HL Deb 10 June 1991 vol 529 cc972-96

8.5 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 11:

Before Clause 35, insert the following new clause: ("Damaged and rebuilt vehicles etc

. In section 23 of the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1971 (regulations with respect to the transfer and identification of vehicles) after paragraph (d) there shall be inserted — "Damaged and rebuilt vehicles etc.

( ) Make provisions generally with respect to vehicles which have been seriously damaged, including provision for a definition of serious damage, provision for the notification by owners and insurers of seriously damaged vehicles to the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency, provision for the endorsement of any registration document issued in respect of a vehicle after it has been rebuilt of particulars of the rebuilding, provision for a vehicle to be the subject of a safety check before the issue of such a document, provision for the surrender, by motor insurers and other persons, of registration documents relating to the vehicles which have been damaged and provision with respect to certificates and marking of vehicles;" ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps we can come down to earth after dealing with such important ecclesiastical matters. Noble Lords will remember that in Committee I moved a number of amendments on behalf of my noble friend Lord Ezra. I had hoped that he would be present to pick up the torch this evening but sadly he has another engagement. I shall attempt to stand in for him but it will be in an inadequate way.

During the previous debate I detected some sympathy for the previous requirements relating to written-off vehicles. We heard from the Minister that the Government will keep the matter under review. The trading standards officers who advised my noble friend Lord Ezra on the matter regularly prosecute motor traders for misdescribing such vehicles and for selling them in an unroadworthy condition. They are anxious to see the review move forward, as is the working party on motor cars chaired by the Director General of Fair Trading. That all-interest group supports the report of the Association of Chief Police Officers on the relicensing of seriously damaged motor vehicles.

The amendments now before the House have three basic aims. The first is to ensure that motor vehicles which have suffered serious damage are subject to rigorous safety checks before being allowed back on the road. The second aim is that the registration documents of such vehicles are surrendered to the DVLA. The third aim is that the registration document shall be marked with particulars of the rebuilding. Therefore, the objectives are to ensure the safety of all motorists, to enable consumers to make an informed choice and to prevent the registration documents of such vehicles being used to hide the identity of a stolen vehicle.

At present the fact that a vehicle has been written off is usually notified to the DVLA by the insurance company on a form V23, but there is no requirement so to do. Similarly, police who attend road traffic accidents use the form to notify the DVLA that a vehicle is likely to be a write-off. More than 280,000 such notifications are received by the DVLA each year. It is a voluntary scheme and the fact that it does not relate to those vehicles which were insured only for third party means that there is an incomplete picture.

In our previous debate the Minister correctly identified the problems caused by vehicles insured only for third party. They are not written off by the insurance companies but they may well be declared uneconomic to repair. There is no reason why the insurance companies should not inform the DVLA about such decisions. They do so for cars which are fully comprehensively insured.

The proposed regulatory powers are wide enough to enable the Secretary of State to require the owners of such vehicles, and anyone with a knowledge of serious damage to a vehicle, to notify the DVLA. It is accepted that this is a difficult area but I suggest that these proposals will control the worst abuses. On 2nd May in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, highlighted the problem of making a decision as to whether a vehicle is seriously damaged. I deal with that by proposing that the Secretary of State should be able to prescribe a definition, and that is contained within the amendment. For example, one could refer to distortion of chassis or steering or suspension components.

When a severely damaged vehicle is disposed of, it is usually accompanied by the vehicle registration document. The criminal wants that piece of paper when he purchases a car from the scrap yard. Once he has obtained that document, he will steal a car of a similar specification, switch the registration, chassis and engine numbers to the stolen vehicle and have the document in his hand. The provisions of this amendment would prevent that by requiring insurance companies to surrender the V5 of seriously damaged vehicles to the DVLA.

Having done that, it is possible to achieve the other objective relating to the protection of consumers' safety and economic interests by marking the V5 with the particulars of the rebuilding and requiring the vehicle to pass a safety test before reissuing the V5.

This is an important and long awaited road safety measure. In 1985 a survey carried out by the AA found that in one in eight accidents, damaged vehicles were immediately unsafe and 50 per cent. had defects. We are aware that the Department of Transport has recently conducted its own survey. That has not yet been made public. Perhaps this evening the Government will come clean and will reveal to a waiting world what are the results of that survey. I suspect that they may support my arguments.

While I am sure that the Government will not accept the amendment in its present form, I hope that they are sympathetic to the case which I am putting before your Lordships and will come up with their own proposals at a later stage. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I have some small sympathy with this amendment. It is defective in a number of ways and it refers to "rebuild". In the industry that has a particular meaning, whereas I believe that "repair and/or rebuild" may be better because what is one action for one group of people may be the other action for another group of people.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, confuses the purpose of the amendment by engaging in an argument about those vehicles which find themselves in a scrap yard with a scrap yard owner still holding the vehicle registration document, which is then sold on. The matters which he has described then follow.

Far more important is the practice of dealing with an insurance claim for a seriously damaged motor car, whether it needs rebuild or repair, on an economic basis. The popular term is "written off" or the "economic settlement". To an insurance company and a potential claimant, "economic settlement" has one meaning and one meaning alone; that is, having the claim dealt with as quickly and as easily as possible. The vehicle can then find its way through a variety of avenues into a rebuild or repair shop. It can quite properly and legitimately be repaired, sold on to another party and then bought by an ultimate purchaser who will have no knowledge of what has been done.

It seems to me that that is the responsibility not of the Department of Transport but essentially of the third party insurer, because if the latter is to declare a vehicle as a total loss claim —and that depends on the conditions of the policy —or written off, or, more popularly, "thought to be beyond economic repair", then surely the insurance company has a "moral" obligation. It is that obligation which I do not believe is discharged properly, and that is in the best interests neither of the insurance industry nor of those who are obliged to insure either comprehensively or even to the lowest common denominator —that is, under the RTA.

It seems to me that laws cannot be made as to how an insurance company shall behave in every given circumstance. I understand that the Minister's department is having discussions with the insurance industry to come to a more sensible arrangement with regard to vehicles in the two categories which I have mentioned. That will enable the purchaser to have a reasonable chance of making a fair deal.

