HL Deb 04 May 2004 vol 660 cc179-236GC

(Fourth Day)

Tuesday, 4 May 2004.

The Committee met at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) in the Chair.]

Clause 72 [Power to require authority to apply for civil enforcement powers]:

On Question, Whether Clause 72 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

My noble friend Lord Bradshaw gave notice that we intended to oppose the Question that this clause should stand part of the Bill. I should say at this point that that is not because we have any particular problem with the clause, rather that it provides us with an opportunity to raise the issue of a situation that has developed and which could be addressed in the Bill. I refer to the question of the enforcement of emission standards under clean air legislation.

The current position is that local authority officers, who are usually environmental health officers, are responsible for testing vehicles and enforcing standards, but they do not have the power to stop vehicles. That must be done by the police with regard to the private car, although officers of the relevant vehicle standards unit can stop lorries and buses. We should like to see this anomaly addressed.

It is certainly the case that, with reduced police availability to undertake this sort of work, the numbers of vehicles being pulled over is quite low. This situation could well get worse once the Bill is enacted. As we move into the civilianisation of certain areas, it is even less likely that the police will be available to stop vehicles they think are guilty of breaking the clean air legislation. Those are the reasons why we oppose the Question.

Viscount Astor

While I am sympathetic to the idea of emissions testing, I am not sure I am sympathetic to the argument put forward by the noble Baroness. It is my experience that, when an emissions test is undertaken, usually it is sited somewhere most inconvenient for the rest of the traffic. Either it is done during the rush hour or it is set up so that it causes a traffic jam. That happens when the police are there; God knows what would happen if they were not there. The idea seems to be that local authority officials should be able to stop the traffic whenever and wherever they wanted. That would, I think, immediately create conflict with the traffic manager and so forth. Strict rules would have to govern the arrangement.

Unless I can be persuaded otherwise, I am in favour of ensuring that the police are responsible for stopping traffic while local authority officers undertake the emissions tests. We shall otherwise end up with even more snarled-up traffic, which is not the purpose of the Bill.

Lord Berkeley

I am in a muddle over this because I had thought that the Vehicle Inspectorate could not stop lorries; the police have to do so. The noble Baroness has put me right on that point.

Has my noble friend seen the press reports published over the past few days concerning the police's feat that the Bill may reduce the number of policemen allowed on traffic duties to such an extent that it will affect their ability to stop cars and thereby apprehend criminals? There are problems here which need 10 be addressed. I would have no problem with local authority officials stopping any vehicle if they felt that it was contravening emissions regulations. To be frank, they do not do it at the moment because they cannot do so, and I do not believe that the police do it very much in any case. That is a line that we have taken throughout the Bill. I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend says in response.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

The role of civil enforcement officers appointed under Clause 73 will be confined to the enforcement of traffic contraventions that are subject to civil enforcement by virtue of Clause 70. There is no question of them being empowered to stop vehicles. Clause 75(4), which deals with the notification of penalty charges, states that regulations may not confer power to stop vehicles.

Parliament recently concluded that civilians should be allowed to stop vehicles on the road only in very limited circumstances. The issue was considered in connection with the Police Reform Act 2002. Among other things, this gave chiefs of police the ability to authorise certain officials in the Department for Transport to stop vehicles. These officials are in the department's Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, and they can stop vehicles only for the purposes of checking roadworthiness documentation. In theory, VOSA officials could stop vehicles on behalf of local authorities. However, the practical fact of the matter is that they have their own tasks to perform. There would be limited scope for them to assist authorities. Therefore authorities will have to rely on the police to assist with roadside emissions testing.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley raised the question of reduced police activity due to the Bill. The Bill should not reduce enforcement of criminal activity by the police. Precise allocation of resources is for chief constables. One of the reasons for civil enforcement is that the police do not have the resources to do this properly.

Lord Bradshaw

I thank the Minister for that reply but I think that, to some extent, he is putting his head in the sand. In fact, things are moving apace. Consultation is going on with the police authorities about the future role of the police. It is quite clear in that—this emanates from the Prime Minister's office—that the role of the police in traffic enforcement is to be severely curtailed and transferred to local authorities.

I have no wish to see vehicles stopped where they will cause traffic jams, but, despite the misgivings of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, there are now devices available that can tell an environmental health officer which vehicles are causing emissions to rise well above statutory limits and therefore ought to be stopped for a full test to be undertaken while the vehicle is halted. There is no reason to halt the vehicle at a point where there will be a traffic jam. The device that picks out the vehicle could be placed where it is most convenient, and the vehicle could then be stopped further along the road where the test can be done without causing congestion.

I accept, of course, that the purpose of the Bill is to reduce congestion, and one does not wish to add to it. However, the Government have passed clean air legislation and introduced a Bill—I think it is the London Local Authorities Bill, which is in the list of Bills awaiting Royal Assent—which contained a clause that allowed the stopping of vehicles. That clause was deleted because it was opposed by one Member in the House of Commons, and in order to get the Bill through, the Government left the clause out. Furthermore, in some parts of London chiefs of police are telling local authorities that they will not make police constables available for vehicle testing.

On the one hand, there is an Act that requires a local authority to have a clean air area and to enforce it, and on the other hand there is a set of circumstances that mean that it is extremely unlikely, but not theoretically impossible, to enforce that. Bearing in mind that local authorities get very little money from enforcing Clean Air Act regulations, I press the Minister to reconsider the matter and tell us on Report how he intends that we should enforce this legislation. My submission to the Committee is that we have unenforceable legislation, and the Government are making no provision for enforcement. Indeed, they are introducing more legislation to take the police further away from this area than they are at present.

Clause 72 agreed to.

Clause 73 [Civil enforcement officers]:

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

moved Amendment No. 118C: Page 44, line 2. leave out "guidance" and insert "guidelines The noble Lord said: This government amendment substitutes "guidelines" for "guidance" in Clause 73(3)(a). It provides that enforcing authorities must ensure that civil enforcement officers wear uniforms that accord with guidelines issued by the appropriate national authority.

Use of the term "guidelines" is intended to reflect the fact that authorities will not have a completely free hand in respect of determining the form of officers' uniforms. The requirements of the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales as to the form of uniforms will amount to a direction to authorities about the form of uniforms rather than merely constituting recommendations. The current requirement is that uniforms should identify officers as parking attendants and the authority for which they are working and that uniforms should have unique serial numbers to identify officers.

The use of the term "guidelines" ties in with the wording of the government amendments to Schedule 9 tabled in response to the report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. It is felt that "guidelines" conveys the stipulations in Clause 73(3)(a) and paragraph 8 of Schedule 9 better than the word "guidance", which has the connotation of simple advice. It is a small amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 119: Page 44, line 12, leave out paragraph (b). The noble Viscount said: This is a probing amendment. I am unclear about how wide is the authority given to a parking attendant by Clause 73(5)(b). The clause refers to, other road traffic contraventions for which they are the enforcement authority". It is not clear why that is not covered in paragraph (a). I should like the Minister to elucidate what that means. I beg to move.

Viscount Goschen

My name—or a version thereof—is attached to the amendment. My noble friend is probing the Government in order to gain a little more information. We are at a serious point in the Bill. The Committee highlighted the wide concern about the role of these officers and the proliferation of uniformed, perhaps pseudo-police, bodies.

Clause 73 refers to civil enforcement officers, who can enforce the law as described in this part. It appears that the Government intend that the contracted-out traffic officers—parking attendants, as they are at the moment—will be able to issue notices to motorists in connection with offences that they might have committed.

My concern is, first, that there would be a proliferation of uniformed pseudo-police bodies and that there would be confusion in the public's mind about who has what power. For example, I do not know what the powers are of the community support officers whom we see on our streets and whether they can stop vehicles. The Minister made it clear that he thought that civilians should be able to stop vehicles only in very limited circumstances. I presume that for this purpose parking attendants are civilians, albeit in uniform.

I am concerned about the operating practices of many civil parking attendants, particularly in London. I am sure that they are very admirable individuals, but the practices with which they are tasked are predatory and a degree of entrapment is involved. I do not think that these bodies have much to do with controlling parking. Such bodies are tasked with revenue generation more than with ensuring that traffic flow is not affected by illegally parked vehicles.

The Government got themselves into a good deal of hot water about speed cameras, having them placed at points that had little to do with accident black spots and more to do with catching motorists and generating considerable revenue. I am not against contracted-out parking attendants per se; I am against the current low level of control over how officers operate. I fear that, by tasking them to enforce traffic regulations, the Government could open a can of worms that could lead to a diminution of the authority of officers who enforce traffic regulations. I have visions of gangs of attendants on street corners trying to catch motorists turning right where they should not do so, for example. If motorists should not turn right, it is right that those who do should be caught; but if officers are driven to hit targets, I am not sure that motorists will feel fairly treated. We have seen a significant rise in the number of parking tickets issued by such bodies. I am concerned that the same would happen in traffic enforcement and that the authority of the police would be reduced.

We have been told and given notes to indicate that little discretion should be involved in those offences—that they should be "Yes/No"-type offences. However, the same should apply to parking offences, and we know the enormous amount of correspondence and appeals generated in that field.

I ask the Minister to give the Committee some comfort that he can see that there is significant concern about the practices operated by parking attendants, particularly in London. I should like to hear how he envisages parking attendants' involvement in issuing penalty charges against motorists who contravene road regulations.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Borrie

The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, has raised some important points. With as controversial an element in the community as parking attendants, it is hardly surprising that such concerns have not been voiced. Parking attendants do an incredibly difficult job. I believe that most of them, most of the time, do it well. I am a motorist and a pedestrian, and I can see that much controversy arises when individual motorists feel that they have been unfairly dealt with when they have contravened the regulations by only a few minutes. Given that parking attendants have generally done a good job for a fair amount of time, it seems sensible that they should be at least part of the corps of people who will have the wider task of enforcement rather than creating afresh an entirely new corps.

Viscount Goschen

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. Why is a new corps of any description required? Why can not the police continue to undertake that function?

Lord Borrie

I am sure that the Minister will have a better answer than I do, but I believe that it is on the general ground that such relatively minor matters can be dealt with by people who do not receive the training, get the pay or bear the responsibilities of police officers. There is a justification for having an extra corps of people who, at the moment, do the job of a parking attendant but could take on additional tasks.

The Government and the public are concerned about anti-social behaviour generally. Sadly, we do not often see police officers on the streets, so the presence on our streets of somebody in authority with a uniform on is a good idea. I suppose that the guidance to which the Minister referred in respect of the previous amendment will ensure that the uniform they wear will have a different label on it from that worn by parking attendants because they will have those wider responsibilities—so much the better. If their presence has a deterrent influence on anti-social behaviour, that will be a beneficial outcome.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

The amendment raises some fundamental issues. I must be frank and say that I am struggling to understand the logic of the noble Viscount's argument. I have the highest regard for him, but the logic of his argument defeats me.

One ought to consider first principles. First, we should consider whether any traffic restrictions anywhere are necessary. I think that we would all agree that we must have restrictions on traffic, whether in the form of parking controls, speed limits, "No right turn" signs or whatever. That brings us to the second point: once we have the restrictions, need we enforce them? Self-evidently, we do; otherwise, people would simply ignore them.

Once we are agreed on that, the next step is to ask by whom the restrictions should be enforced. One has two choices. There is a wonderful, simple logic in saying that, for the purposes of clarity, there should be one uniformed service that undertakes the whole range of policing tasks, including traffic policing and enforcement. However, the truth is that we do not have enough police officers. They are very skilled, highly trained and cost a lot. There is an argument that it is not a sensible use of highly trained officers' time to use them to enforce "No right turn" signs or parking restrictions. Once we decide that, in the interests of efficiency, such work is not the best use of their time, we must ask ourselves whom we should get to do the job.

The last point is how such things should be enforced. It is interesting to note that the local authorities who receive most opprobrium for over-zealous enforcement of things such as parking restrictions are, in the main, the most efficient. They were the early outsourcers of services and have developed a market-based approach. I think, for example, of Westminster, which was a pioneer in outsourcing services. It has highly developed systems for subcontracting and uses incentives to get the best value for money for local council tax payers.

We cannot have it both ways. If we think that that system works for the bins and for cleaning the pavements, we must accept that it will also work for parking. We cannot expect contractors to be highly efficient about pavements and bins but ask them to cut us a bit of slack on parking. We cannot have it both ways. We must think carefully, from first principles, while considering the amendment.

Lord Rotherwick

Does the noble Baroness accept what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said: that a lot of traffic violations are caused by criminals or people who are the most likely to commit criminal offences? Statistics tend to bear that out. So in fact, having a police officer to police menial left and right turns would be most beneficial, because the chances are that they will also pick up on those criminals. Unfortunately, other enforcement officers would be unable to do so.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

The noble Viscount—

Lord Rotherwick

I am not a Viscount.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

I do apologise. The noble Lord is right and I do not disagree with him, but we live in the real world and there simply are not enough police officers to undertake the work that most people want them to do, even without dealing with right turns, whether or not they involve the criminal fraternity. In theory, I accept the noble Lord's point, but in practice it simply will not happen. Those offences will not be enforced.

Lord Rotherwick

I am sorry to keep butting in, but perhaps the noble Baroness would accept that since 1997 we have lost 12.5 per cent of our traffic officers. Perhaps we should return to the provision that we had in 1997, so that we would be able to do that.

Lord Berkeley

This is an interesting discussion. I believe that there is a serious shortage of police officers, but I also believe that, as the noble Baroness said, we live in the real world which will not be changed overnight. My noble friend Lord Borrie mentioned anti-social behaviour. Let us not forget that turning right where a sign says that you cannot or stopping in a yellow box is just as anti-social as other such behaviour. If you are caught doing that, you deserve to be apprehended by whoever.

It is easy to say that motorists are a separate class of people and that we should let them get away with parking and turning right. Everyone is in the same boat here: if you disobey the law, you deserve to get punished.

Viscount Simon

A few random thoughts occur to me about traffic officers and the reduction in their numbers. I would like to return to the numbers that we had on patrol in 1990. Between 1990 and 2000, the number fell by 50 per cent, which is one hell of a lot. Returning to turning right where you should not, yes, that is an offence; yes, a police officer could deal with it; yes, he could detect whether that person had committed any further criminal offences. Police traffic officers generally have very high arrest rates compared with the total for non-traffic offences. That should never be forgotten.

Targets, which have already been mentioned, also concern me. I am led to believe that one local authority not far from here gives its traffic wardens, or whatever we call them—parking attendants—a Vauxhall Nova as a prize, one might say, for achieving their targets. I find that incredible. Whether it is true, I do not know, but it has been reported in the newspapers—reputable newspapers at that.

Civil staff have the power to control turning right, but they have discretion. One point on which I would pick up the noble Viscount concerns speed cameras. If someone is turning right, the civil staff have discretion. The speed camera has no discretion. If you are committing a criminal offence or exceeding the speed limit, it will catch you, full stop.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I have enjoyed listening to the debate; I thought that I might not have to respond. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, wants elucidation and the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, wants reassurance. I hope to give both, but would like to say how grateful I was for the contributions from my noble friends Lord Borrie and Lord Berkeley and the noble Baroness, Lady Scott. I agree with everything that they said.

