HL Deb 15 May 1973 vol 342 cc745-83

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD GRENFELL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Control of heavy commercial vehicles]:

LORD BETHELL moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 23, at end insert (", such chief officers of police (within the meaning of the Police Act 1964)").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment refers to subsection (2) of the proposed Clause 1A, on page 2 of the Bill, under which local authorities will be required to consult certain other authorities and various interests before submitting proposals to the Secretary of State under the Bill. It has been suggested that local authorities should not only consult each other, and various commercial and trade union interests, but should consult also senior police officers in order that the police may be conversant with what is proposed and may take such measures as are appropriate. I beg to move.


This Amendment has been recommended by the Home Office on behalf of chief officers of police, and we therefore regard it as a sensible and beneficial addition to the Bill.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD STOW HILL moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 30, after ("in") insert ("the provision of travelling fairs or circuses and ").

The noble Lord said: I should like at the outset to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, and to other noble Lords for being so kind as to agree to the rearrangement of the business of the House—I am ashamed to say, to suit my convenience. My only excuse is that I was engaged on Parliamentary duties in the Special Orders Committeee, and it would have been perhaps rather tiresome to my colleagues there if I had not stayed to the end.

I move this Amendment really at the instance of the Showmen's Guild. Your Lordships may remember that when we discussed the Industrial Relations Bill there was a good deal of reference to the Showmen's Guild, which is an organisation of persons who conduct country fairs. The purpose of this Bill they would all entirely endorse and wholeheartedly approve. They do, however, stand in a very special position. As your Lordships may know from personal observation, those who conduct these country fairs have to transport their equipment in large vehicles, which I should have thought would undoubtedly come within the definition of the heavy commercial vehicles with which the Bill deals. Local authorities are to prepare a survey and make recommendations which would include recommendations for the purpose of preserving the amenities for through routes, prohibited routes and prohibited zones. As your Lordships may well imagine, those who conduct these country fairs frequently have to transport their equipment through roads which may well fall within the type of roads that would be proscribed by plans formulated by local authorities for amenity purposes.

I hope your Lordships may feel able to agree that it would be rather a pity if these showmen were seriously inhibited in transporting their equipment—equipment necessary to set up the various buildings and installations in which country fairs are conducted. It has for many years—your Lordships have no doubt seen them on country roads—been the custom, and indeed the inevitable and unavoidable practice, for those who go round the country organising these fairs to transport on these heavy lorries the large equipment which they have to install. I submit that they are therefore in a rather special position. They are not the sort of people who shake ancient buildings; the equipment is not as heavy as all that. They are not heavily laden lorries, but I should have thought that they are undoubtedly lorries which would be within the purview of this admirable Bill.

I hope your Lordships will feel able to accept therefore the broad proposition that special care should be taken to see that they are not too hampered in the transporting of this equipment. Country fairs (perhaps I should be going a little far if I called them a country amenity) undoubtedly provide a great deal of pleasure for country residents, and particularly the younger residents, although even those who are older in years also derive some enjoyment from them. If the showmen could not transport their equipment through these roads it would mean no fair. That would be, I submit, a great pity. The approach, therefore, that I make, at their suggestion, is this. The clause provides that there must be consultation—and the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, referred to it when he was moving his Amendment. I seek by this Amendment to insert in paragraph (c) of subsection (2) on page 2 of the Bill a special reference, as your Lordships will see, to those engaged "in the provision of travelling fairs or circuses". Provision is already made for second groups and categories of persons requiring that they should be consulted. What I seek to do in this Amendment is to add to those groups or categories of persons who have to be consulted by the local authorities, when conducting their survey, organisations which provide for travelling fairs and circuses: in other words, the authorities would have to consult such bodies representative of those who provide the travelling fairs and circuses as appear to the local authority to be appropriate.

That is the purpose of this Amendment and I hope your Lordships will feel, in the first place, that it in no way operates to lessen the effectiveness of this Bill. It will go some way to preserve what is I hope I may not too inaccurately describe as something of a country amenity, perhaps of a rather different type. It is certainly an activity which gives pleasure, and it is an activity which I submit is put at risk by the very necessary provisions at present contained in this Bill. I would add one assertion of fact. I am told (I think perhaps your Lordships may think that that is irrelevant) that the heavy vehicles concerned do not normally travel as much as 1,000 miles a year. I beg to move.

6.20 p.m.


I am sure that most people in this House will share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, that travelling fairs and circuses should continue to provide the enjoyment that they have always given to young and old throughout our countryside. Certainly there is no intention on the part of the sponsors of this Bill to curtail in any way the activities of those who run travelling fairs and circuses and who provide great enjoyment and fun. However, I would submit that the noble Lord's point is covered by paragraph (c) of subsection (2) to the proposed Section 1A on page 2 of the Bill, which provides that local authorities must consult persons engaged in other commercial or industrial activities before submitting proposals for restrictions or prohibitions. It will therefore be incumbent on local authorities to consult any organisation which indulges in any commercial activity, and proprietors or organisations representing fairs and circuses will fall into this category. It will also be open to proprietors of fairs and circuses to make representations to local authorities, and these will of course be taken into consideration.

I understand the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, about this matter, but I feel he may be perhaps a little unnecessarily alarmed about what this Bill will bring about should it become law. I very much doubt whether it is the intention of local authorities to impose such blanket prohibitions on main roads throughout the country as would make it impossible for very large vehicles to pass reasonably and sensibly from place to place. The very strict prohibitions which could be made if the Bill became law would be made only if a local authority thinks that any particular place, part of a city or a park is of special value to the community from the point of view of amenity. I very much doubt whether any local authority would put a stringent prohibition on a large stretch of road covering many dozens of miles. If it did, I very much doubt whether the Secretary of State would allow such a proposal. For that reason, the supporters of the Bill do not believe that a special case can be made out for fairs and circuses. One sympathises with what they provide, and certainly there is no intention to curtail their activities. Moreover, it will, of course, be open to them to make as many representations as they desire, in the same way as other persons engaged in other trades and activities may do. For that reason I would ask the Committee not to accept this Amendment.


May I, as the mover of the Amendment, speak again? It may be that I and those who have asked me to intervene in this debate are unduly apprehensive. They did, however, consider very carefully the provisions of paragraph (c), and I did also. In the first place, I am told that some consultations are already taking place and that the Showmen's Guild have not yet been invited. That may be an omission. I am not quite sure what those consultations are and what form they may take, but the words in paragraph (c) are: persons engaged in other commercial or industrial activities;". It may be that when one considers the English language in its strict application one would construe a person who conducts a country fair as such a person, but I should have thought it was at least on the cards that one would not. One looks at an actor or at someone conducting a Punch and Judy show; one looks at a number of persons providing entertainment of various sorts; and in the ordinary connotation of these words I should have thought they might not be thought to be persons "engaged in other commercial or industrial activities"—certainly they would not be engaged in industrial activities, and it does not at once strike the mind that they are conducting commercial activities. Perhaps I am wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said (assuming that those words would apply to them) that the local authorities in any event were under an obligation to consult with them. The difficulty about that argument, I would submit to him and to the Committee, is that they have not got to consult any such persons but they have to make a selection. They have to consult those engaged in other commercial or industrial activities as appear to them appropriate. Therefore they have to form a judgment. The local authority concerned who, up or down the country, may be about to make recommendations have to make a judgment; and I should have thought that on many occasions it might not occur to them that those who organise local fairs and who appear in the locality just once or twice in a whole year for perhaps one, two, three or four days are people falling within the same general description as those who drive enormous lorries about the place, loaded with heavy and expensive machinery to he installed in factories. There is something different in type, I should have thought, between the two.