Since a large number of motor cars change hands between private individuals and as a large number of those exchanges are not notified to the DVLA until the re-licence period occurs, which can be anything up to 11 months and 29 days, it seems to me that the noble Lord's amendment leaves an enormous gap. It is that gap which is exploited because the younger rather than the older vehicles fall into that category.

Since the change of ownership rules are not conformed with in quite the way we should like, I cannot see that this amendment will lead to regulations which, in turn, will lead to the re-registration of vehicles, whether they change hands through private individuals or through the trade as a result Of accident damage. I cannot see that this amendment will achieve very much although I have a lot of sympathy for the aim which lies behind it. I regret that I am not in a position to offer the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Ezra, an answer to the problem but I do not believe that we should go too far down the road proposed by the amendment.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, in Committee I supported this amendment and I do so again this evening. As the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, said, during that debate, I sensed some sympathy from the Minister. I shall be interested to know what consideration the Minister and his department have given to this matter.

The points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, this evening are rather similar to those which he raised in Committee. At that time the Minister said that we should need to think very carefully before imposing new burdens on the insurance industry and extra costs on government agencies. He said that it was not a matter into which we should jump unthinkingly but he added that the Government would keep the position under review.

It will be interesting to know whether "keeping the position under review" was intended to mean a long-term review. If so, I point out that the Bill is suitable for this sort of amendment. If we do not use this Bill, it may be some time before it is possible to introduce legislation to deal with the problem.

The debate in Committee took place on 2nd May. If the Minister meant that there was to be a review before Report stage, then that is nearly five weeks ago. If that is the case, I wonder what are the results of that review. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a favourable answer so that possible legislation may be forthcoming in the not too distant future. However, I support the amendment as moved.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, explained, this amendment is similar to one considered in Committee which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and moved most ably by I he noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and one tabled at Committee stage of the Bill in another place. But it differs in several respects; notably in the reference to requiring notification of seriously damaged vehicles to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency by owners and insurers, in addition to the arrangements for rebuilt, written-off vehicles to be subject to additional safety checks.

As I indicated during the debate in Committee, a new system of statutory controls over rebuilt damaged vehicles —however they are defined —would do little to reduce the toll of death and injuries on our roads. We know that most casualties are the result of road user error; only a very small percentage of casualties are directly caused by vehicle defects. Of the minority which do result from defective vehicles, an even smaller number is likely to result directly from the inadequate rebuilding of seriously damaged vehicles. Before we embark on what would inevitably be a costly and bureaucratic system requiring the notification not only of rebuilt vehicles but, if the amendment before us today were accepted, of all seriously damaged vehicles as well as arrangements relating to registration and extra safety checks for rebuilt accident-damaged vehicles, we must be sure that it would be justified in road safety terms.

The department recently received the results of a survey of 500 rebuilt accident-damaged vehicles, carried out by its own vehicle inspectorate, to which the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, referred. The results indicate that further research in this area would be worthwhile. The department will therefore reconsider whether there is a need for statutory controls, and, if so, what form those controls should take. That will necessarily require consultation with the different organisations likely to be affected by any changes.

As the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the remarks of my noble friend Lord Lucas indicate, this is a complex matter. We must be certain that such a system would be cost-effective and that it would achieve the aims of improving road safety. We agree that the question merits further investigation to see whether a workable scheme could be introduced. As I indicated, there are significant problems; for example, the definition of a rebuilt accident-damaged vehicle; the arrangements for notification, for testing of accident-damaged vehicles and how any new requirements are to be enforced.

I believe that it would be premature to take powers at this stage when we do not know whether it would be justified nor, if it were, how such a scheme would operate. I believe that we would find that the powers were inadequate in some fatal respect. However, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that we intend to look again at the problem to which he and others have drawn our attention, but that there is insufficient time available to introduce enabling powers at this stage before we reach conclusions as to what, if anything, can and should be done. With the assurance that we recognise the problem identified by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. It overturns the suggestion by the Association of British Insurers made to me on a number of occasions. The ABI states: It is the firmly held view of motor insurers that: The lack of evidence to prove that damaged vehicles which are repaired cause road accidents makes the introduction of legislation unnecessary I believe that what the Minister said blows a hole in that argument.

Given that and the fact that we are now apparently in agreement that a problem exists which needs to be tackled —I understand the reservations of the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas —as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, it is a pity that this opportunity is being missed to put something on the statute book on this topic. We have reached the stage where the Government have publicly stated that a real problem exists which they are prepared to face and to tackle in their own way and in their own time. I hope that it will not be too long delayed. The discussions that we have had and the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Ezra have been of considerable use. In those circumstances I am sure that my noble friend will be quite happy for me to seek leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 12:

After Clause 39, insert the following new clause: Variation of charges at off-street parking places

(" . After section 35B of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 there shall be inserted — Variation of charges at off-street parking places. 35C. —(1) Where an order under section 35(1) (iii) of this Act makes provision as to the charges to be paid in connection with the use of off-street parking places, the authority making that order may vary those charges by notice given under this section. (2) The variation of any such charges by notice is not to be taken to prejudice any power to vary those charges by order under section 35 of this Act. (3) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision as to the procedure to be followed by any local authority giving notice under this section. (4) The regulations may, in particular, make provision with respect to —

  1. (a) the publication, where an authority propose to give notice, of details of their proposal;
  2. (b) the form and manner in which notice is to be given; and
  3. (c) the publication of notices.

(5) In giving any notice under this section a local authority shall comply with the regulations." "

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at Committee stage on 7th May I said that I had listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, when he introduced his amendment regarding the variation of charges at off-street parking places and I undertook to consider whether a suitable government amendment might be brought forward at Report stage. I have done so and I happy to bring forward Amendment No. 12.

The amendment adds a new clause after Clause 39 introducing a further new section into the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. It has the same effect as the new section provided by Clause 40, except that it applies to variation of charges at off-street parking places. Local authorities making orders prescribing charges at off-street parking places will, in future, be able to vary those charges subsequently by the simpler public notice procedure —to be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State and subject to the negative resolution procedure —instead of having to make a new parking places order. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, will be satisfied that that fully meets his point. I beg to move.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I do not have the technical expertise to know how satisfactory that is. However, I am grateful to the Minister for taking up this important issue which I raised at Committee stage. I thank him for bringing forward his amendment, as he said he hoped to do. Therefore, the amendment has my support.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 13:

After Clause 40, insert the following new clause:

Permitted and special parking areas outside London (". —(1) Schedule (Permitted and special parking areas outside London) shall have effect for the purpose of making provision with respect to areas outside London corresponding to that made with respect to London, and areas within London, under sections 58 to 72 of this Act. (2) In this section "London" has the same meaning as it has in Part II of this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 13 with the leave of the House I shall speak also to government Amendment No. 88 and Amendment No. 19 which is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis —at the moment I am in a helpful mood.

