretary of State will need to authorise use orders and speed orders, but not home zones as such.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) asked about strategic direction in the planning of home zones. He is absolutely right to identify local transport plans as the appropriate vehicle for the development and proposal of home zones. We certainly expect home zones and quiet lanes to be included in local transport plans where appropriate. By way of anecdote, I had a meeting recently with Wiltshire county council, which has some very exciting proposals for quiet lanes as part of its local transport plans. We shall certainly consider my hon. Friend's suggestion that we might include some guidance on the matter. At the moment, however, we do not insist on either the inclusion of home zones and quiet lanes in local transport plans, or a strategic plan on the matter.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) for his kind words on this subject. He is perfectly right; I think that there are 11 pilot home zones at the moment. He asked how they were going. The home zone in my constituency, which I hasten to add was designated prior to my elevation to this high office, is not going at all, and I am bearing down on my local authority on the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mrs. Brinton), who as we all know has been a great proponent of home zones, was telling me that the one in Peterborough at least is going splendidly. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall be following up his reminder that one needs to track progress of home zones.

I shall certainly follow up the hon. Gentleman's suggestions about signs in Bradford. He asked by what authority Bradford had engaged in what sounds like a splendid initiative—especially the involvement of local schoolchildren. I shall write to him on the subject. I suspect that his point that the public are often not prepared for home zones is right, but that is of course the purpose of pilot schemes. We shall be garnering the experiences of the pilot schemes and, I dare say, providing advice in due course.

I am delighted that we have been able to conclude our proceedings on such a note of joy and unanimity.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 122 to 235 agreed to.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to their amendments Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 31: Mr. Robert Ainsworth, Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Mr. Phil Hope, and Mr. Robert Syms to be members of the Committee; Mr. Nick Raynsford to be the Chairman of the Committee; Three to be the quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reasons for disagreeing to certain Lords amendments reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.