Clause 73 enables an enforcement authority to appoint civil enforcement officers to undertake the enforcement of traffic contraventions. A civil enforcement officer may be employed either directly by the authority or by a person undertaking enforcement powers pursuant to a contractual arrangement with the authority—which presumably means a contractor.

When parking regulations made under the Bill are brought into force in a given area, existing parking attendants become civil enforcement officers for the purpose of enforcing parking contraventions by virtue of subsection (5)(a) of Clause 73. By removing paragraph (b) of subsection (5), Amendment No. 119 would prevent enforcing authorities appointing existing parking attendants as civil enforcement officers in relation to other traffic contraventions for which they are the enforcement authority.

So an authority would have to make new civil enforcement officer appointments—the nightmare scenario—for the purpose of enforcing other traffic contraventions, rather than being able to draw on its pool of existing enforcement staff. That is not an efficient use of an authority's resources, as I think the Committee would agree. The main task of civil enforcement officers will be to issue penalty charges for parking contraventions. However, we wish to enable civil enforcement officers to be given a role that goes beyond enforcing parking contraventions to the enforcement of moving traffic contraventions that are subject to civil enforcement.

The best current example of this is found under the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003. A special team of officers enforces the London night-time and weekend lorry ban. We want to ensure that that can continue when regulations made under the Bill to enforce the London lorry ban replace the 2003 Act powers. Depending on what we learn from the pilots to begin in London next month, we would not want to rule out civil enforcement officers having a role in enforcing other moving traffic contraventions.

I agree that if existing parking attendants are to undertake other enforcement duties, it is important that they are properly trained for the task. Responsibility for ensuring proper training will rest with enforcing authorities. But we should not preclude existing parking attendants from taking on other enforcement duties.

A number of points were raised in the debate to which I shall attempt to reply. The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, was worried about the proliferation of police-type bodies rushing around, acting entrepreneurially and trying to raise money for the authority. As I said, civil enforcement officers will not be able to stop vehicles. Government Amendment No. 124F will introduce statutory guidance over civil enforcement. That will include matters of training, supervision and such like, to ensure that parking and other enforcement tasks are carried out fairly and, most important, consistently.

The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, was concerned about the ability of contracted-out civil enforcement officers to issue penalty charges and the low level of control over those officers. Contracted-out parking attendants already issue parking penalty charge notices. Existing parking attendants will not be able automatically to enforce other traffic contraventions without being specifically appointed for that purpose by the enforcing authority.

As I said, I welcome the comment of my noble friend Lord Borrie that most parking attendants are doing a good job in incredibly difficult circumstances—we shall come to further discussion about parking attendants later. We want to bring the performance of all of them up to the highest possible standard. On uniforms, they will be distinguished from the police. The guidelines will make that absolutely clear.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, is concerned about enforcement by police officers rather than any other type of officer. The Bill does not prevent the police stopping vehicles that are, for example, disobeying a ban on right turns, in the course of which they may pick up some criminals. Why criminals would turn right against a sign I do not know—if I were a smart criminal, I would not.

4 p.m.

Viscount Goschen

Before the Minister dismisses the point made by my noble friend, he should note that this is a serious matter. If he were to ask the police about the number of bank robbers who have been picked up because they were driving without their lights on and so forth, they would respond that it is considerable. The Madrid bombers, for example, were picked up by the Spanish police as the result of a motoring offence and it is a great tragedy that they slipped through the net. However, this is an important point. Criminals guilty of far more serious crimes have often been caught out by the most minor motoring offences.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I did not know that and I am grateful to the noble Viscount. However, the reality is that the police do not have the resources to undertake all the traffic enforcement that is now necessary, a point explained so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott. I hope that, with all the information in my response and our lengthy debate before I rose to speak, this amendment can be withdrawn.

Viscount Astor

Before I reply to the noble Lord. I have one brief question to put to him. Is it the Government's intention that parking wardens will be able to enforce bus lane restrictions?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I am advised that the answer to that question is no and that most of the enforcement of bus lanes will be done by the use of traffic cameras.

Lord Berkeley

Surely it is only logical that a parking warden walking alongside a bus lane who sees a car parked in it should be able to issue a ticket. If he cannot do so, that is ridiculous. He should be able to contribute to the effort to keep traffic moving, which is the whole point of the exercise.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

We are distinguishing between moving traffic in bus lanes and parked vehicles. At the moment, traffic wardens can of course issue tickets for parked cars, but cannot issue a ticket to a moving vehicle. However, I think that the traffic camera, which we shall discuss in a later amendment, will be extraordinarily valuable in dealing with the problem of bus lane infringements.

Lord Berkeley

I am sorry to delay my noble friend. The point reached by a vehicle when half way between moving along and parking is when it has stopped in a bus lane. It may have stopped because the traffic in front has stopped moving. Having done so, he does not then need the police to stop him because he has already stopped moving. Under those circumstances, why should not the warden issue the driver with a ticket?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

Perhaps I am a little out of my depth, but if you are illegally in a bus lane and not moving along as the result of a traffic jam, you would not imagine that a traffic warden could leap out and issue a ticket just before you move on. That is because the nature of traffic jams means that cars slow down and then move on. One can imagine traffic wardens running along beside the vehicle while trying to write out a ticket.

We are positing the idea that a car is either moving or not moving and we feel that we have the necessary legal infrastructure in place to deal with both those possibilities.

Viscount Astor

I had thought that my question about bus lanes might be a small elephant trap, but I did not realise that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, would run so satisfactorily headfirst into it. If, as I did this morning, you arrive at Paddington station and then sit right at the front on the top of the No. 36 bus, you have rather a good view. While going down Park Lane, it is clear that at all the places where one can legally turn left, one has to enter and cross the bus lane to do so. There are no gaps in the bus lane. A traffic warden could quite easily stand at one of those junctions and issue hundreds of tickets, saying, "You went into the bus lane". Even more simply, should one bring one's car to your Lordships' House and try to enter via Black Rod's Garden, you find that you have to cross a bus lane to do so. So what a joy it would be for traffic wardens. We know that they watch meters until the very end of the time and pounce. We know that they are incentivised by large bonuses. One can see total chaos. The argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, does not stand up at all. It would produce utter chaos.

This group of amendments is just the beginning of my general rant against traffic wardens. Members of the Committee may detect a theme emerging throughout the afternoon. However, the Minister was somewhat helpful. I am concerned about training. At the end of the day, that is the important thing. All of us want the law enforced but we want it enforced fairly and reasonably. One of the problems in London is that it is not enforced fairly and reasonably. If any noble Lord opposite doubts me, I recommend that he read Kate Hoey's article that appeared in the Evening Standard on Friday. It described the situation brilliantly.

One of the problems that have aggravated the situation is that the appeals mechanism does not work properly. Adjudicators are allowed to adjudicate on only a very narrow set of terms and circumstances and are not allowed to take other matters into consideration. It makes life incredibly difficult. The other day I had the experience of trying to make an appeal, and it was impossible to get information out of the council in order to make the appeal work. One cannot do it. One cannot find out, apart from a number, who the traffic warden was, and there is no way of getting the council to give evidence to an adjudicator. The system does not work.

If the system is to work it must command the respect of the motorist. That is the most important thing. Justice must be seen to be done. That is what we are all trying to do. The Minister was helpful in his reply but he has just started the process. If we are to involve traffic wardens in "moving traffic contraventions" we must ensure that training and guidance are given. We will return to that matter on a later amendment.

Viscount Goschen

I get the sense that my noble friend is about to withdraw his amendment, but, before he does that, I have a question to ask the Minister and one comment to make to the noble Baroness. Lady Scott, whose kind words I reciprocate with interest.

Viscount Astor

I thought that she was referring to me.

Viscount Goschen


The noble Baroness might be sore if she were stopped in her car for speeding—I am sure that she speeds regularly, because only about 0.25 per cent of motorists do not—while travelling at 31 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone, by a policeman who was financially incentivised to stop as many people as possible and got £20 for each motorist caught for travelling at over 30 miles per hour. That is my point. Over-aggressive, over-zealous enforcement causes a problem. If civilian officers doing what was previously the work of the police are financially incentivised to catch every person possible, regardless of whether it is a serious matter, it will lead to problems. My question to the Minister flows from that: will such civil enforcement officers be permitted to be financially incentivised to issue penalty notices?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I shall try to answer two of the questions asked. I gather that there is an essential legal difference between driving across a bus lane and driving down a bus lane. On the question of the incentivisation of parking attendants, I gather that this is a matter for discussion between local authorities and the contractors. That answer suggests to me that they will be incentivised to do their job effectively.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Bradshaw

Before the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, intercedes again, perhaps I may draw on some practical experience. First, parking attendants employed by my local authority are under the control of a retired police officer. He trains them to police standards. Secondly, when the local authority increased the hours worked by parking attendants to encompass the evening, the number of thefts from cars, which was a very serious number of offences, dropped dramatically. Parking attendants are in touch with a base station by radio that is, in turn, in touch with the police. Any observations of any sort of criminality are reported immediately to the police, who come and take action accordingly.

So there is not just a downside. There are a lot more pairs of eyes and boots walking around the streets than there were previously, keeping down disorderly behaviour, thefts from motor cars, damage to motor cars and other things that equally irritate the motorist. That shows that this policy is beneficial and necessary at a time when there is a shortage of police officers.

I am a member of a police authority. It takes a year to train a policeman, with a further two years in which he is abstracted from duty regularly to complete that training. However, we can train a parking attendant in about eight weeks. We also have to recruit people to a high standard of youth and fitness as policemen or policewomen, whereas parking attendants can be much older. They can be physically disabled and otherwise useful. I am not saying that they should not conform to a standard, but the doors would be opened to a much wider range of participants.

Viscount Simon

The noble Lord mentioned eight weeks' training. I understand that in certain areas of the country, training can be for as little as four weeks, but mostly six weeks.

Lord Bradshaw

It may be.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I do not want this to turn into a question-and-answer session, but I should like to tell the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, that the British Parking Association is preparing some model contracts, which we hope will prevent those problems. We acknowledge that there are problems of inappropriate financial incentives.

Viscount Astor

I should bring the debate on this amendment to a close. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, says. However, I hope that he will accept also that there are problems, particularly in London. Indeed, those problems have now been admitted by Westminster council, which is to have a period of reassessing and retraining. We will turn to that later.

The problems are training and flexibility. If we find that traffic wardens are using their powers just to catch people—for example, if there is an argument about whether a driver crossed a bus lane or whether he entered it in order to turn left, and so forth—it will not work. We will then end up in a bigger mess than we are in at the moment. It is very important that we get it right. We shall return to that theme as we get further into this part of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 73, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 74 agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Civil enforcement: setting the level of charges]:

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 119A: Page 82, line 34, leave out "for different contraventions, The noble Lord said: The amendments in this group will put into effect the recommendation of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform that guidance by the appropriate national authority on the level of charges to be set by enforcing authorities outside London should be included in an order. They amend paragraph 8 of Schedule 9. The opportunity has also been taken to tidy up minor drafting to ensure consistent wording between paragraphs 2(2) and 7(2) and the new paragraph 8(2), to be inserted by Amendment No. 119D.

We are satisfied that a power to make different provision for different contraventions is implied by the power to make different provision for different classes of case. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendments Nos. 119B to 119D: Page 82, line 35, leave out "other Page 82, line 39, leave out "accord with guidance given" and insert "(subject to sub-paragraph (3)) accord with guidelines appended to an order made Page 83, line I, leave out sub-paragraph (2) and insert— (2) Different guidelines may be given for different cases or classes of case. (3) An enforcement authority may, with the permission of the appropriate national authority, depart from any such guidelines.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 75 [Notification of penalty charge]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 120: Page 44, line 29, leave out paragraph (c).

The noble Viscount said: This is a probing amendment to find out the meaning of subsection (2)(c). Noble Lords will see from paragraph (a) that regulations may provide for notification of a penalty charge to be given in respect of a stationary vehicle, by a notice affixed to the vehicle", usually on the windscreen. We understand that. Paragraph (b) says that notification may be given to the person in charge of the vehicle. That is fairly simple. However, paragraph (c) says: in such other manner as may be specified by the regulations". What examples can the Government give of what they have in mind? Will notification be posted, after the number-plate of the vehicle has been checked out? Is there some other method? What do the Government mean by that paragraph? What things are they considering? I beg to move.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

Section 66 of the Road Traffic Act 1991 provides for parking penalty charge notices to be either fixed to the vehicle or handed to the person appearing to be in charge of it. In that case, the notices are issued by patrolling parking attendants where they find vehicles to be parked unlawfully.

London authorities have acquired the additional power to serve parking penalty charge notices on the basis of information provided by a camera. That requires the penalty charge notice to be served by post. London authorities have also acquired the power to serve a parking penalty charge notice by post where a parking attendant is prevented from issuing it in accordance with Section 66 of the 1991 Act. We want authorities outside London to have the same powers as the London authorities to serve a parking penalty charge notice by post and to use cameras for the detection of parking contraventions. We will use the regulation-making powers in paragraph (c) to that effect. The removal of paragraph (c) from subsection (2) of Clause 75, as proposed by Amendment No. 120, would prevent us doing that.

Parking attendants do a difficult job, and we should support them in their task. A UNISON survey of traffic wardens and parking attendants, carried out in 2001, revealed that 90 per cent of the 800 respondents had been subject to verbal or physical abuse in the previous 12 months. I am told that, in one case, an authority contemplated issuing its attendants with stab-proof vests. So, it is important that we should do all that we can to help parking attendants who might find themselves in threatening situations. They can, of course, be trained to handle such confrontations, but, in the last analysis, where a parking attendant is seeking to serve a penalty charge notice and is prevented from doing so because of threats, it is helpful to have the ability to issue the penalty charge notice by post.

That is the reason for the clause, and I invite the noble Viscount to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 75 agreed to.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market moved Amendment No. 121: After Clause 75, insert the following new clause—

"OBSCURED REGISTRATION MARK Where it appears that an offence has been committed under section 43 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 (c. 22) (obscured registration mark) and which inhibits the duties of a civil enforcement officer, the officer may take such steps necessary to identify the vehicle.

The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks clarification from the Government on an issue that has been brought to our attention; namely, that it is becoming a practice in certain parts of London for motorcyclists, in particular those from delivery firms, deliberately to cover up their number plates, using covers to do so. It appears that wardens, who have the power to issue notices, are unable to do so because they cannot ascertain the vehicle registration number and do not have the necessary powers to remove any covers to the number. Can the Government clarify the position because it is certainly relevant to other parts of the legislation? I beg to move.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

Obscuration of a vehicle registration plate is an offence by virtue of Section 43 of the Vehicle Excise Registration Act 1994. Prosecution is a matter for the police. A fine of up to £1,000 may be imposed on conviction. Civil enforcement of traffic contraventions depends on obtaining the vehicle registration details so that owners can be traced through the DVLA record.