At Committee stage, in response to an Opposition amendment, I explained that the Government were urgently considering the legal and policy issues involved with the provision of a general enabling power providing for extensions of the new arrangements for enforcing parking controls in London to areas elsewhere. I am pleased to confirm that we have completed that consideration and concluded that such an enabling power is both possible and desirable. I have therefore been able to bring forward Amendments Nos. 13 and 88. It may be helpful to your Lordships if I explain how the new provisions work and what safeguards they contain.

The provisions are modelled on Clauses 71 and 72 of the Bill which provide for special parking areas in London. They provide for county councils and metropolitan district councils in England, and county councils and district councils in Wales, to apply to the Secretary of State for orders designating permitted parking areas or special parking areas. They also provide for two or more metropolitan district councils, in England, to make a joint application for a permitted parking area order. That reflects the authorities which are given order-making powers under the 1984 Act.

The Secretary of State will make the orders after consulting the police. While the orders are in force, certain specified offences will be decriminalised: for example, contraventions of orders designating permitted parking places in the case of permitted parking area orders and permanent and experimental traffic regulation orders prohibiting or restricting waiting, loading and unloading in the case of special parking area orders.

As with Clause 71 for the special parking areas in London, provision is made for the Secretary of State by order to amend the Bill, when enacted, so that further parking offences in relation to stationary vehicles can be decriminalised. So, if the Secretary of State is made aware of further offences which could be covered by the parking area orders, then, subject to consultation with the police and local authorities, the list of decriminalised offences could be added to without the need for further primary legislation.

The provisions will also enable the Secretary of State when making parking area orders to apply such provisions of the new parking règime covered by Part II of the Bill as he considers appropriate, with or without modification. They will also enable him to modify any enactment which he considers appropriate to give effect to the orders. These provisions will enable decisions to be taken later, for example, on such major issues as the status and coverage of any further parking guidance, the extension of local authority and police wheelclamping and the possible need for joint committees in metropolitan districts.

These and other decisions will be taken after formal consultation with the police and the local authority associations and in the light of experience in London. The police will also be consulted before each parking area order is made. All orders under the new provision will be subject to the negative resolution procedures in order to provide parliamentary control.

Our proposals for the new parking règime in London have been well received on all sides as a valuable contribution towards sensible and well enforced parking policies which will bring substantial traffic and environmental benefits. I believe that the provisions in the new clause and schedule proposed by the amendments will in due course bring similar benefits elsewhere where parking problems occur. I therefore commend them to the House. I beg to move.

>8.30 p.m.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the Minister said that he was in a helpful mood tonight. I can say the same of the Opposition Front Bench. As the noble Lord said, Amendment No. 19 is in the name of my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. The approach is somewhat similar to that used in relation to the Government's amendments. We believe that the Government's approach is technically better and therefore we readily support Amendments Nos. 13 and 88.

The Government's acceptance of the case for action outside London is extremely welcome. There has been pressure on the matter for about six years. The Government's decision to act at this stage illustrates the value of parliamentary pressure on such subjects because similar amendments were rejected in the other place. The parking enforcement provisions in the Bill will, following Report stage, be significantly different to what they were when the Bill was presented to the House.

First, the powers available to London boroughs have been widened to include yellow line enforcement. Secondly, the Bill is now to be amended to allow highway authorities outside London to apply for enforcement powers. I believe that that indicates the value of debates in your Lordships' House and also the value to the Government of listening to the views of local government. Without those two factors I do not believe that the two amendments would be before us this evening.

The Government's amendments will allow authorities outside London to apply for two sets of enforcement powers; namely, those relating to permitted parking such as parking meters and pay-and-display and prohibited parking (yellow lines). The Secretary of State will have an order-making power to transfer those responsibilities, combined with the decriminalisation of the relevant offences, and there will be an ability for highway authorities taking advantage of the new powers to have access to the income from the penalties through fine enforcement.

I do not know whether it is the view of the Government and the department that before authorities outside London seek these new powers they should study the experience of the London authorities. While there may be a great deal to say for the proposal, at the same time there is considerable merit in there being at least one trial area outside London so that places outside London can see the benefits that are to be enjoyed from the new provisions. We welcome the Government's proposals. As I said, we shall not be pressing our Amendment No. 19.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, again the Government are to be commended on bringing forward these proposals. Those of us who are regular attenders at debates on transport matters know that it is a subject on which the Government are prepared to listen from time to time. That does not happen always or as much as we would wish, but this is another occasion when local authorities will undoubtedly benefit from the deliberations of your Lordships' House both in Committee and at this stage. These proposals are welcome.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Underhill and Lord Tordoff, for their kind words about the amendments. We are always prepared to listen to the views of the House and of local authorities. What we do not always do is agree with them, although on this occasion we have. I said in my speech that probably we would wish to see the experience in London before other local authorities in the country try to implement the provisions. That is our opinion at the moment. However, if any local authorities outside London wish to come forward with schemes, we shall be very willing to discuss them provided that the police are also satisfied with the proposals. That is an important proviso.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 41 [Parking attendants]:

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 39, line 38, at end insert: ("(3A) Whether employed directly by a local authority or otherwise, parking attendants on duty shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be acting as agents of the authority.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I was heartened to hear the Minister announce that he was in a helpful mood tonight, the more so because this trio of amendments is in no sense party political. I believe that in principle at any rate they can be supported by noble Lords of all parties and of none. It will be for the convenience of the House if I speak to Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 at the same time as moving Amendment No. 14.

Perhaps I may begin at the end by briefly dealing with Amendment No. 16. It quite simply extends the protection that the Government are commendably conferring on the people of Greater London —in so far as they are requiring parking attendants to wear uniform —to the country as a whole. I do not see why Londoners should be the only people to receive this valuable protection against possible abuse by parking attendants.