Therefore the apprehension which I and those associated with me in promoting this Amendment have is that over and over again it may well not occur to local authorities that these occasional visitors (for that is what they are) are not persons of the sort one ordinarily has in mind as "conducting industrial or commercial activities", and they may not be consulted. On the other hand they may find themselves ousted from a particular locality where the fair has gone on for a century. The noble Lord has given me a careful answer. I wonder whether he would be so good as to say whether, in view of the apprehensions I have expressed, he would give the matter some further thought between now and the Report stage.


I apologise for having missed a little of this debate, but I particularly came into the Committee to support my noble and learned friend. The insertion of these words will in no way damage the Bill, because all we are asking for is that these organisations be consulted. Fairs have been rolling over this pleasant land for centuries, and mostly they bring a lot of joy to many country areas throughout Britain, particularly to kids. I well remember times when, in country districts in Wales, we have welcomed the circuses and fairs. For Heaven's sake, let us keep a little balance about it! The small and narrow roads at the beginning of the century and up to the beginning of the First World War, and afterwards, were not ruined by the rolling old caravans of circuses—even though occasionally the elephant had to trudge along them. All we are asking is that local authorities should consult the organisations such as the Showmen's Guild.

These circuses and shows are part of the charisma of "Britishness", and there is far too great a tendency to sweep aside some of these old forms of entertainment in the "swinging world" in which we are allegedly living to-day, because we have no time for them. Whatever was said about them, they were some of the heaviest things that travelled the lanes and by-ways of Britain for centuries. They never damaged the roads all that much. I consequently can see no reason why, in formulating proposals under this section, a local authority should not consult organisations such as the Showmen's Guild. It gives me great pleasure to support my noble and learned friend, and I hope that the Minister in his reply will give a little comfort and succour to the Showmen's Guild for the sake of what they have done in the past for Britain.

6.30 p.m.


I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Bethell could look into the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill. Perhaps he could widen the scope of that point. I believe that my noble friend Lord Bethell, or my noble friend on the Front Bench, could confirm that there might be a difficulty for casual users of heavy vehicles—the Showmen's Guild would be one class. Another class which is uppermost in people's minds, particularly in Wales and in the West Country, is the forestry industry. They could perhaps be in the same difficulty. If a council makes an order for no heavy commercial vehicles could the forestry industry, along with the showmen's vehicles, go in, or would they need to receive permission? If so, what happens if permission from the local council is refused? That could be serious and damaging to interests in the countryside, from the industrial as well as the amusement point of view, as we have heard. Could my noble friend Lord Bethell and my noble friend on the Front Bench consider some provision to strengthen a right of access for such heavy commercial vehicles? I put that forward for their kind consideration at the Report stage.


Clause 1A(2)(c) makes it encumbent on local authorities to consult persons engaged in other commercial or industrial activities. My noble friend mentioned the forestry industry. It will be encumbent on local authorities to consult representatives from any industry which it sees as appropriate. It will also equally be open to representatives from any industry or commercial interest to make representations to local authorities.

It would defy the ingenuity of legislators if we were to include in the proposed Bill all the interests which could legitimately be seen to have a right to demand consultation on this Bill. There might be several hundreds of them. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has mentioned circuses and, as his noble friend pointed out, this is a matter of importance. It would be a kill-joy on the part of those who sponsored the Bill if they were in any way to curtail the activities of fairs and circuses. But I suggest to your Lordships that there is sufficient provision in the Bill as it stands to enable representatives from forestry and proprietors of fairs to make representations and to consult. The specific point which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, mentioned, about whether a proprietor of a fair was engaged in a commercial activity, seems clear. A proprietor of a fair often has a number of vehicles under his control; he is engaged in commercial activity. I imagine that most of your Lordships who have been to a fair or circus will accept that commercial activity is being conducted. It therefore seems clear to me—and, I hope, to most of your Lordships—that such persons will be able to obtain consultation under the Bill as it stands. While I will look at the matter again, and give it further consideration—and the noble and learned Lord might like to write to the sponsors of the Bill—I cannot see any reason for accepting the Amendment at this stage.


My noble friend Lord Bethell has given the answers to the questions which noble Lords have shown fears about. This is not a major Bill; it is a small Bill to help local authorities think about the problem of the heavy lorry in their environment. It is giving them powers but they do not have to use these powers. If they take powers the Secretary of State has to confirm them; if they do not take powers the Secretary of State can initiate some movement from them. It is a flexible Bill; flexibility is the keynote of this Bill.

I should like to assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, there will be a circular to local authorities if this Bill becomes law. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will be more than happy to include in the circular advice to local authorities dealing with travelling fairs and circuses and, as my noble friend Lord Bathurst mentioned, forestry vehicles, if that were thought to be necessary. Circuses and travelling fairs would be considered. Local authorities are not out to deny to the inhabitants of their towns—after all, they elect them—what they want. This is a little Bill designed to help them make life more pleasant. This is not a heavy axe coming down, with the authorities saying. "You will do this and you will not do that". What my noble friend Lord Bethell has said can be taken as being fairly accurate.


The noble Lord suggests a circular. It may be that that is the right answer. The noble Lord, the sponsor of the Bill, said that he had not entirely closed his mind, although he had taken a provisional view. There is the question of forestry and other temporary users. I very gladly avail myself of the opportunity to give further thought to this point and perhaps make a further approach to the noble Lord between this and the next stage of the Bill. It may be that the right answer is the circular, and not to make special provision in the Bill. I should like to consider the position generally. In the meantime, I ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.38 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved Amendment No. 3: Page 4, line 10, leave out from ("has") to end of line 11, and insert ("a gross vehicle weight exceeding sixteen tons").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. This is the same Amendment as was moved during the Committee stage in another place and was withdrawn on the understanding that the promoters of the Bill and the Government would give further thought to that which was intended. Unhappily, no compromise agreement was arrived at and the definition of 3 tons unladen weight remains for the purpose of this Bill. I appreciate that if this Amendment receives the Committee's support other consequential amendments will have to be made. Principally the Amendment rests on the definition of the heavy goods vehicle and provides for the blanket inclusion of a class of vehicles larger than that for which the Bill provides.

There are a number of fundamental reasons for choosing 16 tons gross weight as a definition for a heavy goods vehicle. First, the unladen weight is meaningless and we should always be thinking in terms of gross tonnage. There are four prime reasons why an unladen weight is meaningless. The unladen weight is that weight at which a vehicle is offered at the weighbridge for licensing purposes. It has no meaning other than this. Years ago when I was selling lorries—and it was a long time ago—it was the practice to use the regulations to the absolute limit in getting the weight down. The regulations provide for allowances to be made for the driver's weight, petrol, spare wheel, batteries and so on; and it was not unknown to stretch the regulations just a little farther. It might be more meaningful if one were to substitute tare weight for unladen weight. I have chosen to think in terms of gross weight.