We are aware of press reports from last year—indeed, I have to say that a friend has done this—of motorcycle couriers in London seeking to avoid parking penalty charges by covering their number plates. We understand from those reports that London authorities had advised parking attendants not to remove covers to determine vehicle registration details, fearing a vehicle owner could bring an action against them for trespass or damage. The most recent information we have is that these London authorities are now taking a more sensible view and parking attendants in London are removing covers to obtain registration details.

Nevertheless, I have listened carefully to what the noble Baroness has said. We would like to consider this matter further, take legal advice, and return to it at a later stage. Given that undertaking, I invite her to withdraw the proposed new clause.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 76 [Immobilisation of vehicle where penalty charge payable]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 122: Page 45, line 16, leave out paragraph (b). The noble Viscount said: This is another probing amendment which addresses the issue of clamping. The clause states that regulations may make provision for the fixing of a clamp or other device while it remains in the place it was found. It goes on to state, or … the moving of the vehicle to another place and the fixing of an immobilisation device to it in that other place".

I understand that cars can be clamped and, sometimes, subsequently lifted and moved. However, why do they need to be clamped once they reach a car pound? Presumably they are being kept in a secure area. Or, in this case, can the car be moved to an area that is not secure? Why is this provision necessary?

The amendment also gives me an opportunity to ask the Government about their views on unregulated clamping, that which is carried out on so-called private land. As we have seen, motorists have been caught out when parking in, say, a shop car park where no clear sign is displayed stating that the area is not public property. Cars are clamped by the local cowboy clampers and the motorists almost blackmailed with exorbitant charges to have their cars released. Do the Government think that this should happen? Do they believe that when people leave their cars for important reasons, they should suddenly be held hostage as the result of such behaviour? I can think of no other situation in which one's private property is held to ransom, as it were, on rather dubious grounds.

The problem is that there is no recourse. The long-suffering motorist has to pay and then he has to sue the clamping firm that did it, which turns out to be, as we have read in the press, the kind of outfit that has no known address and no proper directors. The motorist is stuck. I wonder whether this might be an opportunity for the Minister to consider the issue and say what the Government's view is. Although on this side of the House we have not put down an amendment on the subject yet, it is something that we will be considering. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss it with the Minister. I beg to move.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

Clause 76 will allow regulations to be made enabling the wheel clamping of vehicles which are unlawfully parked in civil enforcement areas. These powers are not new. Clause 76 replaces existing provisions in Sections 69 and 70 and parts of Section 77 of the Road Traffic Act 1991. As well as the penalty charge incurred for the parking contravention, the regulations may provide for the payment of a clamp release fee and any other unpaid penalty charges in respect of the vehicle. Clearly in the latter case it will be necessary to establish that the current owner is responsible for any unpaid penalty charges.

Amendment No. 122 would prevent regulations being made that would enable an unlawfully parked vehicle to he moved from the place where it was found to another place and to be clamped there. I have to say that when I first read the speaking notes my reaction was precisely the same as that of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. Admittedly this would probably happen on very rare occasions but the power has been included in the Bill for completeness. The power may be used in a situation where clamping a vehicle in the location where it was found would simply cause a continuing obstruction and where there was no pound to which to remove it. The vehicle would be removed to another part of the road, where it did not cause an obstruction, and clamped. I gather that this is a hypothetical case rather than something that is based on the reality of everyday motoring life.

The regulations will not compel enforcement authorities to immobilise unlawfully parked vehicles. They will provide enforcement authorities with an additional measure to deter unlawful parking, if they decide to use it. Immobilisation is a useful tool for dealing with people who persistently park wrongly or who habitually refuse to pay penalty charges and cannot be traced through the DVLA keeper record.

The noble Viscount raised the question of clamping on private land. I think that he started by saying, "If somebody with excellent reasons" had to park on private land. It would be interesting to know what those excellent reasons might be.

Viscount Astor

They might think that it is not private land, that it is a public space—for example, the parking area of a shop.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

In my experience, it is made absolutely clear that it is a private place. If one goes to a supermarket, it is made absolutely clear that the parking facilities there are for people who are using the supermarket. If a member of the public goes in, parks his car, goes off to the beach for the day and comes back and finds that he is clamped, I think that is perfectly reasonable.

Viscount Goschen

Is the Minister aware that there have been many examples of traps set by people who own a small piece of land near shops where notices saying that cars may be clamped are obscured by a large hedge or other such feature with the deliberate intention of catching vehicles, clamping them and getting exorbitant release fees? It has been very well documented, even if the Minister is not aware of it.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I am not aware of that, but I shall brief myself on the matter before Report. I have eight paragraphs on the Government's attitude to clamping on private land. It would probably be best to have a meeting before Report so that we could go through them. I hope that I can satisfy the noble Viscount that we have a reasonably enlightened policy.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. Perhaps he would be kind enough to outline in writing the essence of the eight paragraphs, as that would help us to have a meaningful meeting. My noble friend Lord Goschen raises an important point. I accept what he says about well-regulated, well-organised supermarkets and such places, but some motorists have parked in places where they clearly thought that parking was permitted and whereupon they have been held to ransom. Cases vary and include young mothers taking their children to the local surgery. There have been some terrible cases, so we must consider the matter carefully.

I will be able to accept the Minister's response to my amendment if he can give me one assurance. He said that in exceptional circumstances a local authority would have the power to clamp a car for whatever reason it decided, to take it not to a pound but elsewhere in the street or to a side street so that it was not an obstruction, and clamp it again. I understand that. I am not sure why the local authority would not take the vehicle to a pound, but perhaps it would have good reason. If that happened, when the unfortunate motorist returned to the street he would not find his car, because it would have been moved and clamped. Can we be assured in regulations or guidance that, when a motorist rings up a local authority to ask where his car is, it will not say, "I am very sorry, it is not in the pound"? A sensible approach is needed. Will the Minister consider that? Given that the costs mount every time a motorist does not get his car unclamped, a sensible process is needed whereby he can discover where the car is, if it is not in the pound, and can telephone to get it unclamped. I would be grateful to receive an answer now, but will be happy if the Minister wants to write to me before Report.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I have an answer now; whether the noble Viscount will be happy with it is another matter. A car is illegally parked; it is causing an obstruction. The parking attendant, only in liaison with the police, can arrange for the vehicle to be moved to a safer place, where it would not cause an obstruction, and to be clamped. As it is done in association with the police, they will have a record of it for the, in my view not unfortunate, motorist who returns after having parked his or her car on a triple yellow line or wherever. We are talking about parking in a dangerous place, from where the vehicle must be removed to prevent an accident. The returning motorist will have to telephone the police to find out what has happened to his car; he will be told where it is; and, having paid the unclamping fee, he can collect it.

Viscount Astor

The Minister makes an important point. It is all very well to discuss the situation in the abstract and to say that a car will be moved elsewhere only if it causes a dangerous obstruction. However, as we all know from previous circumstances, once the Bill becomes an Act, everybody will use the maximum power that they have in the minimum of circumstances. That is why it is important that Parliament always considers whether there should be checks and balances in how we define our legislation. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 122A: Page 45, line 49, leave out "if

The noble Lord said: Subsection (5) of clause 76 re-enacts Section 70 of the Road Traffic Act 1991, which restricts the clamping of vehicles in designated parking places. If a period of less than 15 minutes has elapsed since the expiry of the period of parking paid for, the vehicle may not be clamped.

It has been drawn to our attention by the Chief Parking Adjudicator for London that there is an anomaly in the present Section 70 of the Road Traffic Act 1991, which has been carried through into subsection (5). Sometimes a driver may buy, but fail to display as required, a ticket to show that he has paid to park his vehicle in a pay and display bay. By failing to display the ticket, he incurs a penalty charge and the vehicle may subsequently be clamped. However, if the vehicle is clamped before 15 minutes after the time paid for has elapsed, the clamping is rendered unlawful by the present drafting of Section 70. In authorising the clamping the parking attendant could not have known that less than 15 minutes had elapsed because the ticket was not displayed. Nevertheless, if the driver proves this by subsequently producing the ticket that was not properly displayed, adjudicators have to order the refund of the declamping fee. In effect, the local authority bears the risk of the driver not displaying his ticket as required. That is the purport of the clause as it is now.

The effect of the amendments is to make clamping lawful when a pay and display ticket is not shown as required, even though less than 15 minutes has not elapsed beyond the period of parking paid for. I hope that that is clear and straightforward. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor

I am afraid that I am going to disappoint the Minister and not agree with the amendments. It seems to me that justice should basically mean that one is innocent until proven guilty. These amendments do not do that. There are many streets and squares in London where one can park and be prepared to go and find one's ticket and then find quite a few machines that simply do not work. Either they are broken or they gobble one's money and do not give one a ticket or for some reason one cannot get to them. If we pass the amendment, while one is in the process of looking for a machine, someone may come along and clamp one's car. It seems entirely reasonable that if one parks somewhere, one should not be able to be clamped within 15 minutes. Why should the motorist have to go and prove later on, after all the expense and inconvenience, that it is the fault of the local authority? We know that it is almost impossible ever to get local authorities to agree that they are at fault. In today's Evening Standard there is an article that says that in Marylebone one can get booked in 60 seconds. In this case, one will get clamped in 60 seconds. I am not yet persuaded by the legislation, because the onus should be that one is not clamped.

Clamping is a serious inconvenience to those who suffer it. I accept what the Minister says about strategic roads and dangerous places, and so on. However, he must accept that the majority of clamping takes place where the majority of wardens are most active—at meters, and places like that. To give them such a carte blanche power will simply increase the amount of clamping that goes on. I want parking wardens to deal with important aspects. I support the principle of having them, providing that they are well trained and organised and that they deal with the important routes in London to get the traffic flowing.

I am not convinced by the amendment. I am happy to have discussions with the Government between now and Report, and perhaps they will be able to convince me. However, it is not an amendment to which I could agree today.

Viscount Goschen

There may be few, perhaps, but they may be specific circumstances, in which my noble friend's arguments might well apply—for example, if one had to walk a considerable distance to find a machine that worked for pay and display. The article to which he referred showed what can happen. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, took the opportunity to talk about the real world, and what happens with local authorities and motorists. However, in the real world, people do feel that the clamping and ticketing regime is overly aggressive. I see the circumstances that my noble friend explained, and join him in being reluctant to accept the amendments at this stage. Perhaps the Minister will want to withdraw them and re-present them later.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I have actually been in a position when, having parked my car and gone off to get my ticket, I found two machines that were out of action. Then, having walked for about quarter of a mile, I found that I had a parking ticket when I came back to the car. I phoned the council immediately, told them about the situation and the ticket was withdrawn. The incident was inconvenient in that it required me to make a phone call, but the council was incredibly apologetic about the fact that I was in an area where two out of the three machines were not working.

We are dealing with cases in which a ticket has been bought but not displayed. When ticket machines are not working, representations can be made to the authority to cancel any penalty or clamping charge. The problem with parking attendants is that we all have our own stories. I have found them very reasonable and helpful. Of course, they have done me when I have parked illegally—but we always remember only the bad cases. The one awful thing that happened to me once, although it was not really awful, was that I was ticketed outside my house in London at 8.31 a.m. That is one incident that I remember. If my analyst or someone talks to me about traffic wardens, I remember that one case. However, we forget about the enormously important job that they do and the number of times when it is a fair cop, when they have done people for illegal parking.

The issue is extraordinarily emotive and ultimately, as individuals, we shall have to beg to disagree with each other, while the Government do their best to introduce rational and comprehensible regulations that we can all understand.

Viscount Astor

The Minister gave a very valid exposition of what happened to him. However, the point is that in those circumstances, when he got a ticket, he had a mobile telephone, was able to ring up and was able to get it cancelled. If this amendment goes through, under those very same circumstances, the car would be clamped. That is the difference. It might be the car of someone who did not have a mobile telephone, it might be the car of someone collecting a child from school, for example. In those circumstances, I do not believe that the car should be clamped immediately, as would happen under the Minister's amendment. That is a theme that I shall follow shortly, under the next amendment. In circumstances such as I described, it is entirely reasonable that the car should not be clamped for 15 minutes.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes)

Is the Minister seeking to press or to withdraw the amendment?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I am seeking to press the amendment, but I undertake to have conversations and discussions—

Viscount Goschen

The Minister may want to get some guidance on this matter. I know that we do not have Divisions in Grand Committee, but I am not content with his amendment, although I clearly do not want to breach the procedures. I am sure that the Minister will have an opportunity to present his amendments again at a later stage.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

It is perfectly possible to press the amendment. If, however, there is disagreement, the amendment cannot stand.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

It will come as no surprise, then, that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 122E and 122C not moved.]

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 122D: Page 46, line 7, at end insert—— (iv) not more than 15 minutes have elapsed since the issue of a parking ticket, or notification of a penalty charge; and

The noble Viscount said: This amendment is in a similar vein to our previous discussion, so I can be brief. Again, it concerns clamping. I feel strongly that clamps should not be fitted immediately after a ticket has been issued. That is wrong. That happened to me the other day. I got a ticket and, bang, two minutes later, a clamp appeared just as I was going to get the keys of the car to move it. I accept that I should have got the ticket, but it seemed to me that clamping was being done rather gleefully as a money-raising exercise, not to benefit sensible parking policy.

There are plenty of reasons why people occasionally run just over the time on their meter. In that case, it seems fair that they get a ticket, but the idea of being immediately clamped does not make sense. We are talking about traffic movement. One is often held up in the street by a clamping lorry going past in a residential area. I accept what any Member of the Committee says about clamping in streets that are important thoroughfares, but we must have a sensible policy. My amendment is intended to introduce a degree of sense to the clamping issue. I beg to move.

Lord Rotherwick

I support my noble friend, Viscount Astor—I say that just in case anyone else gets our names muddled up, as they frequently have. The Evening Standard article headlined, "Booked in 60 seconds", shows clearly that a ticket can be issued—in this case, by a parking warden—within a minute or three, five, nine, 10 or 14 minutes. However, as the Minister pointed out, while doing his best to put a ticket on his car, he had to walk a quarter of a mile. I am sure that he is very fit and probably scampered down the pavement in a few minutes, but if he was not I hope that he would accept that it could have taken him four or five minutes to do that. However, having been ticketed in less than four or five minutes, he could be clamped straight afterwards. I suggest that that is too unfair and that one has to give a little more leeway. Otherwise, without doing anything wrong and while trying their best, people may be clamped.

Viscount Goschen

Briefly, I support my noble friend. We must consider what clamping is for and whether it makes the problem worse. If we are really concerned about the movement of traffic and if we stick a large metal triangle on the corner of a vehicle, it will not go anywhere very quickly. That is about punishment and raising revenue. I support the amendment.