Reverting to Amendments Nos. 14 and 15, they can be regarded as alternatives. However, I would much rather that they were treated as belt-and-braces amendments, the one reinforcing the other. On an earlier occasion I described to the House an incident that occurred some months ago which I heard at second hand. It took place in the Harley Street area. A gentleman drove his disabled wife to a dentist's appointment. He stopped the car, leaving the engine ticking over. As he went round to the passenger door to help his wife out of the car because she could not get out unaided, he found a parking attendant slapping a ticket on his windscreen. When he remonstrated with him he was told that parking attendants were paid by results and this one was not going to lose the opportunity to earn a little extra money.

Subsequently my attention was drawn to an article in the Sunday Times of 23rd September 1990, headed, London's private meter men accused of fighting dirty".

The article starts as follows: An American-owned army of traffic wardens is under orders to book thousands of motorists a day in London's West End or risk losing their jobs".

It continues: drivers … accuse the 100-strong force of underhand tactics. Allegations include wardens kicking machines to force them to display excess charges and ticketing cars before meters have expired".

The article also reveals that parking attendants in the City of Westminster have issued three times the previous average number of tickets monthly. It goes on: To increase productivity, the company is considering performance-related pay, with bonuses to reward staff according to the number of tickets issued".

According to Sally Deedes in Private Eye of 7th June, that has already taken place. A letter from the director of finance for Westminster City Council to a resident of the City of Westminster begins: I can confirm that there is a commission element in the payment arrangement adopted for traffic wardens in Westminster".

However much we wish to discourage parking in the wrong places, I am sure your Lordships are shocked by these revelations, as are the motoring organisations, I emphasise. How horrified we would be if the police were paid not on an annual salary basis but according to the number of arrests they made. That would bring the law into contempt and even into hatred. The totally inflexible attitudes that by definition are encouraged by this form of remuneration are not compatible with what the great majority of people in this country would regard as a fair society.

Amendment No. 14 is based on a suggestion made by the AA. Its adoption would mean that local authorities could not shuffle off their responsibility for the bad behaviour of parking attendants by claiming that it was nothing to do with them. However, though undoubtedly helpful, I do not believe that this amendment goes far enough. Amendment No. 15 is based on a suggestion made by the RAC, though I hasten to say that the drafting is mine. The amendment is self-explanatory and it would, one hopes, nip this wholly undesirable abuse in the bud. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, the House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for drawing attention to this abuse, as indeed he has done on previous occasions. However, the abuse continues to be practised and ought to be abated as rapidly as possible. I hope that it is confined to Westminster City Council, but perhaps the Minister can advise us in that respect. One would have expected Westminster City Council to have been satisfied with the lessons it may have learnt in the selling off of cemeteries without indulging in this further abuse. To add insult to injury, it is an abuse that appears to be practised by an American-based company.

It is clearly offensive, if indeed it is true, that privately employed traffic wardens should be at risk of losing their jobs if they do not come up to these prescribed standards of misbehaviour. According to this press report the contract that has been undertaken with the company is extremely valuable to the company. To require that 689,000 tickets a year be issued, regardless of all the circumstances, is thoroughly questionable, though there is no doubt that that figure will include a very high percentage of people who have parked illegally. Why 689,000 one might ask? The article also states that these privately employed wardens go about kicking the machines in order to force them to display excess charges. I only hope it has the opposite effect and that when they kick a machine it will automatically register two or four hours, as the case may be. Justice might then be done on a relatively small scale. However, that is a clear illustration of the dangers of undertaking an ill thought out form of privatisation.

A public duty is involved. These people are in direct contact with the public. In my submission, it is not the duty of Westminster City Council, or any other council, to engage in this form of privatised activity. It is said that the acting divisional manager of the company caused an internal investigation to be carried out. He said that it had revealed no evidence of unscrupulous behaviour. But he would say that, wouldn't he? In these circumstances, one would ask that the department carry out its own investigation of what is happening. It is a matter which involves principle. It is wider than Westminster City Council and it requires an objective and independent assessment. I ask the Minister at least to give that undertaking tonight.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I support the noble Lord, Lord Monson, in what he is seeking. His amendment may not have the correct form of words; but we are all at fault in that respect because it is not easy. However, he has put forward a perfectly comprehensible proposition the principle of which I warmly support.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, let me say straightaway that I have no objection to parking attendants being privatised. However, the important point is that, having been privatised, the responsibility for their actions remains with the local authority. My understanding is that that is what these amendments seek to do. We need an assurance from the Government that either these allegations are totally false, and that the Government have looked into them and can show that they are false, or that the Government are prepared to ensure that the law is tightened to such an extent that motorists are not subject to the sort of treatment that has been described. It all goes back to the question of whether people are paid by results. If results mean sticking penalty charges on people who have parked, regardless of whether or not they are legitimate, then the public are clearly open to abuse. These amendments need to be taken very seriously in the light of the evidence put before the House by the noble Lord, Lord Monson.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for introducing these amendments. However, I regret to say that my mood of helpfulness this evening has temporarily left me.

On Amendment No. 14, there is no need for legislation to deem that parking attendants who are direct employees and those who are empowered by a contractor are acting as agents of a local authority. A person directly employed by an authority is, of course, an agent of that authority. My legal advice is that a contractor is effectively an agent of the authority who will thus be responsible for his actions. I hope that covers that particular point.

On Amendment No. 15, the method of paying for the services of parking attendants is a matter for the local authority concerned. I am surprised, therefore, by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, who I thought would have been in favour of that kind of power being in the hands of the local authority I then realised that he is basically opposed to privatisation in any form, which is why he objected to this particular measure. The noble Lord is welcome to deny that if he wishes.

I recognise the concerns that may be held about paying these attendants on a piecework basis and the abuses that that might encourage. However, it is not for legislation to tie the hands of local authorities in matters such as these. What we have done in the Bill is to propose an enforcement system which provides good safeguards for aggrieved motorists. Provision is made for them to make representations to the local authority concerned, and to appeal to an independent parking adjudicator if they consider their representations have not been dealt with satisfactorily. I hope that will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff.