A further reason is that gross tonnage means what it says: the whole package moving up and down the roadway. This is something that almost everybody understands, and it is quite usual for this term of measurement to be used in the European Economic Community and it therefore has greater usage in this country. Furthermore, the term "unladen weight" will in fact be removed from those regulations which come into force in 1976 affecting drivers' regulations. There is to be substituted 7.38 gross tons. I suspect by 1976 we shall probably be talking in terms of 7.5 metric tonnes. Indeed, earlier this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, speaking from the Front Bench on the Committee stage of another Bill, spoke of using in this country terms of measurement that were coming into greater use in the European Community. If we adopted this suggestion we should be some way towards that goal. That other regulations may have to be changed, signs changed and so on, in changing from unladen weight to gross tonnage weight is, I believe, immaterial. It is important that that which is recognised to be in common usage should be adopted at the earliest possible moment and this Bill provides for just that.

One last point on unladen weight. Three tons unladen weight at the time the regulations were made provided largely for vehicles approaching 5 to 6 tons gross; in other words, a vehicle that was 3 tons unladen at licensing had something approaching an all-up weight of 5 to 6 tons. To-day this is not so. To-day one can produce a vehicle—indeed, one is on the market—which will go 7½ tons gross on a 3-ton unladen basis. So, whichever way we may look, a 3-ton unladen weight basis seems to be quite wrong and quite impracticable.

Moving to the substance of the Amendment, I recognise, and recognise to a greater extent than some noble Lords may credit, that heavy goods vehicles cause concern. I might say—I do say—that the real concern is what might be called the heavy heavy-goods vehicle: that vehicle which is more normally described as "a juggernaut"; a vehicle which, in common parlance, has a gross tonnage of 30 to 32 tons. This Bill, as it is currently written, will exclude those vehicles from certain roads and zones. There are about 204,000 of these vehicles only out of a total of 1,550,000 general goods vehicles on the road. I take these figures from the 1971 Highway Statistics, Table No. 6 on page 13 of the Department of the Environment's publication—


I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Will he help me? My information is (and it may be completely wrong, but the noble Lord is knowledgeable in this area) that nearly 3,000 lorries of the juggernaut type come into England daily from the Continent. Is this correct—because it has a bearing on this Amendment? Can the noble Lord give me any accurate information, or information that is as near accurate as possible, on this point?


I think I could help the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, on this matter, but were I to give him the figures I do not think they would be tremendously helpful. I am speaking of the number of vehicles currently in use in this country at a particular time. Certainly a large number of vehicles come in and go out. Currently there are a higher number of new registrations of the heavy heavy-vehicle. But to establish some kind of a mean, I have taken the last generally accepted figures published by the Department of the Environment in their booklet Highway Statistics, and I think this is reasonably meaningful.

The Amendment seeks to include within the provisions of the Bill those vehicles between 3 tons unladen, which is somewhere around 7½ tons gross, and 5 tons unladen, approximately 16 tons gross, of which there were only 221,000 at the time that the figures which I am using for comparative purposes were taken: that is, at the end of 1971. The only other figure with which I need weary the Committee is in respect of those vehicles up to 3 tons unladen. There are 1,130,000 vehicles which will come below the prohibited, the restricted and the zonal measures imposed in the Bill. We are in fact talking in terms of only 221,000, something like one-fifth more of the vehicles currently permitted, but at the same time excluding those vehicles—the juggernauts of 20, 30 or 32 tons—which we all acknowledge cause most concern. The principal reasons for including these vehicles, the 221,000 16-ton gross vehicles, are quite legion. Those of your Lordships who have followed the arguments presented by the honourable Member for Nuneaton during the Committee stage in another place may be well aware of them.

It may be helpful to the Committee if I were to summarise the principal points. Most food and general goods for retail sale are delivered to the ultimate selling point in a 5-ton vehicle. Most of the large foodstuff wholesaling companies base their transport and distributive arrangements on the 5-ton vehicle. A typical 5-ton (or 16-ton gross) vehicle is 27 feet long; and a typical 3-ton (or 7-ton gross) vehicle is 20 feet long. It follows, therefore, that more smaller vehicles will take up more road space. They will take up more road space when parked or when making their deliveries, but even more when they are travelling. It is a fact that delivery journey times are taken up mainly in terms of running rather than in terms of parking and discharging goods. So again it follows that if one reduces the amount of goods to be carried into certain areas on certain roads by a reduction in the type of vehicle to be used, more smaller vehicles will have to be used, and they will take up more space and cause more congestion and therefore cause more annoyance.

This point is already proven in the number of 3-ton unladen vehicles which are coming on the roads as a result of the regulations pertaining to heavy goods vehicle drivers and their licensing. If I may quote from the Business Monitor, the Department of Trade and Industry's monthly statistics for February, 1973, the number of vehicles under 3 tons registered and in use in February, 1972, was 16,429; in 1973, the number was 21,780, whereas the group of vehicles between 3 and 5 tons was 1,275 in 1972 and 1,280 in 1973—an infinitesimal increase in numbers.

I am seeking here to show to the Committee that there is already an increase in the number of smaller vehicles and that the potential restriction that the Bill provides would have a tendency to encourage the greater use of smaller vehicles. Noise and fumes pollution generally attributable to commercial vehicles is largely concerned with the engine, and it is a design fact that the engine size ratio to payload is considerably higher with the smaller vehicle than it is with the larger. So that a diminution of noise from engines, smoke exhaust and other pollutions, all damaging to amenity and environment, will not necessarily occur by using smaller vehicles. Using vehicles under 3 tons unladen and under 7½ tons gross, as provided in the Bill, could necessitate considerable reinvestment in vehicle distribution fleets, and I am told, on what I consider to be very reliable authority, that such a reinvestment could increase by 70 to 80 per cent. the cost of distribution. The cost of distribution is approximately 10 per cent. of the shop selling price of most foodstuffs and most general goods. Therefore it follows that one may envisage that were an authority to use the blanket powers given in the Bill this type of goods would easily increase.

It has been said—it was indeed said during the Second Reading debate—that trans-shipment is the answer; that out of town shopping areas may have to be created so that the heavy goods vehicle as defined in the Bill is kept away from certain amenity areas. Trans-shipment, even between a gross ton vehicle of 32 and a 5-tonner is an expensive business, and it could quite easily be foreseen that a further trans-shipment down to a 7 ton gross loaded vehicle could increase by 3 or 4 per cent. the cost of goods so handled.

It is also necessary to find trans-shipment areas; it is also necessary to find out of town shopping areas where the larger vehicle may more easily go, and I wonder whether your Lordships would permit a small example. A typical English out of town shopping centre takes up about 20 acres, of which 60 per cent. is devoted to car parking and 40 per cent. only to usable selling space. A hypermarket, again advocated as one means by which commercial vehicle traffic can be reduced, takes up considerably more space—up to four times as much space to make it economical, with an even higher proportion of car parking space. So in a country such as ours, where there is so little land, can we afford to think in these terms?

There are other arguments, but it would be wearisome of me to continue. However, by this Amendment I am suggesting that in the passageway of this small class of vehicle—221,000 only—of between 3 and 5 tons unladen, a very small increase should be permitted. It should be integrated with regulations that are already available to local authorities in terms of weight and height, weight and width limitations on certain specific roads, and would continue to maintain a certain quality of life in the city and town areas and also in urban areas that the Bill in fact seeks to maintain. I beg to move.