Lord Borrie

I add only that it is a deterrent.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

Immobilisation is an additional measure over and above the penalty charge used by some enforcing authorities to deter unlawful parking. I underline the words, "unlawful parking". We are not talking about cars that are lawfully parked, but where the driver, unless he is deficient in some way, realises that he is unlawfully parked and is taking a risk in so doing. I have done it and got away with that risk and I am sure that other members of the Committee have done the same but we are talking about unlawful parking. That is the context that we must keep in mind. It is a useful tool to have in places such as central London where parking space is at a premium.

Clause 76(5) exempts from immobilisation vehicles displaying a current disabled person's badge—a blue badge. It also exempts from immobilisation vehicles where a parking charge has been paid and fewer than 15 minutes have elapsed since the end of the period paid for. So, someone who parks in an authorised parking space has 15 minutes' grace. The exemptions effectively re-enact Section 20 of the Road Traffic Act 1991.

People who park in a paid-for parking place may overstay their time. Although that is a contravention for which a penalty charge may be issued, it is appropriate to allow a short period of grace before the additional measure of immobilisation is brought into play. It is not possible, for clear reasons, to allow a period of grace where somebody knowingly parks where restrictions are in force. So, someone who has parked in a parking space will have 15 minutes' grace over their parking time. If they have parked illegally, taking a risk or not realising that they were parking on a yellow line, they will not get that period of grace.

Amendment No. 122D would generally prohibit the immobilisation of a vehicle until 15 minutes after a penalty charge notice for a parking contravention had been issued. The prohibition would apply to overstaying in a paid-for parking place and to other contraventions, such as parking on yellow lines during the hours of restriction. The amendment would override the 15-minute grace period already provided for in subsection (5) in respect of paid-for parking places. If, for example, the penalty charge notice were issued immediately after the initial 15-minute grace period, the grace period would be extended to half an hour. We cannot accept that, nor can we accept that someone should be given a period of grace from having their vehicle immobilised, if they knowingly park unlawfully in the first place.

I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Viscount will withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Astor

I shall read the Minister's argument with care, although I am not sure that I fully accept it. I am not sure that the drafting of my amendment is correct. As the Minister said, it might take away the 15-minute grace period.

The point of principle that I was trying to establish is important. If someone has overstayed on a parking meter, they might, as the noble Lord said, get a 15-minute grace period, after which they will get a ticket. The Minister said that there should be a short period, but he could not define it. That seems unfair. We do not know whether the period is five minutes, 10 minutes or another quarter of an hour.

We must make the provision reasonable. A ticket for overstaying on a meter is quite expensive for the average motorist. If he has used up his extra 15 minutes' grace and got a ticket, he will be clamped immediately. That seems wrong. It is unfair enforcement. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said that it might be a deterrent. We could go as far as we wanted with deterrence; we could take cars off the street or take the wheels off. We could do anything that we wanted, but we must be sensible.

Lord Borrie

I tried to make my intervention short. I made it entirely because somebody had said that all it was was a punishment. The measure is not intended to punish anyone; it is intended to prevent congestion, including congestion caused by illegal parking. It appears as a penalty or punishment in the Bill, but the reason for it is not directly to punish someone for having done something, it is to prevent someone committing the illegality in the first place.

Viscount Astor

There is always an interesting link between deterrence and punishment. That is a separate debate that we were wise not to get into too fully this afternoon. My point is that it is wrong for someone to be clamped immediately after being issued with a ticket, without having a chance to move. My amendment would allow a reasonable time, ensuring that there was still a deterrent for the motorist, while giving him or her a reasonable opportunity to move the car, if, for whatever reason, they came back late to the meter. Does the Minister wish to intervene?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I wish to intervene because I think that it is important that we go over the process. A car is parked and the time expires. A ticket can be given immediately. The grace period of 15 minutes is between the ticket being issued and the clamping vehicle arriving. There is no 15 minutes' grace between the expiration of the parking meter and the issuing of the ticket, as I think the noble Viscount felt. The ticket can be issued immediately.

5 p.m.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation. Without going round in too many circles and getting too muddled by too many 15 minutes, the answer is that my amendment is connected with the previous one. I will take up the Minister's kind offer to discuss his amendment and at that time perhaps we may discuss the implications of my amendment to see whether we can reach an understanding on the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 122E and 122F not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 76 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Rotherwick

I gave the Minister notice that I wish to raise issues surrounding road humps on the Question of whether the clause stand part of the Bill.

There is growing evidence that road humps are having a negative impact on response times for emergency services. Emergency vehicles are forced to slow down to a crawl in order to negotiate humps safely and in cases of severe injury they may have to opt for a longer alternative route in order to avoid humps altogether. The head of the London Ambulance Service has called for a review of speed humps, saying that they put patients' lives in danger because emergency response times are effected. The chairman of the London Ambulance Service has stated that: For every life saved through road traffic calming more are lost because of ambulance delays". In October 2002, Mark Singleton, team leader of the London Ambulance Service, unequivocally stated that: speed humps slow ambulances down, damage the vehicles, and worsen the ride for patients". Research by the Fire Department in Portland, Oregon, USA, showed that a fire engine is delayed by up to 10 seconds per hump. Road humps cause a significant cost in repair bills for emergency vehicles damaged while traversing humps. This is not helped by the apparent lack of consistency across the country in the dimensions of speed humps. Repeatedly traversing humps causes long-term damage to vehicle components.

Damage to suspension and shock absorbers seriously impacts on a vehicle's stopping distance. Shock absorbers are key in ensuring that vehicles are able to stop efficiently. Safety humps can cause immediate damage to the bodywork of large vehicles with low ground clearance, such as buses.

A speed hump in Coronation Street, Birmingham, had to be rebuilt after numerous double-decker buses suffered damaged bodywork. Even the suspension on my late father's car collapsed. According to the garage when it repaired the suspension, the collapse was due to speed humps. There can he a lot of damage to vehicles.

A report published by the London Assembly's Transport Committee on 15 April 2004 stated that speed humps can prove a hazard to vehicles, local residents and emergency services. It revealed that damage worth £7,500 was caused to Metropolitan Police vehicles by going over humps. Emergency services were concerned about the slow response times to incidents that the report revealed. The report said that Transport for London should ensure that emergency services' views are taken into account before money is allocated for humps. It also called for studies on the level of' noise generated by humps, following residents' complaints of noise from vehicles going over them.

The London Borough of Barnet has embarked upon a policy of removal of all 1,000 road humps. This in turn has prompted Transport for London to withhold £1.5 million in transport grants until it has "investigated the policy further". Can the Minister answer the following two questions? Can he give an assurance that it is within the powers of Transport for London to withhold that money, and on what grounds it is to do so? Will he ask Transport for London when it will reach its decision?

It is clear that road humps should not be viewed as a panacea to all our road safety problems. Instead, they should be considered as just one of a range of measures to improve road safety. Other options should be explored, such as tackling bottlenecks at junctions and making main roads less congested. In order that motorists do not try to avoid tackling bottlenecks at junctions by rat-running down the local residential roads, perhaps the main roads could be improved. Then we could take the bumps out of all those residential roads.

Lord Bradshaw

Is the issue of road humps anything to do with the clause that we are debating? It does not seem to bear much relation to the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, may know better, but I have tabled several amendments and the Public Bill Office has been meticulous in refusing anything that deviates slightly from the title of the Bill.

Viscount Astor

We had a brief meeting after the last Sitting with the officials in the Public Bill Office and the Minister's officials, when it was agreed that this was a sensible place briefly to discuss the issue.

Lord Bradshaw

I acknowledge the fact that the noble Lord has had such a discussion. I shall only say that I have been very harshly treated by the Public Bill Office.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

Regulation 3 of the 1999 road hump regulations requires highway authorities to consult all the emergency services before the installation of any road hump. The Highways Act 1980 and the regulations made under that Act explicitly require a highway authority to consult the relevant chief officer of police and representatives of the emergency services before reducing road humps.

Consultation allows the emergency services and highway authorities to work in partnership to ensure safer roads and satisfy the needs of the emergency services. Of course, the views of such bodies should be listened to. However, any suggestion that the emergency services should have a veto on a proposed traffic-calming scheme could undermine an authority's duty of care to all road users in ensuring that vehicle speeds are kept down, especially in urban areas, around schools and on residential estates. The purpose of road humps is to reduce vehicle speeds, so that death and injury are kept to an absolute minimum.

The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, raised a query about TfL's proposed withholding of a grant to Barnet. TfL has the power to provide grants to London boroughs under Section 159 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. However, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the specific case, as it really is a matter for TfL and Barnet. I understand that discussions are continuing between them about the treatment of road humps.

I hope that, given that explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rotherwick

I am grateful for all that the Minister has said. He will be glad to know that I am not really going to get in a hump over this. I am also grateful that he was able to answer part of the question that I asked in the latter part of my speech.

The point that we were getting at was that the emergency services would give approval. We feel that that is quite important. Just being listened to does not mean that the judgment is being made by those who know best—because it is their vehicles that are used rather than the authorities'. After all, the chairman of the London Ambulance Service has said: For every life saved through traffic calming, more are lost because of ambulance delays".

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

Is the noble Lord aware that road safety organisations dispute very bitterly the assertion of the chief of the London Ambulance Service? They point out that there may be a series of reasons for which ambulances are delayed in reaching victims and that road humps may constitute just a small proportion of them. If there were more ambulances serving smaller areas, they would obviously get there more quickly.

The experience of residents in many streets where road humps have been involved is that traffic is slowed down, resulting in fewer accidents. For example, in my street in south London, where humps have been installed, there are no longer collisions between moving vehicles and parked cars. Previously, when vehicles sped through in the absence of humps, there was at least one collision a week and it was only a matter of time before there was a serious pedestrian injury. Humps save lives, and the evidence does not support the suggestion that lives are being lost because emergency vehicles are slowed down.

Lord Rotherwick

I am grateful to the noble Lord. I shall not dispute his point. I am sure that he shall hold the same view when he is in an ambulance being rushed to hospital with a bad back injury.

Clause 76 agreed to.

Clause 77 [Representations and appeals]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 123: Page 46, line 24, leave out "may" and insert "shall The noble Viscount said: This is about the Lord Chancellor making provision by regulations. In the usual parliamentary language, the Bill states that he, may make provision by regulations".

My amendment would change "may" to "shall". It is a probing amendment so that the Minister can say that he will make regulations. I beg to move.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

The powers in Clause 77, like the regulation-making powers elsewhere in Part 6, are enabling. They are therefore couched in permissive terms: the Lord Chancellor "may" make regulations. The amendment would compel the Lord Chancellor to make such regulations by substituting "shall". We believe that that is unnecessary.

Enabling representations to he made to enforcement authorities and appeals to independent adjudicators is an essential element of the overall civil enforcement process. Such provision is already made in the Road Traffic Act 1991 and related adjudicating regulations. I can therefore assure the Committee that there is no question of regulations enabling representations and appeals not being made under Clause 77 in bringing into force the powers in Part 6.

Obviously, the theoretical discretion to make regulations is constrained by requirements of natural justice and human rights, not least the right to ensure the fair determination of a person's civil rights. However, introducing an explicit duty to the legislation produces some awkward, if somewhat theoretical, questions regarding the extent of the duty on the Lord Chancellor and what would happen, for example, if a future administration were to decide against making regulations to enable immobilisation but the Lord Chancellor still had an obligation to make regulations in respect of somebody appealing against having been clamped.

I hope that the noble Viscount's amendment was probing, and that my explanation answered his questions. I invite him to withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Goschen

Who will undertake the role outlined in Clause 77(1) when the role of Lord Chancellor is abolished?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

The Judicial Appointments Authority.

Viscount Astor

Well, there we are. I do not know whether the Minister has just made an important ministerial announcement. I am grateful for his reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 77 agreed to.

5.15 p.m.

Clause 78 [Adjudicators]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 123A: Page 47, line 26, after "functions," insert "or if it is proven that he has failed to act in a reasonable manner

The noble Viscount said: The amendment covers what I believe to be an important issue. It would insert a test of reasonableness into the actions of an adjudicator as set out in Clause 78. I am not sure whether my amendment is either correctly worded or in the right place, but I want the Minister to address the principle.

There are two issues behind the amendment. First, there have been many complaints by those who have gone to adjudication that they have not succeeded because of technical reasons. That is neither fair nor appropriate. Indeed, there have now also been complaints from the adjudicators themselves that they have not been able to take certain circumstances into account because of the narrowness of the scope within which they can consider an appeal. So the pressure is coming from both ends.

It will get worse unless we do something about it because, as we heard earlier this afternoon, the Bill will give wardens much wider powers—they will cover moving vehicles as well as just stationary vehicles. I am sure that there will be as great an emphasis on their handing out as many tickets as they can to get their bonus—the car referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. So it is important that the adjudication system is seen to be fair. At present, there are concerns on both sides.

If the Minister would like a simple example, at the end of January and the beginning of February, traffic wardens placed notices on cars that had been abandoned because of the snow. They had been abandoned because the police had said that the road was blocked. The local authority had not cleared the road; the road was blocked; so the cars were abandoned. The next morning, before anyone could come to rescue his car, along came the traffic wardens and placed parking tickets on them all.

Because of the technical points that applied, the adjudicator was not allowed to say that that was unreasonable because it did not fall within his remit. That is clearly unfair. As I said, if we are going to give traffic wardens greater powers over moving vehicles, we must ensure that everything works so that there is some respect in the system and the law is kept. They must be well trained; the provision must be sensibly enacted; and there must be a sensible appeals procedure. The amendment is an attempt to introduce a form of reasonableness. At present, an adjudicator is not allowed to take into consideration matters that would normally be considered in a court system. I beg to move.

Lord Borrie

The noble Viscount did not say so specifically, but his amendment would insert those words in a subsection dealing with the grounds on which an adjudicator can be removed. The words in the clause as drafted employ what is a fairly common form in relation to judicial or quasi-judicial appointments: namely, that they can be removed for misconduct or unfitness. On the face of it, although the noble Viscount did not talk to this effect, under the amendment the adjudicator could also be removed if it was proved that he had failed to act in a reasonable manner. If I may say so, that seems quite inappropriate because the whole point of having adjudicators at all—this corresponds with what is required by the European Convention on Human Rights—is but they are independent people, independent of traffic wardens and so on.

Viscount Astor

I started by saying that I was not sure whether my amendment was in the right place and that it was the principle of the adjudicator acting in a reasonable manner when considering cases about which I was asking the Minister. I of course apologise to the Committee if the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, thinks that it is in the wrong place. I am sure that he is right—I defer to his expert judgment—but I still want an answer from the Government on the principle of how adjudicators can act in a sensible and reasonable manner when dealing with the cases that come before them.

Lord Borrie

I have no doubt that my noble friend, with the broad advice that he is bound to have received, will be able to deal with the substance of what the noble Viscount said, but I am quite sure that the amendment is in the wrong place and it would be quite contrary to the independence of the adjudicator, which is so important, for him to be removed for any other reason than misconduct or unfitness.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Borrie for providing a précis of some lengthy speaking notes and making the very point that I wished to make on behalf of the Government.