Provision is also made for an annual report on the parking adjudicators' activities to be published, so that any abuse of parking attendants' powers will rebound on the local authorities and will do so in a highly public manner. If contractors behave badly as well, then the local authority will receive complaints and surely will discuss them with the contractor. If need be, the local authority can cancel the contract. However, as I said, local authorities will retain overall responsibility.

Finally, turning to Amendment No. 16 the limitation to London is made because the new local authority parking regime provided for in Part II of the Bill applies only in London, and it is the introduction of this regime which provides a much expanded role for local authority parking attendants that gives rise to the requirement for uniforms determined by the Secretary of State. The Bill does not change the duties of local authority parking attendants outside London and there is no evidence to suggest that the Secretary of State needs to determine the attendants' uniforms in connection with their present limited functions. When orders are made extending the London parking regime elsewhere, it will be appropriate to extend the role of the Secretary of State to determine the uniforms of local authority parking attendants outside London. That will be possible under the terms of the order. I hope that that gives some assurance to the noble Lord. We have not met the noble Lord on everything but at least I have been able to give him some assurances. I hope that he will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Clinton-Davis and Lord Tordoff, for their powerful support, although I appreciate that the amendment may not have been worded 100 per cent. correctly. I did not imagine that it would have been at the first attempt, but I thank them for their support in principle.

The Minister warned me that his helpfulness would be strictly rationed on this occasion, and so it turned out to be. I appreciate his explanation of why Amendment No. 16 is not necessary or appropriate. I accept that. I note his assertion that Amendment No. 14 is superfluous. I shall check with the motoring organisations, which seem to think otherwise. However, provided they end up agreeing with the noble Lord, there will be no more to be said on that amendment.

However, I am not at all happy with the Minister's response to Amendment No. 15. He assumes that the local authorities in question will do the right thing. He said that the local authorities will remonstrate with the contractors if they behave badly. But one understands that Westminster City Council is actually encouraging contractors to behave in this way —it is of a like mind —so I did not find the noble Lord's answer satisfactory in that regard.

It goes without saying that the police are encouraged from the moment they start their training to act with tact and sensitivity and in every individual case to exercise their judgment and discretion. Parking attendants are not of course members of the police force. Nevertheless, they are people in authority who are in uniform. Like all people in authority in uniform, they too should be encouraged to act with tact and sensitivity and not to act from purely mercenary motives.

I am not at all happy with the noble Lord's reply to Amendment No. 15. It is not extremely late but it is on the late side, so I shall take the Minister's reply away, study it and perhaps confer with other noble Lords who are not able to be present for the debate, noble Lords not only on the Labour and Liberal Democrat Benches but in other parts of the House. I shall possibly come back again at Third Reading with a redrafted amendment to cover the points which worry so many people both inside and outside the House on the question of remuneration on a commission basis. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

>Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 not moved.]

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 39, line 41, leave out ("and shall not act as parking attendants") and insert ("when exercising prescribed functions, and shall not exercise any of those functions").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment seeks to correct an unintended and unwanted side-effect of subsection (4) of the new Section 63A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act which is introduced by Clause 41. The subsection was introduced by amendment at Committee stage. It provides that parking attendants in Greater London shall wear such uniform as the Secretary of State may determine and shall not act as parking attendants when not in uniform. These provisions are necessary because Part II of the Bill will provide the London authorities with significant additional responsibilities for enforcing on-street parking controls. But they also employ parking attendants at off-street car parking places, and an unintended effect of subsection (4) would be that all parking attendants would be obliged to wear the same uniform, including those at off-street car parks, and could not lawfully act as attendants if not in uniform. We believe that that is unnecessary and would be unduly onerous.

Amendment No. 17 overcomes that difficulty by requiring parking attendants in Greater London to wear such uniform as the Secretary of State may determine when exercising prescribed functions and not to exercise any of those functions when not in uniform. The functions would in due course be prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State subject to the negative resolution procedure. In practice they would be prescribed in relation to on-street parking places in London.

But the procedure provides the flexibility to add further functions at a later stage; for example, if the list of decriminalised offences were to be extended in due course. It will also allow parking attendants working on other, non-prescribed duties —for example, in off-street parking places —to continue to act lawfully without the obligation to wear the uniform determined by the Secretary of State for prescribed duties. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I rise only to ask my noble friend for an assurance that parking attendants will not have uniforms which bear badges of rank, stars or stripes.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I give my noble friend an assurance that I shall certainly make his point to my right honourable friend when he comes to issue his thoughts on the uniforms of parking attendants.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 18:

After Clause 41, insert the following new clause: ("Designation of streets in relation to .footway parking of vehicles

—(1) A district council may by resolution designate any street (hereinafter referred to as a designated street) in their district as one in which the parking of a vehicle on the footway of a highway is prohibited.

(2) If a council pass such a resolution as is mentioned in subsection (1) above, the designation of the street shall take effect on the day specified in that behalf in the resolution (which must not be before the expiration of the period of one month beginning with the day on which the resolution is passed).

(3) A council shall not pass such a resolution unless —

  1. (a) they have published notice of their intention to pass such a resolution in a local newspaper circulating in their area;
  2. (b) they have served a copy of the notice —
    1. (i) on the chief officer of police for the area in which the street to be designated by the resolution is situated; and
    2. (ii) on any highway authority responsible for that street.

(4) The notice referred to in subsection (3) above —

  1. (a) shall contain a draft of the resolution; and
  2. (b) shall state that representations relating to it may be made in writing to the council within such period, not less than 28 days after publication of the notice, as may be specified in the notice.

(5) As soon as practicable after the expiry of the period specified under subsection (4) above, the council shall consider any representations relating to the proposed resolution which they have received before the expiry of that period.

(6) After the council have considered those representations, they may, if they think fit, pass such a resolution relating to the street as is mentioned in subsection (1) above.

(7) The council shall publish notice that they have passed such a resolution in two consecutive weeks in a local newspaper circulating in their area.

(8) The first publication shall not be later than 28 days before the day specified in the resolution for the coming into force of the designation.

(9) Any resolution passed under these provisions may be varied or rescinded by a subsequent resolution so passed.

(10) A person who causes or permits a vehicle to wait on any part of the footway of a designated street shall be guilty of an offence.

(11) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.").

