HL Deb 08 February 1989 vol 503 cc1551-2

2.47 p.m.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consider legislation to review the Public Utilities Street Works Act 1950 following the recommendations of the 1985 Horne Report, Roads and the Utilities.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, yes. Legislation will be brought forward as soon as there is a suitable opportunity. Proposals for legislation are being drawn up with the benefit of advice from the Street Works Advisory Committee.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for that most pleasing reply. However, can he tell his noble friend that there is a grave urgency to deal with the serious problem of what has become a standard joke—the holes in the road? Further, is he aware that excavations in the highway are not only a source of damage to vehicles but are also a constant problem for the elderly, the disabled and mothers with prams and pushchairs? Will he also draw those points to the Minister's attention?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that we are quite aware of the urgency of the problem. A sub-committee of the Street Works Advisory Committee was set up specifically to advise on public interest in the Public Utilities and Street Works Act 1950. It includes not only road users but people with special interests such as those mentioned by the noble Baroness. There will also be further consultation on detailed proposals.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, is there not agreement between the Public Utilities Group and the local authorities, and therefore there is nothing which should delay legislation? Have we not been told time and again that the Government sympathise with the recommendations and will introduce them as soon as possible? When is "as soon as possible"? Further, is not the problem of holes in the road referred to by my noble friend Lady Fisher one reason for the criticism of the maintenance of local roads?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, as I said, we are apprised of the urgency of the matter and "as soon as possible" will be as soon as possible. However, in the meantime we accept that a variety of local agreements are no substitute for uniform statutory requirements. Nevertheless, we hope that local authorities and utilities will not be inhibited from making practical improvements where possible before new legislation is brought in.