The adjudicator's role is to determine the facts of the case. Mitigating circumstances are for local authorities to consider. We will ensure that mitigation is covered in statutory guidance.

The noble Viscount may be interested in the following points. If an appellant or enforcing authority is not satisfied with the outcome of a review, they may seek judicial review. Here is the killer: in the past 11 years, leave has been given on four occasions for judicial review of parking adjudicators' decisions. In the same period, around 40 million parking penalty charge notices have been issued by local authorities, of which more than 30 million were issued by London authorities. Thai does not suggest to us that adjudicators have been acting unreasonably.

It is important that adjudicators be properly qualified for the role that they perform. They should also have security of office in order to protect their independence. Clause 78(2) provides that an adjudicator, must have a 5-year general qualification (within the meaning of section 71 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990)". and that, on the expiry of a term of appointment an adjudicator is eligible for re-appointment". That reappointment is not subject to anyone's deciding that they have behaved reasonably. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Viscount will withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Astor

The only part of the Minister's argument that I found utterly unconvincing were the remarks about judicial review. The idea of someone taking a parking matter to judicial review is ridiculous. Judicial review is outside the scope of 99.9 per cent of people in this country. It is incredibly expensive and very difficult. Indeed, it would be a disaster if such a review happened because it would prove that we had got it wrong.

The Minister said that he felt that, by and large, the adjudicators had not acted unreasonably. I am sure that that is the case, but it was not the basis of my argument. My concern is the narrowness of the points that must be taken into account when looking at a case. Obviously, I must study the Minister's remarks, but he said that the local authority could show mitigating circumstances. My understanding is that that is fine. However, the local authority is not the problem; it is the individual motorist trying to make the appeal who is unable to put forward sensible and reasonable mitigating circumstances of which the adjudicator is allowed to take account. My point is that adjudicators are not necessarily allowed to look at the full circumstances surrounding the case.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issue with the Minister and his officials before Report. I wish, first, to ensure that if we return to the issue, I have taken into account the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, and put my amendment in the right place; and, secondly, to make clear the technical point that we need to get at.

The Minister may be able to satisfy me. I relate to him concerns that have been expressed to me by those who have been involved in the adjudication and those who have had their cases adjudicated. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 78 agreed to.

Clauses 79 to 81 agreed to.

Schedule 10 agreed to.

Clause 82 [Prohibition of double parking etc.]:

Baroness Scott of Needham Market moved Amendment No. 124: Page 50, line 30, leave out sub-paragraph (i). The noble Baroness said: Clause 82 deals with the issue of double parking, and the prohibition of it. The amendment relates to subsection (5)(a)(i), which refers to an exemption being made for the undertaking of, any building operation, demolition or excavation". I seek clarification from the Minister as to what undertaking an operation means. It sounds perfectly obvious on the face of it, but one can imagine that on a bank holiday, for example, operations may cease for a four-day period. Would that count as operations taking place? We are talking about that sort of issue, and the length of time that one can reasonably be said to be undertaking work. I beg to move.

Lord Rotherwick

The amendment would prohibit any vehicle from undertaking any building operation, demolition or excavation while double parking. It seems sensible to me, and I support it. When the vehicle has been used for the day, it seems reasonable that it could be parked off the road somewhere so that it does not add to congestion.

I point, too, to subsection (4)(c), which refers to the delivery and collection of goods and to other vehicles being loaded in a sensible way, whereby a vehicle that is so parked for those reasons must not be there for more than 20 minutes. Perhaps construction vehicles should come under the same regulation.

I wish to ask about another matter, which is nothing to do with this amendment. Subsection (3) says that the, second exemption is where the vehicle is being used for fire brigade, ambulance or police purposes". The exemption allows them to double park. Should not that also include a traffic officer?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

The clause is an example of extending a civil enforcement power to deal with the problem of double parking currently available in London to authorities outside London. Clause 82 is based on Section 5 of the London Local Authorities Act 1995 as amended by Section 6 of the London Local Authorities Act 2000. It takes into account practical considerations and includes a number of exceptions from the prohibition.

Subsection (5) exempts vehicles engaged in various operations. It includes vehicles being used in connection with the undertaking of any building operation, demolition or excavation. The amendment would remove this particular exemption, which we would find very difficult to accept. Clearly, where vehicles are engaged in building or similar operations, they may need to be able to park immediately adjacent to the site where the works are being carried out. For example, in the case of a mobile crane operation, if another vehicle was already parked adjacent to the site, it might not be possible to park the crane vehicle within 50 centimetres of the edge of the carriageway.

The exceptions provided for in subsection (5) do not give unlimited licence to double park. I draw the Committee's attention to the caveats in paragraphs (b) and (c). If a vehicle was simply left parked more than 50 centimetres from the edge of the carriageway and none of the activities covered by subsection (5) was apparent, it would be open to an enforcement officer to issue a penalty charge.

How do we define operations? Operations must happen at the time. It would not cover vehicles parked during a bank holiday while no works were being carried out. I hope that the noble Baroness accepts our argument and concedes that the exceptions that we are offering are legitimate.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. I accept absolutely that there are times when double-parking would be necessary. As I made clear to the Committee, I tabled the amendment only for clarification on the question of how exactly it would be determined that operations were going on.

While I intend to withdraw my amendment, I hope that at the end of proceedings the Minister will consult further with his officials to ensure that the sort of situation where operations cease for a long weekend, and so forth, are covered in the Bill. Otherwise, life might be a little difficult. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 82 agreed to.

Clause 83 [Prohibition of parking at dropped footways]:

Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 124A: Page 51, line 11, leave out "in Greater London

The noble Lord said: In speaking to Amendment No. 124A, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 124B to 124E in the group. Subsections (1) and (9) of Clause 83 create a prohibition enforceable as if it were imposed by order under Section 6 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act. It would prohibit parking on the carriageway adjacent to a dropped kerb created for the purpose of assisting pedestrians to cross the road or to assist vehicles to enter or leave the road across a footway or verge, which I suppose would also include a bus lane. However, it is not apparent why it is proposed to limit this power to Greater London. It would be very good if it could be applied nationwide.

Clause 83 is very important. I shall therefore suggest some improvements to make it even better. I believe that the clause should be extended to cover obstructions at three types of crossings. The first type of crossing that it should cover is a raised crossing, whether provided for just pedestrians or for pedestrians and cyclists as a kind of dual crossing. The second type is gaps that have been left for the passage of cyclists at points where movement on highways has been stopped by other classes of vehicles. I certainly notice that when trying to cycle through those gaps where people park so close, if the handlebars did not have rubber on them, the cars might get scratched; so it would be very nice if cars were not parked there. The third type that should be covered is dropped kerbs provided for joining or leaving cycle tracks.

I also believe that this section should cover parking within, say, 10 metres of a junction except in an authorised parking space. That would give legal effect to the advice already given under Rule 217 of the Highway Code. This proposal is probably of greater significance to pedestrians than to cyclists. Nevertheless, parking close to junctions obscures the sight lines of pedestrians and other carriageway users. It is therefore a safety hazard to all road users. This group of amendments is designed to improve an already excellent clause. I beg to move.

Lord Rotherwick

I support the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I am sure that, for once, he will be glad of that. As I have previously pointed out to Members of the Committee, I am in favour of amendments that take greater account of the perils and frustrations that two-wheelers face in our everyday pedalling and motorcycling life. Furthermore, many noble Lords will know that the RNIB strongly welcomes the broad thrust of this clause because of the help that dropped kerbs can provide in making the pavement accessible to the blind and partially-sighted.

Clause 83(3) states that the, exception does not apply in the case of a shared driveway". Of course, it would be frustrating and antisocial if one's neighbour, in parking his car, blocked the entrance to one's house. However, if an exception can apply when the owner of a single property gives his consent, surely the same should apply when the occupier of residences that share a driveway both consent to parking on a dropped kerb by their driveway.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

We welcome the praise for Clause 83 from my noble friend. It will provide new powers to prohibit parking at dropped footways conferred on London authorities by Section 14 of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003.

While we do not wish to take away the power that London authorities have so recently gained, our preference is not to extend these new and untested powers to authorities outside London. There could be practical problems in relation to enforcement of dropped footways giving access to off-road parking for residents. Therefore, we would not wish to accept Amendment No. 124A.

Given that it is essentially an untested power, we would be reluctant to amend Clause 83 in the way proposed in Amendments Nos. 124B to 124E. We are particularly concerned about Amendment No. 124E, which would prohibit the parking of a vehicle within 10 metres of a junction with another road. Rule 217 of the Highway Code stipulates that drivers should not park vehicles on a road where they would endanger, inconvenience or obstruct pedestrians or other road users. One of the examples given is parking, opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking place". That rule has featured in editions of the Highway Code since 1978. It does not have the force of law, but can be introduced by a traffic regulation order which can prohibit parking at a junction and provide for that prohibition to be indicated by yellow lines.

There are severe parking pressures in some urban residential roads. Parking nearer than 10 metres to a junction may not cause danger, inconvenience or obstruction to pedestrians in such cases. So we are reluctant to have an absolute legal prohibition on parking near all junctions as proposed.

Our preference would be to leave the judgment on whether a legal ban is required to the local traffic authority, which has the powers to make the necessary traffic regulation order. They are the people best placed to judge the needs and circumstances of particular cases. I therefore invite my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

Before my noble friend replies, I should like to ask him whether he believes that not only are perils faced by two-wheelers—I think those were the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick—but perils are also caused by two-wheelers to pedestrians.

What is missing from the contribution made by my noble friend and, indeed, in the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, in favour of cyclists is any admission that pedestrians' lives are put at risk as a result of the antisocial behaviour of cyclists, particularly at pedestrian crossings. There has been an attempt, not 50 yards from where we are sitting today, to enforce the red lights on the pedestrian crossing outside the Palace of Westminster. Every so often, cyclists are stopped, warned and sometimes fined, but the practice has resumed again. One takes one's life in one's hands when crossing the pedestrian crossing when it shows green for pedestrians if cyclists are coming along. They ignore the pedestrians; they ignore the lights; and they expect people to get out of the way. That is unreasonable and dangerous.

Lord Berkeley

I am genuinely grateful to my noble friend Lord Faulkner for that contribution. We discussed it briefly at a previous sitting of the Committee. I was challenged on whether I thought that cyclists should obey the law. Clearly, they should. I am a cyclist, but I have very nearly been knocked down outside the House by cyclists not obeying the red lights. Of course, currently, I do not think that anyone can stop a cyclist except a policeman because he or she is on a moving vehicle. I am sure that my noble friend will correct me if I am wrong. Cyclists riding on pavements are also a problem.

There is in addition a road safety issue. I hear what my noble friend the Minister says about Amendment No. 124E, which might need to be looked at again. As regards being able to get on and off cycle lanes and raised pedestrian or pedestrian and cycle crossings, there is an argument for saying, "Well, at least let us try the system outside London and let us try to make it work in London".

I shall study carefully what my noble friend has said. I may wish to take it a little further but, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 124B to 124E not moved.]

Clause 83 agreed to.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 124F: Before Clause 84, insert the following new clause—

GUIDANCE TO LOCAL AUTHORITIES (1) The appropriate national authority may publish guidance to local authorities about any matter relating to their functions in connection with the civil enforcement of traffic contraventions. (2) In exercising those functions a local authority must have regard to any such guidance.

The noble Lord said: In bringing forward this new clause we are fulfilling a commitment made in another place. The new clause will place on a statutory basis guidance issued by the appropriate national authority to local authorities exercising civil enforcement functions. In exercising those functions, the clause requires that a local authority must have regard to any such guidance.

We are concerned with guidance being issued in connection with powers conferred in regulations made under the Bill. The London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act is a local Act of Parliament that was promoted by the London authorities. One of its provisions enables civil enforcement of a number of moving traffic contraventions. Those provisions will be repealed in due course by London regulations to be made under the provisions of Part 6 of the Bill.

So far as guidance on enforcement of moving traffic contraventions is concerned, we will he learning from the London experience when the new powers are piloted starting in June. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the Minister for this amendment, which follows pressure in another place from my honourable friends. They started to fight back on behalf of the honest British motorist who was being unfairly persecuted. Indeed, it has had some effect. The other day, a body no less than Westminster council admitted that its wardens had been too harsh on motorists: the regime was too strict. The councillor in charge of parking pledged to consider forcing the contractor to stop rewarding staff with bonuses and trophies when they issued two more tickets in an hour and to have a sensible policy.

Of course, one must be tempered when one sees that in the noble Lord's department, the Minister, Kim Howells, has decided to battle the site again. At the weekend, he said that the best way to get drivers to use public transport is to try to tax them out of their cars in the same way as the authorities have tried to tax people off cigarettes. There is not much help for the motorist.

This is an important amendment. We have all seen things happen that should not have happened. There was the famous case in London when the managing director of the YouGov organisation was involved in an accident. His scooter was wrecked. As he was being carried to the ambulance, a warden came along and plonked a ticket on his scooter. Clearly, that should not happen. But I go back to the problem that it is incredibly difficult to bring proper appeals and to work through the adjudication system.

The Government have said that they will issue guidance. It is important to ask that we are made clear on that. It would also help me as regards earlier amendments on adjudication. Can the Minister tell us when we will see any draft guidance? What is the Government's timetable on that? When the guidance is issued, in the case of appeals, will the adjudicator he able to refer to the guidance when looking at cases? I presume that that will be the case. I should be grateful for the Minister's assurance. I go back to saying that we are all in favour of getting traffic moving and of sensible, reasonable measures taken by local authorities based on the ideal of interpreting the rule of law and the will of local residents, rather than financially rewarding those who are carrying out the process, often in a rather arbitrary way.

So I welcome the amendment and hope that the Minister will be able to answer my questions.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his welcome for the amendment. Guidance will be developed alongside regulations during the forthcoming 12 months. It will be prepared with consultation, as will many other aspects of the Bill. We hope that the draft regulations will be ready in 2005 for public discussion.

Viscount Astor

Would the Minister answer my point about adjudication and whether adjudicators will look to the guidance when they interpret a case?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

We will be considering what adjudicators can take into account when reaching their decisions.

Viscount Astor

That is helpful as far as it goes, but only increases my concern that adjudicators should act in a reasonable manner and be able to take the full circumstances into consideration. We will clearly have to consider that on Report.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 84 agreed to.

Clause 85 [Regulations and orders]:

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 124G: Page 53, line 9, at end insert— () Regulations under section 77 may not be made unless a draft of them has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

The noble Lord said: The amendment puts into effect the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee that regulations made by the Lord Chancellor under Clause 77 concerning representations to enforcement authorities and appeals to adjudicators should be the subject of the affirmative procedure. The amendments make appropriate changes to Clause 85, which provides for the making of regulations and orders under Part 6. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 124H: Page 53, line 10, at beginning insert "Subject to that,

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 85 agreed to.