>The noble Lord said: My Lords, the effects of this amendment would be to enable local authorities to designate areas in which parking vehicles on the footway would he prohibited. It is already an offence, first, to park on the footways or verges in roads where yellow-line waiting restrictions are enforced; secondly, to park heavy commercial vehicles on footways and verges; or, thirdly, to leave a vehicle in a dangerous or obstructive position. It is also illegal under Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 to drive a vehicle on a footway. This legislation can in theory be used to combat parking on the footway but its use has proved difficult in practice.

Section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 provides for a national ban on pavement parking in urban areas. These powers, which would have to be brought in by order, would prohibit all parking on verges, central reservations and footways on urban roads. The Act could also enable local authorities to make orders within their own areas to exempt certain streets at all times or during certain periods. That power has never been implemented, primarily because there is now broad agreement between the Department of Transport and the local authority associations that there are two major difficulties with the general prohibition which would be provided by the use of the 1974 Act.

Those difficulties are: first, that a general prohibition would not be fully enforced and as a result would be ignored by a majority of drivers; secondly, that authorities would have to designate large areas as being zones in which pavement parking was expressly permitted. As the Minister will know, the Department of Transport has been reviewing this matter for some time and in December 1986 issued a discussion paper entitled Pavement Parking: Kerbing an Abuse. In the light of the response to that consultation document, agreement has been reached between the local authority associations and the Department of Transport that the preferred approach would be to introduce new primary legislation which would allow local authorities to target problem areas. This would make it an offence to park a vehicle on a footway where a prohibition applied.

The proposed new clause is designed to implement that approach. If by mischance the Minister considers that this rather lengthy amendment is not suitable in certain aspects, I hope that he will agree either to let it go through and then make suitable amendments at Third Reading or give an undertaking to bring forward an amendment himself at that stage.

I think it will be generally agreed that pavement parking is an extremely serious matter. It damages the structure of footways and increases the maintenance bills; but it can also damage utility apparatus below the footway. Moreover, vehicles parked on the footway and the damage they cause creates severe problems for footway users. Parked cars can act as dangerous obstacles for people with restricted vision, and damaged pavements are hazardous for all footway users, especially the elderly and those with disabilities.

I am certain that the Government are aware of the problem and that they have identified, in conjunction with the local authority associations, a satisfactory approach The purpose of the amendment is to persuade the Government to put this provision into legislation. I hope that it will be possible for them to accept this amendment. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I listened most carefully to the remarks made by the noble Lord. However, I am not sure whether the real motive of the amendment is to protect what we call "pedestrian footways", or to enable motorists to invade them. I very much hope that protection is uppermost in all our minds. We have to think of people in bath-chairs, blind people with or without guide dogs, mothers wheeling prams and little children in pushchairs. Those are the people who are entitled to use the pavements. We should do our utmost to protect them. I suggest the invasion of footways by the motor car, which has invaded enough of our lives already, is something that should not be tolerated any further.

If we were to give district councillors the power to allow, or indeed to prohibit, the parking of vehicles on footways, there would be an underlying assumption that some footways —for example, in places which were already crowded with motor cars; many of which would be be footways —could be used for parking, and that pedestrians did not have the usual exclusive right of way over them.

I shall listen with great interest to my noble friend's response. However, I must confess, as the noble Lord intimated in his remarks, that there is already parking on footways. It is illegal; but, in a very curious and rather English way, it is a system which we are in a muddled kind of way putting up with and allowing to happen. However, in my limited experience of such urban life, it may be better for us to continue and say, "Well, there are some occasional corners or cul-de-sacs where there has been an acute parking problem for local residents. They have invaded the footways and the pavements. However, it has not caused a lot of trouble to local residents; it is exceptional, and perhaps we should let it go on. If there are any complaints, the police or local authority will be able to deal with it".

That may be a better solution than writing into this Bill, or indeed into any statute, a regularised system whereby the local authority is expected to regulate or prohibit the parking of vehicles on the pavements. For that reason, and with the deepest respect to the noble Lord whose motives I always respect having known him in this House now for the limited time that I have been here —namely, 12 years and not as long as him —I believe that it may be better to leave things as they are.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I offer noble Lords a cautionary tale from the great city of Cairo where the telephones do not work. Because the telephones do not work, the people get into their cars to drive to offices situated at the other end of the city. Of course, that causes enormous traffic jams and there is nowhere for people to park. Therefore, they park on the pavements. But when they do so, they break the pavements and the sewer pipes underneath. Subsequently, the sewer pipes flood onto the telephone system so that the telephones do not work. Again, because the telephones do not work, people get into their motor cars and so the cycle continues.

However, much more important than the dangers of such a situation arising in this great city of London are the problems caused to people who are partially sighted. It is a tremendous problem. Such people walk along the footways and find themselves bumping into motor cars which have been parked on the pavements. It is a real hazard. I speak as one who is advised by his daughter on such matters. She is a rehabilitation officer for the blind. Certainly anyone involved in helping partially sighted people sees this as being a considerable menace. Therefore, anything which would help to stop such a menace would be of the greatest advantage.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, let me say at the outset that the Government fully accept that the law with respect to parking on pavements or footways needs to be revised. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has just given us an excellent example of what happens elsewhere in the world. However, I should point out that one does not need to go as far afield as Cairo to see this; indeed, only across the Channel in Europe one can see that parking on pavements is much more extensive than is the case anywhere in London. The Government's acceptance was made clear by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State during debate on the matter in Committee in another place on 7th February. Therefore, I appreciate and have some sympathy with the intention behind the amendment. But I have to say that it is flawed in a number of important respects.

First, the amendment takes no account of the statutory provisions which already exist relating to pavement parking. For example, the parking of heavy commercial vehicles wholly or partly on footways, verges and land situated between two carriageways is already an offence under Section 19 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. There is however an exemption where it can be shown that loading or unloading could not otherwise be performed satisfactorily.

The amendment also takes no account of the existence of ancient provisions such as those in the Highways Act 1835 which prohibit driving on the footway. Nor does it take account of current local act powers prohibiting pavement parking. These are available most notably in London, where they may in future, under Clause 71, be enforced by the boroughs in special parking areas. Similar pavement parking bans operate in one or two other cities, again under local acts.