I am sure we are all grateful to my noble friend, with his great knowledge of this particular subject, for intervening in this Committee stage and giving us the benefit of his experience. However, I think some noble Lords could have been forgiven if they had gathered from what my noble friend has just said that wholesale prohibitions and restrictions were most likely to be imposed on a very large number of places in our city centres as a result of this Bill, if it becomes law. However, it seems to me, and, I would suggest, to anyone who studies the Bill with great care, extremely unlikely that this will be the case. What this Bill proposes is that there should be a strict lower limit for defining vehicles which in certain circumstances would be banned from certain areas. But it is only in very hard cases that this strict limit would be applied by local authorities.

It would seem logical to assume that local authorities will not be keen to ban vehicles with an unladen weight between 3 tons and 5 tons from city centres where there are shops or supermarkets, with a consequent rise in distribution costs, as my noble friend has mentioned, unless this is really necessary for other reasons. It is extremely unlikely that local authorities will want to cause inconvenience to commercial interests in their towns. It is, after all, people engaged in commerce, as well as others, who elect them and, perhaps equally important, it is shoppers who elect them—and if shoppers notice that because of a policy adopted by their own local authority prices are rising, they are not going to be terribly keen to re-elect those local councillors who went overboard on amenity grounds. I would not suggest that there was any great evidence that local councillors were likely to be excessively biased on the amenity side of this argument as opposed to the commercial and access side.

Operators of any commercial vehicle that comes within the scope of this proposed Bill will, of course, have the right to consultation, as was mentioned in the previous Amendment, and any provision which prohibits the access of heavy commercial vehicles into anywhere for a period longer than 8 hours in 24, will require the approval of the Secretary of State. It will also be open to the Secretary of State at any time in the future, should he see fit, to alter that limit. That is part of the flexibility of the Bill which my noble friend on the Front Bench has suggested is one of its better points. Furthermore, the proposals to limit the access of certain heavy vehicles, above 3 tons unladen, would do no more than to bring the rest of the country into line with the situation which presently exists in the area controlled by the G.L.C.; and I would have thought that your Lordships would not have noticed any very great price rises or curtailment in normal commercial activity in the G.L.C. area as a result of the somewhat stricter regulations which apply in London as opposed to the rest of the country.

That is the burden of the flexibility provisions which exist in the proposed Bill and I suggest that my noble friend is being perhaps a little too apprehensive about what will happen if this Bill becomes law. Of course, if a draconian local authority were to impose wholesale prohibitions and restrictions there would be chaos: prices would rise and shoppers would be up in arms. But that is extremely unlikely to happen, and I must come to the conclusion that my noble friend's fears are groundless. On the other hand, it may well be that local authorities in certain areas will impose the strict limit, the strict prohibition, as they are entitled to do. For instance, in a National Park area a sign may be erected, if this Bill becomes law, banning any vehicle with an unladen weight of more than 3 tons from entering the park; or, in a town centre, from approaching buildings which are old and likely to suffer from vibration; or certain areas with very narrow streets; and areas of great beauty which would be affected by the intrusion of heavy vehicles. I would also suggest that it is the heavier vehicles which cause the most concern to people who dislike lorries on amenity grounds. There is not so much objection to the smaller ones.

My noble friend also raised a somewhat different issue: the advisability of having a weight limit on a laden basis rather than an unladen basis. It may very well be that this might become possible in the future, particularly in the light of our membership of the E.E.C.; and it could be that in that context a movement might be made towards a laden weight definition. But at present most existing legislation concerns vehicles defined on an unladen weight basis. Vehicles which have a unladen weight of more than 3 tons have to carry red and yellow markers on the back which immediately label them as coming into this heavy commercial vehicle category. It will thus be much easier to enforce the provision at the moment if this present definition is adopted as opposed to the definition proposed by my noble friend. There are also large numbers of signs mentioning certain prohibitions and restrictions on heavy vehicles. These, too, are on an unladen weight basis. If this Bill becomes law there will be a few more, albeit not quite so many as my noble friend thinks; but it would be confusing if certain signs were to be on a laden weight basis and certain others on an unladen weight basis. As a result of the progress we make towards the common European policy on this matter we may eventually go over to a laden weight definition, but at the moment there would be a very confused situation if we were to adopt the suggestion of my noble friend. For this reason, I hope that your Lordships will not support this Amendment.

7.7 p.m.


I should like to reinforce what my noble friend has said and to give the Government's views. The Government, generally speaking, accept the view that he has given. What he has reminded us all about the G.L.C. and London is very relevant to this Bill. No such dire happenings have taken place in the heavy lorry world in London. The police and local authorities are people of common sense. They must have regard to public opinion, and public opinion must have regard to what is essential in life. We want to prohibit only what is unnecessary. One cannot go on repeating that too often. Therefore, when my honourable friend in another place and my noble friend in this House put this weight as "Unladen weight 3 tons" it was with their eyes wide open.

My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth said that he regarded unladen weight as meaningless. I hope that is not the case, because if it were so all our traffic regulations would have to be changed. My advice is that in Section 194 of the Road Traffic Act, 1972, my noble friend will find a full definition of what is meant by "unladen weight". It means the weight of the vehicle including all the body and all parts which are necessary for its use on the road. Gross weight, as my noble friend Lord Bethell has said, is not used in existing legislation and it would definitely cause confusion. But that is not to say, looking ahead, that if and when the time comes to integrate our road legislation more with that of the E.E.C. countries, we might then have to consider going over to gross weight. But if this legislation is to be enacted it should be done—and I think your Lordships will agree—across the whole board, not just for a small Bill of this type.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, had a point when he said that the figures which my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth gave applied only to British registered vehicles. Undoubtedly foreign vehicles are coming into the country. As we do more trade with the E.E.C. countries that trade may increase still further and those vehicles would come under this law. But the important point which has been emphasised again and again by my noble friend Lord Bethell, and which I tried to make last time I intervened, is that local authorities can make exceptions as to times, classes and circumstances. They have all these powers in the Act. I regard it as unthinkable that they would not use them as they saw necessary.

In all the circumstances, therefore, it is probably wise to keep the smaller tonnage in the Bill as laid down and to let the local authorities, the local police, the Secretary of State and public opinion, if necessary, cause it to be raised.


If prohibition is not envisaged, as the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said, why is it necessary to give the local authorities the powers?


I do not think I said that prohibition was not envisaged. I hope I said that widespread prohibition was not envisaged, and that total prohibition of heavy commercial vehicles in any particular place would be comparatively rare.


Be that as it may, I do not think we are going to get very far down that particular road this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, said that I had described as meaningless vehicles of 3 tons unladen weight. It was done within the context of this Bill. I am appreciative of the definitions "unladen", "tare" and "gross" weights. I would just draw your Lordships' attention to one further point. In an article in the Sunday Times on May 13 it was said: The County Councils Association admit that their members have lockers full of powers. This is in relation to the control and movement of heavy goods vehicles. I would suggest that the giving of further and additional powers under this Bill is not going to help them any further in this matter. However, that I have been unable to find any support has been demonstrated in the Committee this evening, and rather than take up any further time I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

7.12 p.m.