Clauses 86 and 87 agreed to.

Schedule 11 agreed to.

Clauses 88 and 89 agreed to.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 124J: Before Clause 90, insert the following new clause—

"APPLICATION OF SURPLUS INCOME FROM SAFETY CAMERA ENFORCEMENT (1) Section 38 of the Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001 (c. 3) (unified power for Secretary of State to fund speed cameras etc) is amended as follows. (2) After subsection (5) there is inserted— (6) The relevant national authority may make regulations to permit in specified circumstances income from the enforcement of offences under subsection (2), over and above that required to cover expenditure on the operation of a scheme, to be used in connection with the provision by the relevant local traffic authority of local transport facilities, including road safety measures."

The noble Viscount said: This is a simple amendment that inserts a new clause about surplus income. It might be popular with the motorist if he realised that the surplus income, whether from speed cameras or traffic light enforcement, would go towards improving local road safety. I wonder what the Minister thinks about that issue. I beg to move.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

I support this amendment. Indeed, it is very similar to one that I moved during the passage of the Transport Act. At that time we said that unless revenues were hypothecated to local road safety measures in some way the netting off scheme, under which local authorities and the police can form partnerships and keep surplus income, might be perceived as being done to raise revenue. In a Cassandra-like fashion, which gives me no pleasure—well, just a bit—I feel proved right. I am very happy to support this amendment and, with my tongue only slightly in my cheek, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, who is a co-signatory to it, whether road safety measures include humps?

Viscount Goschen

My noble friend Lord Astor has done the Government a great service by tabling this amendment. It will give the Minister an opportunity to make clear the Government's position on revenues raised from safety camera enforcement, if "safety camera", is not over-stressing the term.

Clearly, there is a significant perception on the roads that, in many cases, these cameras are designed to raise revenue. The Minister needs an opportunity to tell the Committee exactly what happens to those funds and whether they might be used to help road safety schemes. We could also have had similar amendments down about other areas of the Bill where revenue is raised, such as parking attendants issuing fines for road traffic events. There is a real problem there and we need some clarity and transparency front the Government.

The Earl of Erroll

I support this amendment. I know that PACTS and various people were trying to drive down the numbers killed and seriously injured through safety measures such as speed cameras, but they are beginning to hit the bottom level that can be done by those measures. I understand that most serious accidents happen at a few hundred known accident black spots. A very sensible use of money would be to improve road safety and survivability on certain stretches of road that are known to be bad.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

The police, local highway authorities and magistrates courts, working together in safety camera partnerships, are strongly encouraged to use safety cameras where there is an identified problem of speed-related collisions. "Safety cameras" is the term that covers speed cameras and traffic signal cameras. This ensures that the partnerships are not tempted to place cameras simply to raise revenue. It would add little value to road safety to have widespread deployment of cameras for reasons other than identified speeding and accident problems. There has been, and continues to be, a considerable amount of coverage in the media about speed cameras. Much of this is misjudged and unhelpful in the attempt to reduce the numbers of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.

The main charge levelled against speed cameras is that they are deployed in order to raise money for the police, local authorities or the Government. That is wrong on all counts. But it is vital to be sensitive to public concerns in order to maintain respect for the policy and, ultimately, for the law. We must therefore ensure that the legislation that covers what can be done with fines, ensures that there is no incentive for the various public bodies to place cameras for any purpose other than to slow down traffic and reduce road accidents. That is what the present legislation in the Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001 does. Under this legislation, the Secretary of State may make payments to cover the approved costs, but nothing more, of the police, local highway authorities and magistrates courts engaged in speed and traffic signal camera enforcement as safety camera partnerships.

Amendment No. 124J would open up the possibility of surplus incomes from fines going to local authorities to spend on local transport and road safety measures. That risks undermining the focussing of safety cameras on reducing accidents and casualties. It should be noted that cameras do not and should not provide a reliable funding stream. The success of cameras is measured on casualty reduction and that can only result from drivers slowing down to the legal limit when passing the camera site. Thus, the best cameras attract no fines.

I also remind Members of the Committee that there are alternative funding sources available to local authorities to use for other road safety measures or to spend on improving local transport provision. There is no need to alter the existing legislation on camera funding to seek to use those funds.

The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, asked for a transparent statement on safety cameras. I hope that he will agree that that is precisely what I have done in the past minute or so. In the light of this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will be willing therefore to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Bradshaw

The fact is that while there are funds available for road safety schemes, there are insufficient funds available to deal with the traffic road safety issues referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Errol. In fact, most local authorities have a long list of schemes that they can afford, under which they draw a line each year. They are in the position where, having an acknowledged list of road safety schemes, of which there are many, there are insufficient funds to pay for them. Yet, those paying speed fines know, ultimately, if we are honest, that the money goes to the consolidated fund; in other words, to the Treasury—that large maw that is beneath us all.

The purpose of the amendment is to make the whole system more acceptable to people. That should be the aim. It would be clearly understood by people if the money went towards the removal of accident black spots, of which there are so many. For example, I was on the A303 at the weekend. There must be 100 places on that road alone that need attention, where there are three-lane carriageways which are virtual death traps and are not being attended to. The Government are missing a trick in making funds available to deal with road safety rather than the money just going into the Treasury.

Viscount Simon

My noble friend briefly referred to people reducing speed when approaching speed cameras. Does that mean that he endorses people breaking the speed limit?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

No, of course I do not. I said that one of the benefits of a speed camera was that a motorist would reduce speed when approaching that camera, which underlines the importance of the camera in keeping road speeds down to the level set by the local authority or the national authorities. So it is very beneficial. As I said, the crucial point is that a speed camera that picks up no one speeding is successful.

Lord Berkeley

With respect to my noble friend, he has not quite answered the question. Of course, if a speed camera does not catch anyone, everyone is travelling at or below the speed limit. If they have slowed down, surely that is an argument for having more speed cameras in different places that are not painted bright yellow so that people do not know when they will get caught. They might stick to the speed limit all the time where it applies and even more lives might be saved.

Viscount Astor

My small amendment seems to have sparked a brief debate. I have to say that the Minister gave a clear explanation of the Government's policy. I wish that that was reflected in what actually happens; namely, that cameras are placed everywhere they are needed—for example, at accident black spots—and that they are not, as so often happens, placed in areas where they have clearly been placed for revenue generation. We all know of sites where a 50 mile an hour limit suddenly drops to 40 miles per hour and then up to 50 again. You know that the camera is sited to catch the unwary motorist who fails to notice that, along a perfectly normal stretch of road, the speed limit has suddenly altered. Due to public pressure, this is slowly changing, but much more needs to be done, as my noble friend pointed out.

It is clear that we shall not get much further in terms of the financial provisions, but it has been interesting to listen to the Minister's view of departmental policy on this. I only wish that that policy could be successfully implemented to make it work better than it does. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 124K: Before Clause 90, insert the following new clause—

"MOTORWAYS: MAXIMUM SPEED The maximum speed on a motorway shall be 80 mph and in had weather determined by highway controllers with access to the motorway warning signs system.

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to introduce the concept of variable speed limits in response to weather conditions on motorways while raising the maximum speed limit to 80 miles per hour, thereby ensuring the most expeditious, effective and efficient use of our motorway network. I am aware that there are statistics that oppose the raising of speed limits. No doubt powerful and convincing material can be brought to bear on both sides of the argument.

The aim of the amendment is to achieve a simple and straightforward system of speed limits. It should not be branded as a cavalier approach to road safety when in fact it is quite the opposite. Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, has argued that there should be a review of speed limits and that travelling at 80 miles an hour in a modern car on a good road surface at a proper distance from the car in front is perfectly safe.

We all believe that low speed limits need to be imposed where vulnerable pedestrians are concentrated, such as close to a school, in densely populated residential areas and near the homes of the elderly. It is also sensible to keep the maximum speed limit down to, say, 60 miles per hour in bad weather when rain and ice increase braking distances and visibility is impaired.

The limit of 70 miles per hour on motorways was introduced at a time when most vehicles had drum brakes and there was an oil crisis. Since then, braking, steering and suspension systems have developed substantially, allowing drivers to brake more rapidly, safely and effectively. Technological advances mean that motorists can travel more safely at higher speeds. Increased engine and aerodynamic efficiency, higher gearing and modern tyre technology allow sustained driving at speeds well above 70 miles per hour. Indeed, in carrying out their duties, the police may well exceed the limit, even doubling it. I believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, indicated that on a previous day in Committee.

New developments in car technology allow the average motorist consistently to deploy full stopping abilities while retaining control and steering. Should we not move away from the idea that we need to reduce the speed of cars at all costs to increase safety on our motorways? It is a strange notion, given that at the same time we accept the need to increase the speed of buses, trains, planes and boats. If we accept the safety argument about speed for cars, then should they not travel slower than 70 miles per hour?

Concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of raising speed limits. The increased emissions resulting from such a small change are not likely to be significant. New cars have improved dramatically in the amount of toxic pollutants released in emission gases. Ambient levels of these pollutants are already well below the WHO guideline levels. At almost all times at practically every monitored site, emissions have been projected to fall by 60 to 80 per cent from their 1990 levels by 2010, despite the growing volume of traffic.

Traffic contributes to only one-quarter of airborne particulates, most of which are produced by large diesel engines in buses and heavy goods vehicles, which would not be affected by a change in the speed limit. For example, a bus emits 120 times as many particulates as a car. Research from the University of Kyoto has shown that 3-nitrobenzanthrone, a very powerful carcinogen, is emitted from diesel bus exhausts when the engine is under load. Cars are much more polluting when they are jammed bumper to bumper in our cities than they are when travelling expeditiously on motorways. Indeed, the Association of British Drivers has shown that an increase in the motorway speed limit to 80 miles per hour would save approximately 11 million vehicle hours per year for cars and 1.5 million hours for light goods vehicles. This would be a good way of reducing congestion on our roads.

The notion of variable speed limits on our motorways is not new and has been used in the past on particular stretches of road, such as the M25, due to poor weather conditions or weight of traffic. While the Department for Transport has said that the idea had previously been rejected on road safety grounds, it has also made clear that it will be kept under review. On 13 April the Birmingham Post highlighted the Department for Transport's pilot of a system of variable speed limits on a 10-mile stretch of the M42 south of Birmingham.

It has been pointed out in another place that an estimated 19 per cent of those who travel on motorways do so at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, while perhaps 50 per cent exceed 70 miles per hour. The law must be enforced, but it must also enjoy public support. The question is one of achieving a balance. Rather than holding on to the existing 70 miles per hour limit on motorways, which so many see as arbitrary and not worthy of their attention, we should set realistic limits, thus achieving compliance with limits that genuinely matter. The amendment would allow us to stop criminalising drivers who travel on our motorways at safe speeds. I beg to move.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

That was one of the most extraordinary speeches that I have ever heard from a member of the party that claims to be the party of law and order. The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, has argued that since so many people are breaking the law, rather than enforce it, the law should be changed so as to make the infringement legal. That is an absolutely baffling proposition.

I agree with certain bits of what he said, such as the remark that in bad weather speed limits should be lowered. There is also a case for saying that speed limits on motorways could be slightly higher, as in France, where the speed limit on motorways is 130 kilometres per hour and thus closer to 80 miles per hour. However, the difference between driving on French motorways and driving on British ones is that, with few exceptions, the majority of drivers in France keep fairly close to the 130 kilometres per hour limit or, in bad weather, a limit of 110 kilometres per hour.

The difficulty over here is that, because the law is not being enforced, the number of motorists who observe the 70 mile per hour limit is small. Quite frequently I drive between London and Oxford on the M40. Last Saturday I noticed that the number of motorists who passed me while I was travelling at a fairly sedate 71 or 72 miles per hour was very large.

Viscount Astor

So the noble Lord admits that he was breaking the law as regards the speed limit.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

I do not think that the speedometer on my car is accurate enough for such a charge to stick.

The other point which the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, has omitted to make is that in countries where raising the speed limit has been tried, such as in the United States of America, it has led to a very dramatic and alarming increase in road casualty figures. If we were to follow his advice and increase speed limits, two things would happen.

Lord Rotherwick

I would be grateful if the noble Lord could give me that information, especially that which gives details of the increase in accidents on motorways and the increase on smaller roads.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

I am sure that my colleagues at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents will be delighted to provide me with the brief that would allow me to answer the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick. I shall write to him on that in the next few days.

As I have said, two things would happen. The first is that there would be more accidents, more deaths and more injuries. Secondly, the number of people who would observe the new higher limit of 80 miles per hour would probably be no greater than the number observing the 70 miles per hour limit. The norm would simply be pushed up. Instead of having people going past at 85 miles per hour, they would travel at 95 miles per hour. I think that this is a very dangerous amendment.

Lord Berkeley

I certainly support what my noble friend Lord Faulkner has said. A few myths need to be exploded, the first of which is that increasing speed limits would increase road capacity. All traffic engineers know that, on a motorway, the highest capacity is achieved at something between 30 and 50 miles per hour. The faster the speed, the less capacity is available because the distance between cars must be increased. A greater stopping distance must be provided for.

My noble friend mentioned the speed limits in France. As he said, the limits are enforced and there are lower limits when it rains. The limits are also enforced by checking the time taken to travel between toll booths. If a motorist arrives quicker than the time taken at the legal limit, he is heavily fined on the spot.

However, my noble friend hit the nail on the head when talking about enforcement. In my experience, which is that of driving on motorways mostly at the weekends, if I am driving as I usually do at 70 miles per hour or less I overtake very few cars, they nearly all overtake me. I do not see any enforcement, except at roadworks, when speed cameras and flashing signs are in evidence.

We discussed earlier the reduction in the number of traffic police, if we can call them that. Fewer and fewer police are enforcing the rules. If someone is driving at 100 miles per hour, occasionally you see a police car going after them, but apart from that there is very little enforcement, and there will probably be even less in the future as the provisions of this Bill are put in place. I agree with my noble friend that raising the speed limit will encourage people who drive at 90 miles an hour now to drive at over 100 miles per hour.

The proposal should be met with the strongest opposition. I think that it would be a complete disaster from every aspect, not only as regards capacity, but also in terms of road accidents.

The Earl of Erroll

I start by pointing out to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, that if we did not change our laws in line with public thinking, we would still have the same draconian laws of blasphemy that were in force a couple of hundred years ago, along with many other provisions that would look quite silly if they were on the statute book. Life changes, as do people's attitudes. Sometimes the law has to be brought into line with what the public are doing.

I want to deal with the point made about capacity, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I think that we are talking about motorways that are clear, open and not overloaded with traffic, when a variable speed limit might apply, as is the case on the M25. You are not worried about capacity on a clear, open motorway. The noble Lord's argument about how to pack more cars into the slow-moving traffic queue that is the M25 is perfectly true, but it does not apply to a fast and freely moving motorway.

Lord Berkeley

I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. The point I sought to make was in response to the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, who said that one of the reasons for increasing the maximum speed limit is in order to increase capacity. I wanted to make the opposite point.

