§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Lord ELTON rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 25th June he approved.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, our next item of business is the Draft Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1980. I beg to move that this order, which was laid before Parliament on 25th June 1980, be agreed to.
§ My Lords, this is in part an item of consolidation and in part a piece of modernisation. The law on roads in Northern Ireland has until now been widely scattered. It is now concentrated into 64 articles and 9 schedules. This has been rendered easier by the fact that there is only one road authority in the Province. I shall not take your Lordships through all the provisions: I shall merely highlight a few of the principal items which may be of interest to your Lordships. If any noble Lord wishes to raise any other points, or pursue further anything I have mentioned, I shall be glad to deal with such matters to the best of my ability. But it is a large and complex document that we are looking at and your Lordships will bear with me if I take the process of reply steadily.
§ Article 11 provides that responsibility for all bridges carrying publicly-maintained roads over operational railway lines passes from the railway authorities to the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. This is already the case with bridges carrying motorways 2008 and trunk roads over railway lines, and so this is a logical extension of those principles. Bridges carrying railways over roads will, of course, continue to be the responsibility of the railway authorities, so this is an equitable division of responsibilities and moreover is in accord with an EEC regulation on this subject.
§ Articles 25 and 27 contain revised provisions regarding the drainage of roads, which will bring the law into line with that in Great Britain. Article 41 again brings the law in Northern Ireland into line with that throughout Great Britain, this time in authorising the closure of potentially dangerous private accesses, either by agreement with the owner and occupier, which of course would be the aim, or by order made after opportunity of objection and hearing had been given. Schedule 3 sets out the details. If an access is necessary, the department may provide an alternative and reasonably convenient, but safer, means of access, at its own expenses.
§ Article 42 deals with the protection of public roads and traffic from unauthorised works on or close to roads and is based on existing roads law. It would remain an offence for a person without consent to carry out the building or excavation works specified in paragraph (1) of the article, and it would remain an offence to erect a structure actually within the boundaries of a road. On the other hand, control over the erection of structures beyond road boundaries would no longer be exercised under roads law, but would be subject to planning control. As I am not aware whether any noble Lords here have planning or roads interests, I will not dilate further on that unless my attention is drawn to it during discussion of the order.
§ Turning to Article 48, this modernises a number of offences of causing danger, obstruction or annoyance to road users, and makes it a clear offence for a person to offer for sale or to sell anything within the boundaries of a road. There is existing statutory provision for the issue of "street trading licences" by district councils and anyone holding such a licence and trading within its terms would of course be exempt from prosecution under this article.
§ I would draw the attention of your Lordships to Article 50(1) which contains a new offence of allowing mud or other 2009 material to drop from any part of a vehicle on to the carriageway of a road so as to cause danger or substantial inconvenience to other users of that road. Your Lordships will be familiar with the annoyance not only during the sugar beet harvest but also when a construction site in wet weather abuts on to a road. It is already an offence to overload a vehicle in such a way that part of the load falls off and would cause danger or nuisance. This provision strengthens the law and makes it specific to that sort of fouling of the road. Article 55 concerns powers of entry, which your Lordships may wish to revert to, but I merely draw attention to it.
§ In Article 60, noble Lords will have noticed contains the requirement to consult and take account of the views of district councils. This article contains identical requirements to those already placed on the department in connection with its functions as water and sewerage authority for the Province. This requirement to consult, and pay due regard to the views of, councils makes a statutory obligation of the practice which began in 1973 when all road authority functions in Northern Ireland were transferred to central Government. The schedules contain the necessary procedures, amendments and repeals. The procedure in Schedule 5 for compulsory acquisition of land is slightly different from the existing provisions, and equates with that used for the acquisition of land for local government purposes in the Province.
§ My Lords, this is an important order in Northern Ireland legislation because it contains a convenient, comprehensive and clear statement of the law relating to public roads. It not only consolidates the law but it brings the law up-to-date and I am sure that it will be welcomed on its merits, and particularly by those who have to pursue questions of law through the existing forests which this is designed to simplify. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 25th June be approved.—(Lord Elton.)
§ Lord BLEASE
My Lords, I simply wish to thank the noble Lord for the detailed explanation of the order which was discussed at some length in another place on 8th July. If I may anticipate his introduction of the Private Streets 2010 Order, I should also like to give a welcome to that. These are two useful orders which will help to serve Northern Ireland in good stead. Therefore, we are giving them wholehearted support.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.