I should like to say a few words on the question of access. Under the Bill local authorities have power to impose a total prohibition on certain routes and in certain zones on the ground of amenity for a total of 24 hours, a power which they have not had hitherto, it having been limited, as the noble Lord, Lord Bethel!, has told us, to eight hours. I believe that this is a very negative approach. It is negative in that it gives an authority the power to deny access at all times to any kind of vehicle for any kind of purpose through 24 hours out of 24, and it seems to me that it is wrong that the Government should endorse such a negative approach. Rather, they should find some better and other way of meeting the quite proper demands and requirements of those other people. There are, of course, certain practical difficulties if there is a 24 hour prohibition. How does an essential vehicle get into the area? One might assume that this will be allowed for under an exemption. Who, and under what circumstances, is going to decide what are exempted classes? What happens if a plumber is urgently required? Does he apply for exemption and wait patiently for the wheels of bureaucracy to grind out an answer, or does he break the law and go and fix the water leak?


With great respect, how many plumbers does my noble friend know who arrive in vehicles of 3 tons unladen weight?


A plumber installing a washing machine, with perhaps four other calls to make that day, could quite easily use a vehicle of 3 tons unladen weight. However, we are not talking about vehicles of 3 tons unladen weight; we are talking about a total prohibition of all vehicular traffic through 24 hours under the subsection dealing with access. I hoped I had made it clear that I was dealing with the extension from eight hours to 24 hours. If I have misunderstood, perhaps the noble Lord will correct me.


I must apologise if I mislead my noble friend when moving the Second Reading. Certainly it is no purpose of this Bill to prohibit all vehicular traffic for any time. This Bill relates solely to heavy commercial vehicles, which means a vehicle of unladen weight of 3 tons or more.


If I have misunderstood, I apologise to the Committee. I will take very good care to read it again so that my understanding is more correct at a later stage. If I find that my understanding is more nearly correct than the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, assumes it is, I shall have further things to say then.

I should like, therefore, to move on to Clause 1(1), the subsection dealing with the new subsection (3AA), paragraph (a), which deals with through routes. The local authority may include proposals on designating through routes. There is no great quarrel with this, in so far as there is already a system of through routing, broadly upon an advisory basis, and this is working quite well. It is going to be another seven years, 1980, before all our current road programmes are planned to come to fruition, and it is therefore not always quite as easy in practice to designate through routes. In the designation of such a through route, I wonder what happens when something goes wrong? Suppose, for example, a designated route from Southampton Docks to London is by way of M.3, prohibiting the rather more leisurely and certainly more pleasant routes of the A.30 and the A.35. There comes an occasion when, due to road maintenance, accident, or something of that nature, the road is blocked. Do those lorries patiently queue back to Southampton Docks or are they redirected off the designated route? Who, and in what circumstances, will have the power to redesignate? Are we quite satisfied that by the time the provisions of this Bill may be implemented, only 3½ years from now, there will be sufficient facilities for drivers and their vehicles on what may appear at first sight to-day a designated route? We have discussed this matter on innumerable occasions in your Lordships' House. Why does a lorry driver take an XYZ laden vehicle into such an area? I have told your Lordships, and I think your Lordships have believed me, in the past, that it is because there are not adequate facilities, mainly for the driver and certainly for the vehicle, on some of the routes which one would expect the heavy goods vehicle to use.

There is one other aspect of the designated through route system. Are the county councils or the associated transport authorities going to provide a manual for the use of transport managers? I have tried to describe and illustrate to your Lordships how the cost of distribution is a material cost in the ultimate selling price of goods. Unless there is some kind of manual of operation, how will a transport manager based, let us say, in Manchester, sending goods to the South-West, the North-East or any of the four corners of the United Kingdom, know where his lorry may go at what time and in what circumstances? All these factors, while having the most desirable effect, can inhibit the operation of goods vehicles moving legitimately up and down the country.


My noble friend has raised a number of issues the most important of which is the question of through routes, which is the first major proposal suggested in this Bill. This provision is mainly one which may be useful in the future. It does not provide for any means of enforcement at the present stage, and it is recognised by those who sponsor the Bill that, at the moment, the enforcement of through routes is not possible. For this reason, it would be premature to lay down precisely what steps should be taken if a vehicle breaks down or for one reason or another in an emergency has to leave a prescribed route. When it becomes the strict letter of the law that a through route must be adhered to, this problem will be faced. But, for the moment, this is a "toe in the door", a step towards the setting up of through routes, which one hopes may be useful in the future when these routes are properly constructed and labelled and when drivers of heavy commercial vehicles can use them without breaking the law.

My noble friend also mentioned the possibility of emergency vehicles coming into certain areas where prohibitions may be imposed by local authorities. There are ample opportunities available to local authorities to make exceptions for certain types of vehicles, such as fire engines, ambulances and dustcarts, to go into areas where there is a prohibition on other heavy commercial vehicles. It is unlikely that plumbers would be given such an exemption, but there would be exemption for fire engines and ambulances. Other vehicles would be able to enter such zones only if they were below 3 tons unladen weight. I hope that I have covered all of my noble friend's points and that your Lordships will approve the clause.


If I may just dot the odd "i" and cross the odd "t" oaf my noble friend Lord Bethell, I should like to emphasise that what we are talking about is not the primary trunk routes of the country. We all know that by the 1980s we shall have some 3,500 miles of motorways and trunk routes, and over 80 of the 120 listed great historic cities, which are congested in the middle and which have some lovely cathedrals, will have been by-passed. We also know that by that date national lorry parks, about which my noble friend Lord Lucas is worried, will have been provided. It is essential to repeat the word, "flexibility". No local authority will refuse access to a town unless there is a reasonable way around it, such as a bypass. When we drive along in our motor cars and there is an accident ahead, we find a diversion sign and I am quite certain, if local authorities designate routes, that they are capable of putting up a diversion sign if there is a snowfall or something of that sort. The only other point I would make is that local authorities already have power to refuse access to heavy lorries, and this Bill will only give them powers for the other side of the coin—to suggest where they will go.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, and to the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, for what they have said in answer to my questions. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, for his assurance that by 1980—


The early 1980s, I think I said.


By the early 1980s. So that the time when lorry parks will have been provided is only 12 years off, at the best or the worst. May I take this opportunity of apologising to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, to my noble friend on the Front Bench and to other Members of the Committee if I take leave of the Committee at this time in order to enable me to keep a long-standing engagement. I do no feel that I can be of any further help in the consideration of this Bill at this stage.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Prohibition of parking of heavy commercial vehicles on verges and footways]:

7.26 p.m.

VISCOUNT DAVIDSON moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 5, line 10, at end insert— ("(c) that it was parked in contravention of this section on a footpath or the verge of a road outside a built-up area for the purpose of loading or unloading and that such loading or unloading could not otherwise have been performed in a satisfactory or convenient manner").

The noble Viscount said: This Amendment proposes the insertion of a new paragraph (c) to subsection (2) of Clause 2. The existing paragraphs (a) and (b) set out the circumstances in which a person shall not be convicted of an offence under Clause 1; namely, if he proves to the satisfaction of the court,

  1. "(a) that it was parked in accordance with permission given by a constable in uniform; or
  2. (b) that it was parked in contravention of this section for the purpose of saving life or extinguishing fire or meeting any other like emergency."
It seems to me that this Bill has been devised primarily to resolve some of the problems caused by heavy commercial vehicles in urban areas. The purpose of this Amendment is to draw attention to certain difficulties which might well arise in rural areas under the Bill as it stands. I hope that the promoters of the Bill will consider these problems and, if this Amendment in its present form is not entirely acceptable, that they will bring forward proposals at a later stage of the Bill to meet the points which I am raising.