The Earl of Erroll

Yes, on a heavily crowded motorway, more cars can travel nose to tail if the speed is reduced. I accept that. But in general, with normal traffic flows and no jam conditions, many cars can travel along at the normal distance of three or four car lengths at a perfectly safe speed, thus getting more cars down the motorway.

I want to address the road safety aspect. As the killed and seriously injured figures have dropped as a result of action against drink driving, speeding in dangerous circumstances and so forth, something else has been highlighted as a major danger: fatigue. The slower the speeds at which motorists undertake long journeys on motorways, the more fatigued they become and they make more errors, resulting in more accidents. That is a recognised problem. I raised this with a senior police officer at a PACTS meeting. He was very pro speed cameras, but he accepted that there might well be a case for allowing higher speeds on motorways in order to reduce the fatigue factor, although he hedged his opinion with a lot of ifs and buts.

Motorways are designed to accommodate higher driving speeds in safety. If journey times on longer routes can be reduced, people will be fresher and there will be fewer accidents. While I am a great supporter of the use of electronic communications, we still need to meet each other face to face. It remains essential to drive long distances for business purposes. Trains often do not get you to your destination on time. Although 20 per cent more journeys are being undertaken by train than was the case pre-privatisation, the trouble is that more people are trying to travel around the country. That could be because we have fewer factory workers in fixed places and more service industry workers who need to move around. I shall not go into that.

A large business can afford to say to its workers, "Take the night off because you will be driving for more than four hours. Come back tomorrow". But someone running an SME does not have the budget for that, and people have to drive very long distances. In my business, I know someone who is driving to Truro and back tomorrow.

Viscount Simon

Where is he starting his journey?

The Earl of Erroll

He will start in the Reading area and travel all the way to Truro and back. He must do so in order to secure a contract. If that person could knock half an hour off his journey either way, it would make a significant difference to his levels of tiredness. I see this as a safety measure.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Berkeley

Can I ask the noble Earl a question? I do not know whether his colleague is travelling on business or pleasure, but if he is travelling on business, in future he will have to comply with the working time directive. That would limit the number of hours that he can be at work or drive in one day.

The Earl of Erroll

It is his own choice. He is a direct or of a company and I am not sure whether the working time directive applies to him. I do not think that he is worried about it. Moreover, small businesses have to survive. Ultimately, small businesses become the growth enterprises of the future, producing the taxpayers who will pay the taxes that allow politicians and civil servants to try to make this country a better place in which they can live and work. Unless such businesses are nurtured and allowed to grow, there will be no taxpayers to pay the politicians.

I want to make a point about the highway controllers. They must be sensible about signalling. One becomes fed up with driving along a motorway flagging a top speed of 50 miles per hour. Five miles later, the signs still say the same. As long as the signalling is used sensibly, it would be a useful safety measure. I wholeheartedly support the amendment.

Viscount Goschen

This is one of those issues where the moral high ground should be left entirely neutral. We all share the same objective of seeking to ensure that traffic flows more easily while at the same time reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, began by castigating my noble friend Lord Rotherwick. He went on to admit that he regularly breaks the law in his own motorway use, leading no doubt to a headline tomorrow along the lines of, "Safety chief ignores law: admission in House of Lords".

The simple fact is that the law is in disrepute. People do not obey motorway speed limits. Indeed, I do not think that people see it as an offence to drive at 85 miles per hour. Most traffic in the right-hand lane of a reasonably clear motorway will be travelling at 85 miles an hour, or possibly more. So we have a problem because some speed limits are quite rightly enforced very vigorously with the support of speed cameras, such as 30 miles an hour outside schools and so forth. On the other hand, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, pointed out, speed limits are not enforced on our motorways unless one is travelling at grossly over the limit. There is an acknowledgement between the police and motorists that, in good weather, the speed limit is around 85 miles per hour.

What we are considering is whether this should he admitted to be the case and the law changed to reflect it, along with better enforcement, or whether there should be better enforcement of the 70 mile an hour limit, if that is really what is desired. I know that the Government tend not to put speed cameras on motorways, whereas they could have gantries of them generating vast numbers of speeding fines. But that is not what happens at the moment. It is an area in which the police use considerable discretion. On the other hand, it would be unsatisfactory in principle to have a law that very few people obeyed. I disagree with the argument put forward by the noble Lord that we should never listen to what the public is doing or adjust the law to reflect public behaviour. That is not the case. Things have changed considerably.

The technology arguments put forward by my noble friend Lord Rotherwick are valid. A Morris Minor travelling at 70 miles per hour 30 years ago was at the edge of its performance; its braking performance was very poor. A BMW doing 100 miles per hour today can stop very quickly.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving way. Is there a point at which he believes that the law would be enforced? If the limit were increased to 80 miles per hour, would he favour it being rigorously enforced at that level, or would he allow motorists to set a new safe limit for themselves of 90, 95 or 100 miles per hour?

Viscount Goschen

The noble Lord puts his finger on the exact point that we are arguing about. A rigorously enforced higher limit would create a more satisfactory situation than does a lower limit that everyone, including the noble Lord, ignores. The latter results in a situation where gross amounts of public law breaking are permitted, with the police studiously ignoring hundreds of thousands of offences every day. That is not a satisfactory situation. The noble Lord argues for a "looking the other way" policy, which is not necessarily the best approach.

Viscount Simon

The noble Viscount is right that technological advances have taken place; we all know the advances that have taken place in recent years. However, one advance that has not taken place is that of the human being, who is still exactly the same. He will still not look at a correct distance from the car in front—

Lord Rotherwick

Does the noble Lord not know about racing drivers who travel into brick walls at 120 miles per hour? Technology has developed apace, and I am sure that the noble Lord's new car now has airbags, which would provide considerably greater safety. In the days of old, if a driver crashed a Morris Minor the engine went straight through the compartment and the steering wheel straight through the driver. We have moved on from those days.

Viscount Simon

I agree with the noble Lord that there are airbags and other safety measures. However, if a driver crashed into a brick wall at 70 miles per hour, he would be killed full stop, irrespective of what he was driving.

Lord Rotherwick

I am sorry. I ask the noble Viscount to reflect on cars on racetracks. They travel into brick walls at 120 miles per hour and the driver survives.

Viscount Simon

They are constructed completely differently from cars on the road. I reiterate that if a driver crashed his car into a brick wall at 70 miles per hour, he would be killed in about seventh-tenths of a second, so far as I remember. You would not know much about it. If a driver does not look at the correct braking distance or the traffic conditions far ahead, he will not see when vehicles half a mile ahead on the motorway brake and he will suddenly have to brake very rapidly. I do not agree with the proposal to increase the speed limit to 80 miles per hour. As has been said, everyone already drives at 85 or 90 miles per hour. or whatever it happens to be. Consequently, the speed limit of 70 miles per hour should stay.

The amendment also refers to warning signs, which can be altered to give an advisory speed limit. They are only advisory speed limits. I agree that it would be a very good idea to make them mandatory. Oddly enough, I have thought about the matter in the past. Warning signs have two flashing lights on the top and two on the bottom to indicate the advisory speed limit. If the lights were changed to blue to make the speed limit mandatory, it would work.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

The first line of my speaking note says that the issue of whether to raise the motorway speed limit to 80 miles per hour has been the subject of much debate. Emotionally, I agree with my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester about the issue. I drove back from Oxford on Friday, and the traffic stream was going at 80 miles per hour. When I pointed that out to the officials, they made the obvious argument that, if the limit were changed to 80 miles per hour, everybody would go at 90. I take the point that the crucial thing is not the car or the technology but the driver—or, perhaps, a combination of both.

Motorways have a good safety record and compare favourably with other types of road, as I shall demonstrate. Any increase in the speed limit could jeopardise that already good record. The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, said that there was evidence to support both sides of the argument, but the evidence that we have from America shows that there was an increase of up to 38 per cent in the fatal accident rate following an increase in speed limits on motorways.

In 2002—the most recent year for which we have UK figures—there were 224 fatalities on our motorways. That equates to 6.5 per cent of the deaths on our roads. We would prefer there to be no deaths, but that figure is low in comparison with built-up roads—39.9 per cent—and non-built-up rural roads, where 53.6 per cent of the total of 3,431 people were killed in 2002. That is an extraordinary statistic. In a way, it pushes my attention away from motorways onto the real problem that we have on rural roads. That is why the Government's road safety strategy includes a commitment to improving rural road safety through better speed management and driver information on rural roads. We have already introduced guidance to local highway authorities on introducing vehicle-activated warning signs and the introduction of 30 mph speed limits in villages.

The motorway speed limit, introduced in 1965, has been the subject of review on more than one occasion. The last review was carried out in 2001. The review looked at the possible effects of increasing the motorway speed limit to 80 mph. It concluded that raising the motorway speed limit would create too great a risk of increasing accidents and casualties.

The Earl of Erroll

I do not understand how just raising the legal limit to the speed that people actually drive at will cause any increase in casualties. People already drive at that speed or more. Why, if it were made legal to drive at that speed, would the number of casualties increase? Do people suddenly go mad, once they are driving inside the speed limit?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

If it is established that 70 miles per hour is the optimum speed for minimising casualties—

The Earl of Erroll

That would be the 90th percentile, in which case, as various road safety studies have established, the limit should be 85 miles per hour.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

If the noble Earl would kindly allow me to answer his question, he could come back to me. The argument that the Government make would, I think, be made by any reasonable person. Currently, there is a 70 miles per hour speed limit on a motorway, and everybody—everybody apart from my noble frien—drives at 80 or 85 mph. The contention is that, if we raise the speed limit to 80 miles per hour, people will drive not at 80 miles per hour—there is no evidence that they would—but at 90 or 95 miles per hour. Need I say that the chances are that someone driving at 95 miles per hour will be involved in an accident? They would he travelling at one hell of a speed.

Viscount Astor

If one accepts the Minister's argument about people driving at 90 mph, the obvious answer is to use the speed cameras that have been introduced on motorways. That would be easy, and we would ensure that all those who currently drive at 80 miles per hour could do so legally—they would not be doing anything that they had not been doing for a long time—and that anybody driving faster than that would be caught on the camera. That way, most people would be obeying the law, as opposed to the current position, in which they are disobeying the law. That would be an improvement to road safety.

I am getting confused. The Opposition have been arguing that there are too many speed cameras out to produce revenue but are now arguing that they want many more.

6.30 p.m.

Viscount Astor

On the motorway.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

The point about motorways is that they are working. The casualty figure that I gave compared to that for rural roads is devastatingly good. As I said, the Government's attention ought to be directed there. The last review of the motorway speed limit concluded that to raise the motorway limit would risk increasing accidents and casualties; result in higher emissions of CO2 and oxides of nitrogen; and generate more noise.

There is already a power for the Secretary of State to bring regulations before Parliament for debate to change the speed limits on our roads. That power is contained in Section 86 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Also, Sections 17 and 84 of that Act provide for orders to be made so that speed limit changes can be made in circumstances detailed in such orders. To date, the power to introduce variable speed limits has been used only on the M25, although we intend to use it in a new scheme on the M42.

However, the fact that existing legislation provides that flexibility does not necessarily mean that it is sensible to use it. Also, the necessary infrastructure is not in place to cover the complete motorway network if variable speed limit controls were to be applied nationally. That returns us to the point about the development of new technology. As it develops, variable speed limit controls may become a real possibility.

Reducing speed limits during bad weather may have its attractions. However, a number of issues would need to be resolved before we could give it serious consideration. Defining what is bad weather and determining the appropriate speed limit needs more consideration and there may not be a simple solution. For example, what lower limit would be appropriate and for what conditions? That is not a practical proposition now and does not require new legislation. I concede that it may be something that we would want to review in future under existing legislation.

We have had a full debate. We are not going to agree, but I hope that the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rotherwick

First, I thank the Minister for his answer. I am grateful that he sees it as a subject to be reviewed later. I was sad not to hear from the Liberal Democrats. In the other place, their Front Bench spokesman seemed warmly to welcome the idea. He said that he saw nothing wrong in principle with the possibility of raising speed limits to 80 miles an hour. It was a pity that we did not hear that argument here.

I am sorry that this emotive subject got the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Faulkner and the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, up and running. I can only say that I view them somewhat as the red flag brigade. They were probably better off behind a red flag when motor cars only went at five miles an hour and no one wanted to raise the speed limit. I have to tell them that things have moved on since then.

I also venture to point out that Germany has much higher speed limits. If we consider the populations of France and Germany compared to ours—

Lord Bradshaw

If the noble Lord considers accident figures in Germany, he will see that they are immensely worse than ours. That is partly due to the excessive speeds at which people drive. I was quite convinced by the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. Our spokesman in the other place, whom I would not want to denigrate, represents a constituency in the north of Scotland where the population on the road is rather less than it is on roads such as the M40, the M5 and the M4, with which we are much more familiar. In my experience, I see no argument whatever for raising the speed limit.

Lord Rotherwick

I am so glad that at long last we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. It is in keeping with the Liberal Democrats to say one thing at one end of the Corridor and another at the other. It may be that this is another Midlothian question that we should be considering.

In Germany, where the speed limit is 150 kilometres per hour, we do not find all the cars driving at more than 150 kilometres an hour. In fact, the majority of them drive more slowly. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Evans, says, the USA comparison shows that raising speed limits increases accident rates by 38 per cent, maybe we should reduce our limit to 60 miles an hour on the expectation that people will drive at only 70 and lives will be saved.

To return to capacity, what the noble Lord says about it is interesting, but the whole point of raising speed limits is that it would save 11 million vehicle hours per year for cars alone. That would mean that there would be fewer cars on the motorway at any one time. Conversely, every time one, unfortunately, drives past a crash, the speed of cars is reduced from a freely moving column of cars and the traffic comes virtually to a grinding halt. After the crash site, cars go back up to their previous speeds and the motorway returns to a freely flowing highway. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 124M: Before Clause 90, insert the following new clause—

"BUS LANES: USE BY OTHER VEHICLES All bus lanes where buses are moving in the same direction as traffic in the adjacent or vehicle lane shall be open to use by cycles. motorcycles, licensed taxis and invalid vehicles.

The noble Lord said: I hope that this will not be such an emotive subject; I would not want there to be any serious injuries or heart attacks in the Grand Committee, but, boldly, I shall continue.

The amendment would allow us to strike a better balance than we currently achieve and to maximise bus lane capacity without hindering public transport. Sadly, it has become somewhat of a familiar sight to see a third of the road space in one direction taken up by an empty bus lane with the other lanes rammed and heaving with cars and multi-person transport. In another place, the Government argued that this is a centralising measure that damages local autonomy and limits the flexibility of local authorities. It is certainly not. However, we want to redress the balance.