The amendment provides for a district council to designate any streets in their districts where pavement parking is to be prohibited by means of a resolution rather than by a traffic regulation order. I note that provision for local publicity is included. But it is a rather more summary procedure than that involved in making traffic regulation orders, and the Government are not convinced that it would be adequate to protect road user interests. Nor is it clear that such powers should be in the hands of a district council, rather than with the highway authority.

The amendment is also silent on whether pavement parking in a designated street should be a fixed penalty offence. If that is the intention, further consequential amendments would be needed. Furthermore, there is no requirement as to the signing of designated streets. Motorists could not be expected to comply with the terms of a council's resolution unless the street or streets concerned were appropriately signed.

The Government accept that legislation is needed nationally to deal with this problem, which can be dangerous and anti-social, as my noble friend Lord Renton said. But to deal with it properly will, we believe, require more extensive provisions than are set out in this amendment. Proper account will have to be taken of the patchwork of present powers, to avoid conflict and inconsistency. The Government are committed to bringing forward proposals at a suitable opportunity, but that will require very full and detailed consideration of changes to the existing law and the nature of the new powers to be provided in consultation with all interested parties. I say to my noble friend Lord Renton that there is a difficulty that prohibitions in specific areas give a presumption that elsewhere the practice is acceptable. However, the Highway Code advises against parking on pavements as a general rule. There is a dilemma here which is one reason for caution.

I do not believe that the Bill is an appropriate vehicle for attempting a quick solution to this complex matter; but I remind the House that the Government have this under consideration. We appreciate that there is a problem, but I hope that for the moment the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, to begin with, I give an assurance to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that in bringing forward this amendment I was considering quite a number of interested parties: first, the pedestrians for whom it is vital, particularly those with disabilities or with restricted vision; also drivers of vehicles in crowded streets. Time and time again I have mentioned in your Lordships' House the roads through which I pass whenever I travel up by car, as I did this morning. There is no provision for parking space, therefore either vehicles must park on the road where there is lorry and bus traffic and the parked cars become a danger because they restrict the traffic flow or people park on the pavements. That is unfair to the people who have to use them, particularly those with restricted vision or a disability. In addition, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, said, we must think of the public utilities. Parking on pavements damages public utility equipment underneath.

I am interested to learn from the Minister that the Government accept that the present law must be revised. It is a pity that he said that this is not the vehicle to use for it and he cannot promise when legislation will be introduced. I referred to the consultation document on which there has been agreement between the Department of Transport and the local authority associations. It was issued as long ago as December 1986. Once again, we are in a position where a consultation document was commented upon over four years ago and there is no possibility of legislation being introduced in this Bill.

In my opening remarks, I made it quite clear that the Department of Transport and the authorities agreed that the 1974 Act could not be implemented. In fact, it has not been implemented; and the Minister's remarks confirm that position. If I press the Minister for action at the next stage, it is clear that he will say that he cannot contemplate agreement being reached. Nonetheless, agreement has been reached between the local authority associations and the Department of Transport on the approach. Therefore, it is a matter not of reaching agreement on what should be done but of framing the necessary legislation.

I hope that the Minister will be able to state, assuming that time must be given for consultation, when he feels legislation might be introduced. I believe that that is important. We do not want to wait another four, five or six years for the legislation. It is already over four years since we had the consultation document. The Minister agrees that there is a serious problem and that there is need for revision, as do the local authority associations. I believe that the general public realises that as well.

I can do no more than withdraw the amendment, but before I do that perhaps the Minister will give some indication about when he thinks agreement may be reached as regards introducing a suitable clause into legislation.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I wish I could help the noble Lord but I cannot say when we might be in a position to have reached agreement to introduce such legislation. I wish that I could be more helpful.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I appreciate what the Minister has said. All that we can do now is to press through the local authority associations for action to be taken at the earliest possible moment, particularly as the Department of Transport is already in agreement with the local authority associations on what should be done. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

Clause 42 [Variable speed limits]:

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 40, line 41, at end insert: ("( ) In Schedule 6 to that Act (speed limits for vehicles of certain classes) in item I there shall be inserted after ("passenger") the words ("excluding public passenger vehicles") and there shall be inserted

1A A public passenger vehicle 60 60 50 ")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I can be reasonably brief about this matter because I am merely seeking to probe the Government about the steps they are taking to reassess speed limits.

In the debate on 7th May the noble Lord was extremely helpful in drawing attention to the fact that as from 1st April this year all coaches first used from 1st April 1974 which are capable of doing 70 miles per hour must have speed limiters. Notwithstanding that, my noble friend Lady Phillips said that she had reason to believe that speed limits were required to be broken to meet timetables. As the Minister rightly pointed out, that in itself is illegal. Nonetheless, I wonder whether the Minister can tell the House whether he has been able to obtain any further evidence in relation to that allegation.

I come to the question of the reassessment of speed limits, which I certainly welcome. On the last occasion I specifically asked the Minister whether he could indicate whether there was any possibility that the reassessment might have reached a position where he could announce it before the end of the passage of the Bill through this place. He indicated that that was unlikely, but perhaps he can give an indication to the House about what has happened in the intervening month. Is he in a position, if he cannot say that the assessment has been completed, to indicate when it will be completed? I think that this is the last occasion on which we shall be able to ask him that within the ambit of this Bill, although no doubt other occasions will become available. I beg to move.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I fear I shall be unable to help the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, on this occasion. I would only say in answer to his last point that we had yet another occasion at Question Time today when I was attempting to deal with the matter of speed limits, and no doubt other such occasions will arise.

The noble Lord asked me whether we had made further progress in our assessment of speed limits since the last stage of the Bill. I have to say that we have not yet reached any conclusions on the matter. As I think I said at Question Time today, we shall be coming to our conclusions before too long, and when we do so we shall produce them with the evidence that we have received in the matter. We have already come to the conclusion that we wish to introduce speed limiters on heavy goods vehicles, which is a step in the right direction.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The Minister says "before too long". I wonder whether he can he a little more precise. Is it contemplated within three, six or 12 months?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, certainly it will be within the next few months. I would not wish to be more specific than that. As I think I said on the last occasion, it will not be necessary to amend the Bill. Should we wish to alter the speed limits we could do that by regulations under a different Act, the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. It is not necessary to await a further opportunity for primary legislation.

