HL Deb 04 July 1967 vol 284 cc497-500

2.59 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Shepherd.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause:

Power to require fixing of reflecting material to container skips etc. deposited on highway .The Minister of Transport may make regulations requiring the fixing of strips of reflecting material to container skips and other similar objects deposited on the highway.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the new clause standing in my name on the Marshalled List. Related to it is the Amendment to the Long Title. The objective of the new clause is a very simple one: it is to extend the Minister of Transport's powers under the Bill to making regulations for requiring builder's container skips, or rubbish bins, as they are sometimes called, to carry strips of reflective material in order to make them easily seen by persons using the street. The builder's skip is a large metal container about four feet high and four or five feet square, which is carried on the back of a specialised builder's lorry. It can be dropped in the street outside the house where the builder is working, and all the rubbish that comes out of the house during the course of the building work is then shot straight into the skip. When the work is finished the builder's lorry comes along, picks up the skip full of rubbish on the back of the lorry and takes it away for disposal.

From the builder's point of view, obviously this is a welcome innovation; it saves him a great deal of work. The result is that there are now hundreds of these skips in use in London, and I daresay in other towns as well. They are to be seen in the streets of London and elsewhere in increasing numbers. Sometimes at night the builders hang a red lamp on one or other corner of these skips, but more often than not no light is hung on at all. They are extremely dangerous standing on the highway without any lights, and it is quite easy for a vehicle to collide with them.

Obviously these objects standing in the street are dangerous, and the effect of my Amendment would be that the Minister, in addition to the other powers that this Bill gives her, would have power to require strips of reflective material to be fixed to these containers, or indeed to any other similar objects which were stood in the street. This would make it much more certain that they could be seen than relying on a red lamp being hung on them at night. This is often forgotten. My new clause would simply allow the Minister to make such regulations. I feel that this is a small but practical point. I know that there are certain difficulties which I daresay the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will tell us about; but I hope he will at least admit that this is something which needs dealing with. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 2 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)


As the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, knows, being a motorist, I have a great deal of sympathy with his Amendment, because these skips could clearly be a hazard and in some cases dangerous. Quite honestly, I wish I could accept the Amendment, but I am in this difficulty. The Bill that is now before the Committee seeks to amend the Road Transport Lighting Act 1957 which deals solely with vehicles. A skip is not a vehicle, and it is questionable therefore whether we should include in this class of legislation provisions dealing with other objects which are not vehicles.

I think the Committee would agree that when we legislate we should so far as possible legislate as simply and as uniformly as possible, not only in the interests of those who have to look at the law books, but also of those who may be involved in applying the law or perhaps breaking it. One problem is that, while under the Highways Act 1959 local authorities can take proceedings against the users of skips if they are not properly lit when they are filled with rubbish, I gather there is some doubt as to whether this can be done if a skip is empty. This may sound strange, but I understand that this is the law.

This matter is being carefully and urgently looked at. I would hope that the noble Lord, having made this point, would not rest content there, and that if he withdraws this Amendment and then puts down a Question for Oral Answer in (shall I say?) the second week of the next Session, I hope to be able to give a more satisfactory answer than I can now. If I fail to give him a satisfactory answer it is open to him then to put forward a three line Private Member's Bill perhaps to amend the Highways Act 1959. That would be entirely up to the noble Lord, but certainly I should not stand between him and his application.


Would the noble Lord also consider whether a red warning lamp of the type which a builder is required to place on other equipment that he uses on the highway would not be a much greater safeguard than the reflector which is proposed by this Amendment?


This may be so. If the noble Lord cares to look at the reflective material that we have in mind he will see that it stands out much more prominently than the old red oil lamps that one sees in our streets. But this is a point that is being considered by the Department.


In view of what my noble friend Lord Ilford has just said, may I remind my noble friend that this raises not only a traffic question. Quite often the tops of these skips overhang the pavement, and if you are walking along it does not much matter whether a skip has a reflector or not—one's headlights do not work. Perhaps that could be borne in mind, too.


Could the noble Lord opposite get over his first difficulty, that of a skip not being a vehicle, by considering that it is reflecting the lights of an approaching car, which is a vehicle?


I do not see how that can help me. The provisions under the Bill require these strips to be put on vehicles, and a skip is not a vehicle according to the law. So far as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, is concerned, he does not need to convert me; I am already converted. It will be for the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, perhaps in November, to chase me on this matter.


May I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for his helpful reply. I recognise that this is not perhaps the most convenient place to make this Amendment, and therefore I am willing to ask leave to withdraw it. Certainly I will accept the invitation of the noble Lord to harry him with a Question when we return in November, and I hope that by then the urgent consideration which is going on in the Ministry of Transport may have borne fruit. From our little discussion I think this is clearly a matter that needs to be dealt with. Perhaps this Amendment has served its purpose, and I thank the noble Lord for his sympathetic reception. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.