Currently, the guidance seems to dissuade local authorities from embracing such a scheme. Page 15 of the local transport note, Keeping Buses Moving, suggests that there can be no general case for allowing high-occupancy vehicles to use bus lanes other than in special situations. The first bus lanes were introduced in this country several decades ago and have not served to tackle congestion as they were envisaged to do. Although local authorities must be free to develop their own anti-congestion strategies, including the idea of high-occupancy bus lanes in the Bill would provide an important addition to the array of policies to maximise existing road use.

The policy of allowing motorcycles in bus lanes—I am sure that every Member of the Committee expected me to address this point—has been piloted successfully in nine cities across the country, including Bristol, Reading, Swindon, Bath and Birmingham, so why not London? Even the Government recognises the advantages of the lower environmental impact of motorcycles for single use transport. Allowing motorcycles to use bus lanes will not hinder the passage of buses. Why do we not allow motorcycles in bus lanes in London, but do allow it on the M4? Allowing those vehicles to use bus lanes would be a cost-effective way of maximising road use, tackling congestion and empowering road users with the choice of using safer bus lanes, without denigrating public transport.

Importantly, it would allow the poor motorcyclist to use a safer, non-congested part of the road. We have already heard about the vulnerability of motorcyclists, who are 30 times more likely to be killed than car users. I beg to move.

Lord Monson

I have no problem with allowing motorcycles or taxis to use bus lanes. In London and presumably elsewhere, taxis already do so. I am not nearly so happy with the idea of pedal cycles or invalid vehicles using them, if by invalid vehicles is meant the low-powered sort that are not much more powerful than a motorised wheelchair.

Normally, in London—I speak only from London experience with regard to bus lanes—the drivers of taxis and buses that have been held up in traffic jams take advantage of reaching a bus lane to put their foot down and make up for lost time, travelling at or very near the maximum speed allowed, which is 30 miles per hour. It is not a good idea, in principle or practice, to mix vehicles travelling at 25 or 30 miles per hour with those travelling at 10 or 15 miles per hour. I know that a 27-gear bicycle may go a little faster than 15 miles per hour, but it would still not go as fast as a bus or taxi. It is dangerous to have people travelling at such different speeds competing for a narrow, limited road space.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

I am a little surprised at the proposal to include motorcyclists in bus lanes in cities. The one effect of doing that would be to terrify the life out of cyclists, who at present are allowed to use the inside of bus lanes. If they had motorcyclists coming up on their inside or outside, my suspicion is that the life of a cyclist in a bus lane would be very endangered.

I see no evidence that motorcyclists are held up by traffic congestion. They are already very good at getting through traffic; indeed, it is one of the great selling points of motorised two-wheeled transport that it can get through congestion. I cannot see the benefit of bringing them into bus lanes, but I can see the disadvantage in terms of what would happen to cyclists.

Viscount Goschen

The benefit is that there might be fewer motorcyclists killed—

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

And more cyclists.

Viscount Goschen

I would be interested in the noble Lord's statistics of motorcycle accidents compared to bicycle accidents, if he has them, because he has based his argument on that comparison. My personal experience as a motorcyclist is that motorcyclists and cyclists share the brotherhood of the two wheels and get on very well. If I were a cyclist, I would much rather have a small and nimble motorcyclist come alongside than a bus, which is eight feet wide.

I do not understand why motorcycles are not allowed to use bus lanes; I believe that it would be a good thing. There may be some extremely strong reasons why they should not, but I have not heard any, although the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has raised the issue once or twice at Question Time over the years. I hear what my noble friend said about the fact that motorcyclists are allowed to use the bus lane on the M4. That seems to work perfectly satisfactorily, so I do not see why the same principle should not be applied in the cities.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

I start by stating the obvious: the purpose of designating bus lanes is to give priority to buses over other classes of traffic. The more that other motorised vehicles are allowed to use them as a statutory right, the more their purpose becomes devalued.

Proposed new Clause 6 is unnecessary in relation to cyclists, as they already have a right to use with-flow bus lanes—that is to say, bus lanes such as the one outside this House—where buses are going in the same direction as other traffic. The Secretary of State's consent would be required if a local authority wished to exclude cycles, but that is rarely requested and so rarely given. A small number of bus lanes may exclude cycles for safety reasons—for example, where cyclists are encouraged to use a parallel cycle track rather than a narrow bus lane.

As for motorcycles, taxis and invalid carriages, local authorities have powers to allow other vehicles to use bus lanes if they consider that it would be desirable. We believe, however, that it should be left to the discretion of local authorities to decide whether any other classes of motorised traffic should be allowed to use any of their bus lanes, taking into account their local transport plans and the specific objectives in creating particular bus lanes. I am sure that Members of the Committee will be delighted to hear that that cannot be done effectively by central government.

Guidance on bus lanes is contained in Local Transport Note 1/97, Keeping Buses Moving, which acknowledges that there are circumstances where it will be appropriate and desirable to allow other vehicles to use bus lanes and gives guidance on assessing the effects on buses and other road users. In conclusion, this amendment is not necessary in relation to cyclists and would undermine the effectiveness of bus lanes by removing the right of local authorities to decide which other vehicles, if any, should be allowed to use bus lanes.

The question of motorcycles in the M4 bus lanes was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, and the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen. The concern about motorcycles in bus lanes is the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. There are no cyclists—and, I hope, no pedestrians—on the M4 corridor. That is why motorcyclists are allowed to use it.

With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Monson

Will the Minister clarify a matter regarding pedal cyclists? I was not aware that they were allowed to use bus lanes, and I have very rarely seen them use them. So many bus lanes are narrow and do not really have room for a pedal cycle and a bus side by side; although not all of them fall into that category, most do. Are pedal cyclists allowed by statute to use all bus lanes everywhere in the country?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

Generally, they are allowed to use bus lanes. However, as I said, if the bus lanes are very narrow, the local authority has the right to exclude them; if a cycle track runs parallel, they can exclude them.

Lord Rotherwick

Thank you for that exciting debate. I thank the Minister for what he said, which we shall read and consider, although we shall probably return to the amendment. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for his kind support. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for expressing the fears that cyclists have about motorcyclists in bus lanes.

A Noble Lord


Lord Rotherwick

I beg your pardon, I mean the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. However, I think that lie misses the point. We do have motorcyclists already in the traffic, but it is a dangerous area—that is perhaps why we have 30 times more accidents. The whole point of our proposal is to try to take motorcyclists to a less vulnerable area, into the bus lane. Perhaps he will join me one morning coming along the Embankment, where he would find numerous motorcyclists overtaking bicyclists. I have yet to see a cyclist jump out of his seat with fright at a motorcycle going past. Equally, I have travelled along the Embankment on both a cycle and a motorcycle, and I have the feeling that we do not frighten each other.

I would be grateful if the noble Lord would look out for the statistics on the number of motorcycle accidents with bicyclists in London, to see whether there really is a confrontation and whether motorcyclists really only have accidents with cars. If that were the case, it would strengthen my argument. In the mean time, I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 90 [Power to inspect blue badges]:

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 124N: Page 56, line 1, at end insert— () In section 117 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27) (wrongful use of disabled person's badge), in subsection (1)(a) after "badge" there is inserted "purporting to be".

The noble Lord said: This is a technical drafting amendment. Clause 90 amends Section 21 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 to provide parking enforcement authorities with a power to require disabled persons' parking badges to be produced for inspection. Unreasonable refusal to produce a badge for inspection will he an offence.

The purpose of this amendment is simply to achieve consistency between the wording to be inserted into the 1970 Act in relation to the form of the badge and that used in Section 117 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Section 117 currently provides for wrongful use of a blue badge to be an offence. Accordingly, Section 117 of the 1984 Act needs to be amended so that reference is made to badges "purporting to be" of a form prescribed under that section. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 90, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 91 [Application of surplus income from parking places]:

Lord Faulkner of Worcester moved Amendment No. 126: Page 56, line 24, at end insert— () the purposes of improving road safety and reducing road casualties in the local authority's area;"

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to add to the catalogue of items on which surplus income from parking places can be spent. It gives the opportunity to spend some of that surplus income on road safety schemes, as well as road improvements, environmental improvements and the other items in Clause 91. Its purpose is to secure more funding for road safety, to prevent conflicts with other local authority budget areas and to make clear that road safety is an important priority. I beg to move.

Lord Evans of Temple Gulling

Clause 91 gives effect to commitments we made in our local government White Paper, Strong Local Leadership—Quality Public Services. It will allow authorities to spend surplus parking fine income on environmental improvements and enable high performing authorities to be given total freedom on how to spend such surpluses. It does this by amending Section 55(4)(d) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. At present, once the need for off-street parking has been considered, spending of any surplus is restricted to the funding of highway improvements or the provision of public passenger transport services. The new paragraph (iv) inserted by Clause 91 will enable surplus income to be spent on environmental improvements. The new paragraph (v) will allow regulations to be made prescribing authorities complete freedom to spend surpluses for any purposes for which they may lawfully incur expenditure.

The amendment would add improvement of road safety and reduction of road casualties to the purposes for which surplus parking income may be used. We believe this to be unnecessary. Our reason for taking that view is that we consider that safety improvements are already covered by highway improvements. Section 55(4A) of the 1984 Act defines a highway improvement project as meaning a project connected with the carrying out of any operation which constitutes an improvement within the Highways Act 1980. Section 329 of that Act defines "improvement" as meaning anything done under powers conferred by Part V of the Act. This enables an authority to carry out any work for the improvement of a road. There are specific provisions in Part V that enable construction of cycle tracks; provision of footpaths, safety rails and barriers to safeguard persons using a road; provision of refuges to protect pedestrians crossing a road and construction of subways under, or footbridges over, roads. Part V also covers alteration of widths and levels of roads, prevention of obstruction of view at corners, installation of road humps and construction of traffic calming works.

In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will agree that what he seeks by his amendment is already covered by the ability of authorities to spend surplus parking income on highway improvements. I therefore invite him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

That sounds a pretty convincing answer to me and I have no hesitation in begging leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 91 agreed to.

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 91: After Clause 91, insert the following new clause—

"CONTROLLING TRAFFIC ON UNCLASSIFIED ROADS ETC. IN NATIONAL PARKS In section 121A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27) (definition of local traffic authority), after subsection (5) there is inserted— (5A) Under sections 1, 9, 14 and 22, the relevant National Parks Authority or officially appointed warden of the local authority shall be the local traffic authority for the purposes of controlling traffic by way of a traffic regulation order on any unclassified county road and any road being a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway within the relevant National Park."

The noble Lord said: This amendment was drafted after some discussion with the Public Bill Office. I am sure that it is not correctly drafted but it had to be tabled in time. The object of moving it is to draw from the Minister some indication of the attitude of the Government. The use of what are, in effect, paths or rights of way within national parks, or national trails or footpaths, bridleways and byways open to all traffic, is a matter of great contention between those who enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the countryside and those who use four-wheel drive vehicles, two-wheelers and quadbikes. This amendment seeks to make officers of a local authority civil enforcement officers in respect of traffic regulation orders that have been obtained by a local authority. I know very well that at present these orders are being sought on a seasonal basis between October and May to stop the worst damage that is being incurred by country paths and rights of way. The whole issue appears to turn on whether these paths are roads within the meaning of various acts. Those Acts include various Road Traffic Acts, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act and other Acts. If they are roads, they come within the scope of the Bill and if traffic regulation orders are promoted by local authorities then the question of the enforcement of those traffic regulation orders becomes a matter for the Bill.

The off-roaders, motorcyclists and people who ride quadbikes argue that they are roads and they base the claims that they are putting forward for consideration under the CROW Act on the basis that they are roads. Enforcement, as we have heard in other cases that we have discussed today, depends on the police, although they will almost certainly not be available to carry out the enforcement required. Therefore my amendment provides that the local authority— I accept that this would have to apply to places that were within a special parking area—could designate certain civilian enforcement officers, who were in fact countryside wardens, to impose fixed penalty fines on vehicles breaching the traffic regulation orders on these rights of way.

I draw attention to the fact that the national parks are not traffic authorities able to promote traffic regulation orders. There is some overlap between the national park authority and the local authority. Even so, if the local authority promoted the traffic regulation orders within the national park, they would need to be enforced. The local authority or the local chief of police could designate the people employed by the national parks authority as civil enforcement officers within the scope of the Bill. Within the past year, we have strengthened considerably the hand of the Secretary of State in the enforcement of rights of way, but we have not gone far in so doing. To the extent that we rely on the police, we shall wait a very long time. My object in moving this amendment is to probe the Government on how they intend to enforce traffic regulation orders and whether there is a case for the extension of civil enforcement to these officers. I beg to move.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

Part 2 of Schedule 8 provides for the designation of civil enforcement areas outside Greater London. The enforcement authority in the case of parking places is the local authority responsible for their provision or designation. The enforcement authority for other parking contraventions and for bus lane and moving traffic contraventions is the local authority in whose area the contravention is committed, that is the county council, unitary council or metropolitan district council, which are also the highway and traffic authorities. So enforcement within the areas of national parks will be the responsibility of the relevant local authority. Provided that an area of a park has been designated as a civil enforcement area for the particular class of contravention, such enforcement can be carried out in the park. For example, if it has been designated as a civil enforcement area for moving traffic contraventions, the authority will be able to enforce vehicle prohibitions and weight limits on minor unclassified roads.

It is not the purpose of Part 6 to change the definition of highway or traffic authority, which is what the new clause seems to be aimed at. Nor is Part 6 intended to provide a vehicle for revising the systems for making traffic regulation orders under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

The 2002 review of national park authorities recommended that further consideration be given to whether they should become statutorily responsible for rights of way and sought further views. In the light of responses to the review, Ministers concluded that they did not see a change in legal responsibilities as necessary or helpful.

The Government continue to believe that it is not necessary for the national park authorities to have statutory responsibilities for rights of way. We believe that the current arrangements work reasonably well. National park authorities can already have informal delegation arrangements with the agreement of the local highway authorities.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, raises the question of what are roads. Footpaths, bridleways and restricted bridleways are roads, so traffic regulation orders can be made to limit or restrict the use of those ways. They can be subject to civil enforcement provided for in the Bill. The noble Lord also asked whether it was possible for national park authority wardens to enforce traffic regulation orders. There is no reason why a local authority could not appoint a warden as a civil enforcement officer to act on its behalf.

In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw the amendment.

7 p.m.

Lord Bradshaw

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. As I understand the answer, the way is open, if a local authority has special parking area status, to appoint civil enforcement officers—we knew that. In addition, however, those people could enforce traffic regulation orders in a national park or elsewhere in the authority's area, and the authority could appoint as a civil enforcement officer the warden employed by a national park authority, if it so wished. On that understanding, I am more than happy to withdraw the amendment and beg leave to do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 127A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 92 agreed to.

Clause 93 [Financial provision]:

[Amendment No. 128 not moved.]

Clause 93 agreed to.

Clause 94 agreed to.

Schedule 12 [Repeals]:

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 128A: Page 89, column 2, leave out line 14.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 95 and 96 agreed to.

In the Title:

[Amendment No. 129 not moved.]

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

The Committee adjourned at four minutes past seven o'clock.