The noble Lord asked me whether I had found out anything about the accusations of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, regarding the timetabling of long-distance coaches and whether they were made to go beyond the speed limit in order to meet timetables. Although I expressed concern at that possibility and pointed out that it was an offence, I have not been able to find evidence of it occurring. Today at Question Time I was surprised to hear that, despite the mandatory fitting of speed limiters, it is alleged that coaches are still exceeding 70 miles an hour. I shall look into that matter. I find those allegations somewhat difficult to believe as I understood that the speed limiters were normally effective. I see a noble Lord shaking his head; but I shall certainly look into that matter as there is no point in insisting that speed limiters are fitted if they do not work. I shall have to return to that point, and no doubt a number of noble Lords will take the opportunity of questioning me on the matter.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, the Minister has been more helpful than he thought; at least that is my interpretation. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 21:

After Clause 42, insert the following new clause:

("Tramcars and trolley vehicles

.—(1) After section 141 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (tramcars and trolley vehicles) there shall be inserted — "Tramcars and trolley vehicles: regulations.

141A.—(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that such of the provisions mentioned in subsection (2) below as are specified in the regulations shall not apply, or shall apply with modifications—

  1. (a) to all tramcars or to tramcars of any specified class, or
  2. (b) to all trolley vehicles or to trolley vehicles of any specified class.

(2) The provisions referred to in subsection (1) above are the provisions of sections Ito 9, 14, 18 and 81 to 89 of this Act.

(3) Regulations under this section—

  1. (a) may make different provision for different cases,
  2. (b) may include such transitional provisions as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient, and
  3. (c) may make such amendments to any special Act as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient in consequence of the regulations or in consequence of the application to any tramcars or trolley vehicles of any of the provisions mentioned in subsection (2) above.

(4) In this section— special Act" means a local Act of Parliament passed before the commencement of this section which authorises or regulates the use of tramcars or trolley vehicles; tramcar" includes any carriage used on any road by virtue of an order under the Light Railways Act 1896; and trolley vehicle" means a mechanically propelled vehicle adapted for use on roads without rails under power transmitted to it from some external source (whether or not there is in addition a source of power on board the vehicle).

(2) After section 193 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (exemptions for tramcars, trolley vehicles etc) there shall be inserted— "Tramcars and trolley vehicles.

193A.—(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that such of the provisions mentioned in subsection (2) below as are specified in the regulations shall not apply, or shall apply with modifications—

  1. (a) to all tramcars or to tramcars of any specified class, or
  2. (b) to all trolley vehicles or to trolley vehicles of any specified class.

(2) The provisions referred to in subsection (1) above are the provisions of—

  1. (a) sections 12, 40A to 42, 47, 48, 66, 68 to 73, 75 to 79, 83, 87 to 109, 143 to 165, 168, 170, 171, 178, 190 and 191 of this Act, and
  2. (b) sections 1, 2, 7, 8, 22, 25 to 29, 31, 32, 34 to 48, 96 and 97 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (provisions requiring warning of prosecution etc and provisions connected with the licensing of drivers).

(3) Regulations under this section—

  1. (a) may make different provision for different cases,
  2. (b) may include such transitional provisions as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient, and
  3. (c) may make such amendments to any special Act as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient in consequence of the regulations or in consequence of the application to any tramcars or trolley vehicles of any of the provisions mentioned in subsection (2) above.

(4) In this section "special Act" means a local Act of Parliament passed before the commencement of this section which authorises or regulates the use of tramcars or trolley vehicles." ").

The noble Lord said

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 21, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 91, 111, 112 and 113. These amendments fulfil the undertaking which I gave in Committee to consider an amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Teviot on the application of road traffic law to tramcars and trolley vehicles. I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this important matter. Noble Lords who were present in Committee will recall that there was unanimous support for the introduction of powers to enable the Secretary of State to make regulations to apply, or to apply with modifications, certain provisions of the Road Traffic Acts which do not at present apply to these vehicles. The new clause which has been tabled is intended to give effect to that proposal. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, in Committee I gave support to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot. Therefore I am particularly pleased—I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, is also pleased—that the Government have tabled amendments to meet the commitment that the Minister gave in Committee. Then it was emphasised that urgent action is required, particularly in view of the fact that some authorities are considering light transit systems. Such systems are already under construction in Manchester and in South Yorkshire. Therefore it is important that we should consider these amendments. In Committee I asked which organisations would be consulted in drawing up the regulations. The Minister kindly wrote to me listing no fewer than 11 categories of organisations to be consulted in drawing up the regulations if this enabling amendment is passed. I thank the Minister for tabling this amendment and for the information he provided on the bodies to be consulted.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, I welcome this provision. I take it that the phrase "tramcars" subsumes light rapid transit vehicles. The latter always looked like tramcars to me but they also run on railways. However, I wondered whether the term "tramcar" is sufficient to cover all the vehicles which are likely to travel on the roads in the future. I am sure that term is sufficient as otherwise the Government would have used another term. However, it is interesting to note that light rapid transit vehicles can be referred to by the glorious term of "tramcar". I strongly support the amendment.

Lord Teviot

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for tabling this amendment in response to the amendment that I tabled in Committee. His amendment is much clearer and much better than the amendment I tabled. I am glad that the reservations that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, expressed in Committee have now been overcome. As regards the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, on tramcars, I am sure the Minister will reply to that point. However, given time, the use of light rapid transit systems will increase. This amendment to the clause will pave the way towards achieving that aim.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, once more I am grateful for the reception that the amendments have received from your Lordships. I am pleased to have been able to introduce them.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, referred specifically to consultations, and I wrote to him on that subject. As he said, that point is covered. I am sometimes amazed at the number of people we have to consult on certain issues and feel surprised that we ever get anything done at all. However, perhaps that is a subject for another time.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, asked me to give an assurance that all proposed schemes for light rapid transit systems would be covered by the definition of "tramcars". That point was carefully considered, as was the definition of a trolley vehicle, which now includes a vehicle which can run for a certain amount of time under its own power as well as the old-fashioned trolleybus. We are confident that the clause covers all the necessary types of light rapid transit system.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Teviot for his reception of the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Howe

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-six minutes past nine o'clock.