The first difficulty arises out of the lack of definition of the word, "verge". A "footway" is quite adequately defined by the Highways Act 1959, in Section 295, as: …a way comprised in a highway…over which the public have a right of way on foot only. But "verge", so far as I can gather, has no legal definition although the meaning is given in one of the law dictionaries as, land at the side of the road which is part of the highway but not paved. In many parts of the country there are wide grass verges which belong to the adjoining landowner, and therefore, if this meaning is correct and they are not part of the highway, then, presumably, a person parking a heavy vehicle on such verges would not be guilty of an offence under this clause. It may be that there is quite a simple explanation of this point, but it is one which I feel requires some clarification before this Bill is translated into law.

The second and main difficulty is that the Bill fails to recognise what is not only an accepted practice in the countryside but one that is growing increasingly necessary; that is, the need for heavy transporters of livestock and timber to park on the side of the road for the purpose of loading or unloading their goods. As the size and weight of the vehicle increases, so is it less practicable or possible for that vehicle to be driven off the highway into a field or into a forest. The ground may be waterlogged after heavy rain, or the nature of the soil may be such that it cannot bear the weight of the transporter, or the incline off the road may be too steep or the gateway too narrow. In such circumstances, it is essential for the vehicle to be parked on the verge, whether that verge is privately or publicly owned.

It may well be argued that I am exaggerating these difficulties, for after all someone might say that the driver of the vehicle has only to get permission from a constable in uniform and he will then be within the law and all will be well. Indeed, it has been suggested that the farmer or landowner—the farmer in particular—has only to ring up the police station the day before to say that a vehicle will be parked on the verge in order to unload. The only difficulty I foresee about that is that he will not be able to make sure over the telephone that the constable is wearing his uniform. As your Lordships will appreciate, uniformed constables are not as common in the countryside as they used to be, and it does not require a great deal of imagination to foresee the waste of time and effort and energy that will be involved if this procedure has to be followed on every occasion.

For the reasons that I have given I hope that both the Promoters of this Bill and the Government will agree that this Amendment is a reasonable one and that if they are unable to accept it to-day they will be willing to consider the issues which have been raised before the next stage of the Bill. I beg to move.


I would support the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, when he spoke about the effect this clause would have in the rural areas where so many activities necessitate parking on road verges, usually for loading and unloading. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, said that this Bill is not a heavy axe descending on commercial activity, but in country areas I venture to suggest that that is just what it might be if this no-parking Clause 2 goes through as it stands. I do not want to repeat the noble Viscount's arguments, but one can think of many areas, especially in the uplands, where, for instance, milk has to be collected, livestock loaded and unloaded, and where it can be done only on the road verges, because of the nature or configuration of the ground, or because of the buildings and stone walls, fences and narrow gateways and so on, that make it impossible to get the ordinary farm lorry clear of the road.

The forestry industry in particular would find it very inconvenient to have to get permission from a constable in uniform every time they have to carry out their timber operations. In many areas that I know in the North-East of England, the woodland rises steeply from the roads and you have to bring the timber down the hillside to the road verge to load. I am thinking particularly of the Kielder Forest in Northumberland, and certain of the Commission's forests in Durham and the Wykeham Forest in Yorkshire; and I imagine that the problem would be even more acute in Scotland, particularly in the West. In short, there is a multitude of activities which require lorries to carry out their normal business on the roadside in areas where the police are very sparse, and this provision as it stands would really be quite unworkable.

It may be argued that this Amendment could lead to all sorts of abuse by drivers outside the built-up areas leaving their vehicles on the road verges on the excuse that they were about to unload or load up at sometime. But if the police suspected unnecessary parking surely they could use Section 95 of the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations. The noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong, but I think the one in use at the moment is Statutory Instrument No. 321 of 1969, which says that no person in charge of a motor vehicle or trailer shall cause or permit the motor vehicle or trailer to stand on a road so as to cause any unnecessary obstruction thereon. I think that as a rule the road verges are part of the highway. Alternatively, the police can use Section 24 of the Road Traffic Act 1972, in the case of an obstruction likely to cause danger. And if damage is being done to the verges, and there is no obstruction, then the local authorities can take action under the Highways Act 1959.

This Bill is rightly framed to cope with the amenity problems arising from parking heavy lorries on pavements, but unamended it would introduce legislation that would be difficult to enforce outside the towns, it would add greatly to the work of the police and it would hinder the ordinary day-to-day tasks of farmers and foresters and all those who have to make their living in a rural area. I very much hope that this Amendment will be accepted.

7.34 p.m.


I am grateful to my noble friends for what they have said. This is of course a matter of balance. It is thought by the Promoters of this Bill that it is in principle undesirable that people should park their heavy commercial vehicles on pavements in towns or on verges in the countryside. On the other hand, it may be that in certain cases the parking of a large vehicle on a verge could be the lesser of two evils, and for this reason it was decided to introduce the provision whereby any driver of a heavy commercial vehicle can park his vehicle on a verge if he obtains the permission of a police constable. It may be that in certain circumstances it will be difficult for him to find a policeman, but I think my noble friends may have overlooked a possibility which would be open to any driver of a heavy commercial vehicle, which is to obtain permission from the police authorities for a certain category of parking. If a driver of a heavy commercial vehicle were to make a case to the police authorities that it was essential, for instance, for the loading of timber from a hillside to be done by parking on the verge and that such loading was done twice a week or at certain times, it seems to me extremely likely that the police, being reasonable people, provided there was no particular danger involved in allowing permission, would communicate to the owners of such vehicles that they would be allowed to park their vehicles on the verges at certain times and for certain purposes.

The alternative, which is the Amendment proposed by my noble friends, is one which the Promoters of this Bill cannot recommend for one specific reason; that is, that it would be open under the proposed Amendment for anyone who was prosecuted for loading or unloading while parked on a verge to say in court that he found it inconvenient to unload in any other place. Under such a provision it would be almost impossible for the police to convict someone who had parked his vehicle and unloaded. We feel that there must be something a little stricter than this. While I am on that subject, there is one point I should like to make to my noble friend Lord Davidson. This provision applies only to parking on verges which are part of the highway. If there is a verge which belongs to an individual, of course it would not be an offence to park on it. The owner of such a verge would be permitted to park on his own land. Any other person of course would be technically committing trespass, but there would not be a prosecution under this Bill.

There is no doubt that certain damage could be done to verges, particularly by the heavy commercial vehicles which park there, and it can be that danger is afforded to pedestrians who find that a footpath which may run along a verge is obstructed by a heavy commercial vehicle parked there. It can be dangerous if they are forced to walk into the road because the place where they walk is blocked by a vehicle. It is that sort of thing which the Promoters of this Bill are trying to prevent as well as discouraging people from parking on verges. Obviously, there are times when a heavy vehicle must park on a verge but we should prefer drivers not to do so if they can possibly find some other place to put their vehicles. Up to now, it could be that certain operators of heavy agricultural vehicles have left their vehicles on a verge when they could have taken them through a gate and into a field. While I recognise that a field may be boggy and that it may be impossible in certain circumstances for such vehicles to be driven into a field, we would obviously prefer them to be driven into a field if it is humanly possible. It is for this reason that the clause has been inserted, and we feel that there is sufficient protection in the comparatively rare cases when parking on a verge is essential, or is the lesser of two evils, in the provision whereby a driver or owner of a vehicle can obtain permission from a police constable—not necessarily again and again, not by ringing up every day, but by setting out a case for a blanket approval, which would be granted, I would suggest, by any reasonable police authority. For this reason the Promoters of the Bill cannot recommend this Amendment to the Committee.


My noble friend Lord Bethell has dealt with this Bill with such skill that I hesitate to say that I found his last answer not absolutely satisfactory, or as satisfactory as the other explanations he gave to us. I feel that my noble friends who have proposed and supported this Amendment have made a very strong case for the need to avoid, whenever possible, having to apply to the police for special permission in rural areas. Those of us who live in rural areas know, as my noble friends have said, that the police are very few and far between nowadays, and the time that can be wasted by such applications is far greater in the country than would be the case when having to obtain police approval in a town or city. I think, too, that many drivers would find it difficult to be sure whether the verge on which they feel they have to park belongs to a private owner or is part of the highway. I hope that my noble friend Lord Bethell will think about this a little more carefully, because I am not happy at present that the provisions of the Bill as it stands are likely to be as workable in the country areas for the purposes that have been referred to as they are in relation to the other cases that have been considered in built-up areas.


I am an enthusiastic supporter of this Bill, but I am bound to say that I did not find the reply of the noble Lord entirely convincing. It appears to me that the inclusion of this subsection in this clause would not damage the purpose of the Bill at all, but would rather let out someone who did it in certain circumstances and without having had to try to obtain permission from the police. As the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, has said, it is not always possible for people to find the local police and to go to them when something of this sort is going to take place, and it would seem to me wholly desirable that we should have a subsection such as this somewhere in the clause. Perhaps the noble Lord thinks that this Amendment is not worded quite as it might be worded, but I should think that he could take it back and look at it between now and Report stage, and perhaps consult his noble friend Lord Davidson, and then come along with something which the House would find satisfactory in this connection. I am bound to say that it looks to me as if this Amendment makes good sense, but if some slight amendment to the Amendment is needed surely this can be done between now and Report stage. I hope that the noble Lord will promise to take it back and look at it again.


Before my noble friend answers the points which have been raised, I should like to make one or two comments from the Government's point of view. I think my noble friend Lord Middleton was a little optimistic in regard to some of the powers which the police already have concerning parking on verges and pavements. There are powers existing, some of which he mentioned; but in answering a Question in your Lordships' House not so long ago I said that unless a vehicle was seen being driven on to a pavement it could not be assumed to have been driven on. I remember there was laughter; noble Lords thought I was being funny. But I was stating a legal fact. One of the small things this Bill will do is to remove that apparent nonsense, so that we shall not have vehicle owners getting away with that sort of thing.

I should like to support my noble friend Lord Bethell in again emphasising that this Bill is flexible. It refers to parking. Most of the things which have been envisaged by my noble friends Lord Davidson, Lord Middleton and Lord Amory have been cases where work has been taking place. If you are loading on cattle, you will probably be able to find a gateway with a hard entrance into the field, and be able to put up a pen. It may be that you are fencing and there is not an easy field with a hard entrance the other side. Somebody mentioned a hill; or there might be a wood on the other side and trees which are dangerous. But these are matters of work which will arise as matters of necessity, and it is inconceivable that if you did not have time to ring up the police before you needed to do the job they would ever prosecute. One can think of many other cases. If one was digging out a dyke at the side of a road one might require a heavy machine for digging out the dirt and a large vehicle into which to put it. You might need a 3-ton vehicle, unladen weight, for that task. It is inconceivable, again, that if one has not the time to ask the police beforehand the police will take action, if something is being done for the good of the community. If my noble friend Lord Bethell requires advice from the Government as to what form such a paragraph (c) should take, I have no doubt that the Department would give him every possible help. But I would repeat that I find it inconceivable that the agricultural community, bearing in mind the intentions of the movers of this Bill, would find it the burden that they suspect it might be.


I am grateful to my noble friend for what he has said. The point is that we have done our best in trying to find a balance between the two evils, but if there are any proposals which noble Lords would care to put forward at Report stage the proposers of the Bill will of course consider them extremely carefully. The device we have used has been the proposal that, with the permission of a policeman, parking may be permitted on a verge, and that such permission may be given at the discretion of the police. I agree with my noble friend that the police are likely to consider such applications as reasonably as they consider other applications, and I feel that perhaps some of my noble friends are a little too apprehensive about the inconvenience involved in obtaining permission from the police. They may be few and far between in rural areas, but they are all on the telephone, and it is not terribly time-consuming to make a phone call for one specific permission or to write a letter if a more blanket permission is required. But certainly, as a number of noble Lords have mentioned the possibility of some Amendments being set down at Report stage, I can say that those who have sponsored this Bill will be very happy to consider such proposals and to try to work out something which the House would prefer. I am bound to say that at the moment I cannot think what such an Amendment would be, or what other device could both satisfy the desires of those who support this Bill and allay the fears of those who know the countryside well and who realise the problems involved in unloading and loading in rural areas. But certainly we will consider anything that is put before us.


There is one other small point. To-day, the police really are overloaded with work, and I think we need to be very sure before we put a commitment on to somebody even in regard to ringing them up for an approval which is being sought, unless that really is necessary. That is why I hope my noble friend Lord Bethell will give more consideration as to whether it is really necessary.


My noble friend Lord Bethell suggests that we might have been too apprehensive over this problem. That may be so; but I think it is right that one should be apprehensive at this stage of a Bill. I do not know whether one has been making a mountain out of a molehill or a heavy commercial vehicle out of a Mini-Minor, but I think it right that this point should have been raised. I am grateful to my noble friend for saying that he will look at this matter. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton for saying that his Department will help between this stage and Report. Finally, I should like to thank the Committee for the support this Amendment has received, and particularly my noble friend Lord Amory. With the proviso that we will certainly come back to this at Report stage if nothing is done in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.52 p.m.

LORD STOW HILL moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 5 line, 10, at end insert ("or (c) that it is parked on a footway for the purposes of a lawfully held travelling fair.")

The noble and learned Lord said: I have already argued on the previous Amendment which I moved the broad point which I seek to achieve in moving the present Amendment. As your Lordships know, street fairs are held in country towns. They generally last for a day or a few days and when they are not street fairs it often is the case that the lorries which those who organise them bring on to the scene have to pass on to a fairground. When they do so it is almost impossible to avoid their being driven over a verge on many occasions. Likewise, when street fairs are held it is very difficult in many cases to avoid their being parked temporarily on the footway. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, listened attentively to the arguments in support of the previous Amendment and said that it was a matter of balance. I sympathise with him and I am sure that all noble Lords do so. One wants to get this excellent Bill right, but at the same time to get it right without unduly interfering with processes that must go on.

I seek a very much smaller invasion of the principle of this Bill. When I first read the last Amendment I wondered whether I could say that the vehicles with which I am concerned crept within the scope of that Amendment and whether, if that Amendment were carried or if something emerged as a result of the consultations that are to take place, it would automatically include the owners of vehicles used for the purposes of street fairs and country fairs. I thought that they would not be so included because the previous Amendment dealt with loading and unloading; and that would not necessarily be the case when you are holding a street fair or a country fair.

The purpose of both Amendments is very similar. I would say, harking back to the use of the words on balance, that mine is very much more limited in scope. Perhaps it would be a little unreasonable, when the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, has said that he would like to think about the previous Amendment, for me to press on him now the acceptance of the Amendment that I move. If he intimates that he will be willing to do so I shall be overjoyed; but from what he has said before he might find some difficulty in doing that. Therefore, might I ask that when he is considering the previous Amendment he would also consider the point of view of those to whom I have referred who conduct these street fairs and country fairs? I feel that he probably will be able to say that he will take both into account.

The noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, mentioned the point, when the discussion was taking place about communicating with the police by telephone. I entirely sympathise with what the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said, about not further overburdening the police. I do not think that I shall be found to be overburdening them very much if I limit the scope of my Amendment to the street fairs which occur only once or twice a year—not more. The difficulty to which the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, pointed was that the Bill as drafted required that the person accused, against whom a prosecution has been brought, has affirmatively to establish that the constable who gave permission was in uniform. Obviously that cannot be done if you previously ring up a police station or possibly a police officer's home in some outlying district.

One possible approach might be to envisage that this sort of arrangement would in the future be made by telephone. It might be a standing arrangement, as was suggested, or an arrangement on a particular occasion; but the Bill might be amended—I put it to your Lordships for consideration— by the elimination of the words "in uniform". That, I submit, might give rise to the reasonable practicability that those who have occasion to load and unload or who wish to bring street fairs or country fairs to a particular amenity district could have some standing arrangement with the local police authorities to enable them, in so far as they must, to park for a short time on the verge or footway. That might get over the difficulty. It would assist the two noble Lords who moved the previous Amendment possibly to the same extent as it might assist those whose cause I am putting forward at the moment in relation to street fairs and country fairs. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to say that he will give consideration to my proposals when giving consideration to the previous proposals. The noble Lord who spoke from the Front Bench intimated that the Government had some sympathy with it.

It is conceivable that the right method might be, as was suggested on the occasion of the previous Amendment I moved, that a circular could be brought into play for this purpose and the police authorities could be sent a circular giving some kind of general practice which might be followed when this sort of situation arose. But no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, will be good enough to say that he will take my Amendment into account when he considers the previous one and will also think of all these possibilities. If he is able to tell me that, I shall ask permission of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment that I now move.


I will take just a minute of your Lordships' time. I should like the noble Lord to consider what would be the position in a lovely country area with a village green which might have 10 footpaths across it and on which from time immemorial circuses and country fairs had been held. Some cantankerous old crone who lived in a cottage by the side of the green and who did not like that fair would be able to refer to the noble Lord's Bill and say, "They are parking their vehicles and pitching their tents and caravans all around and about and on the footpaths"; or some old curmudgeon on the other side could say the same thing and could use this Bill to move away a fair which for centuries has been held on that village green. I appeal to the noble Lord to remember that point.


My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have spoken, particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, with his great knowledge of the law. I will certainly consider his suggestion about an alteration being made to the necessity for telephoning a policeman in uniform. I remember once in the Army listening to a lecture on the use of the telephone and a soldier asking the lecturer, "If the 'phone rings and an officer is on the other end, do you salute?" The same principle could apply here and it could be that the use of the telephone is the key to this proposal. I will certainly consider what the noble and learned Lord has said. As for his Amendment in its precise definition, he is right in thinking that I hope he will withdraw the Amendment, roughly for the same reasons that I gave for not feeling able to approve the first Amendment that he moved. It seems most likely that by mentioning a "lawfully held travelling fair" the noble and learned Lord is making clear that no particular problem is likely to arise if a fair is lawfully held, and normally there are certain by-laws laying down where fairs may be held.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, mentioned the village green. Surely it would be incumbent on the local police to give any permission for parking on verges which was necessary in order that the fair should be conducted lawfully and give lawful enjoyment to the community. The police might take the view that the fair could be held without parking on verges, and that parking somewhere else would be better for the community. In such a case I hope the police would refuse permission to park on verges. But if there were no other way, and the fair was lawful. I hope and expect that the police would give permission for this lawful and enjoyable activity. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, for what he has said.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, for what he has said. In view of it, I ask permission to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?


On Second Reading I said that I wondered whether the existing law regarding the parking of lorries in residential areas needed strengthening. After calling attention to the undesirability of this practice, for it certainly spoils the character of a street and often that of a whole residential area, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, to tell me something about this aspect. The noble Lord said he thought it a matter for the Committee stage. Subsequently, he was good enough to write to me assuring me that ample powers exist. So the question arises, why are these powers not enforced?

I also understand from Lord Mowbray and Stourton's letter that the difficulty that the police and other authorities experience in enforcing the law in this connection is that there is an absence of suitable overnight parking areas. Were it not for that, the noble Lord thought that the law would be enforced. My only point in raising the matter at this stage is to try to urge on the appropriate Government Department that they in turn should urge local authorities and ether responsible authorities to provide places for the overnight parking of lorries. This would relieve residential areas of the inconvenience of vehicles being parked outside houses, and so on. That was my only purpose and I will leave it at that. I do not intend to delay this Committee stage any longer.


I thank the noble Lord, Lord Champion, for his words of wisdom. Of course the Department will take note of what he has said, and if there is anything further that I can tell him on Report, I will do so.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Directions to drivers of overloaded vehicles]:

8.4 p.m.

LORD BETHELL moved Amendment No. 6: Page 6, line 11, leave out ("direct the driver to remove the vehicle") and insert ("by direction in writing require the person in charge of the vehicle to remove it").

The noble Lord said: Clause 3 of the Bill makes it possible for an enforcement officer to give permission for a heavy commercial vehicle which has been stopped because it was thought to be overloaded to be moved to a point where unloading may take place. Without this provision it would, technically speaking, be an offence for the enforcement officer to give such an instruction to the driver of the vehicle. He might be said to be conniving at the driving of an overloaded vehicle, and if such a vehicle were involved in an accident he might be held to be legally responsible, together with the driver. This Amendment makes it incumbent on the enforcement officer to give such instruction to a driver of an overloaded vehicle in writing rather than verbally. It is thought more desirable that a record should be kept of such instructions and therefore that the orders should be given in writing. The Amendment also changes the definition of the driver of the vehicle to "the person in charge of the vehicle", which brings the definition in line with the Section 57(7) of the Road Traffic Act 1972.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD BETHELL moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 6, line 25, at end insert— ("(2) For subsection (9) of the said section 57 there shall be substituted the following subsection:— (9) A person who—

  1. (a) drives a goods vehicle on a road, or causes or permits a goods vehicle to be so driven, in contravention of a prohibition under this section; or
  2. (b) refuses, neglects or otherwise fails to comply within a reasonable time with a direction under subsection (7) above,
shall be guilty of an offence."; and accordingly, in column 2 of the reference to the said subsection (9) in Part I of Schedule 4 to that Act, after the word "service" there shall he inserted the words "or refusing, neglecting or otherwise failing to comply with a direction to remove a dangerous heavy commercial vehicle".").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment relates to the same problem of a driver of an overloaded vehicle being directed to take his vehicle to a point where its weight could be brought down to the appropriate level. This Amendment envisages a situation where the driver of a vehicle so stopped might decide not to move his vehicle. If he took such unreasonable action he would not, under present legislation, be committing an offence. It is thought anomalous that such a driver who proceeded with his load and disobeyed the orders of an enforcement officer would be committing an offence, whereas if he simply abandoned his vehicle and refused to move it he would not be committing an offence. It is considered desirable that both these acts should be offences and be similarly punishable. I hope that the Committee will agree that this is a small but appropriate Amendment and will approve it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed. Bill reported with the Amendments.