HL Deb 07 December 1995 vol 567 cc1083-5

5.37 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton of Wakefield) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 16th November be approved.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the draft Street Works (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.

This order would introduce provisions broadly in line with those already in force in Great Britain by the enactment of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991.

The main purpose of the order is to introduce in Northern Ireland new provisions to facilitate the co-ordination and control of street works. It would replace the current, somewhat piecemeal arrangements found in the enabling legislation of the public utilities and in Northern Ireland's roads and road traffic law, with provisions similar to those in Part III of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. Modifications have been made to reflect the different legislative and administrative situation in Northern Ireland.

The order would generally apply not only to roads maintainable by the Department of the Environment, the sole roads authority in Northern Ireland, but also to all private streets. Its key aims are to reduce the delays and disruptions to road users caused by street works and to improve the quality of workmanship. It would seek to achieve that by encouraging a more co-operative approach between the undertakers of works, the department and other street authorities, and by clearly defining their respective duties and responsibilities. Like the Act of 1991, the order sets out a broad framework within which matters of detail can be dealt with under regulations and codes of practice, thereby facilitating future amendment to reflect changing circumstances.

Turning to the content of the order, utilities and other undertakers would be fully responsible for their works, including the permanent reinstatement of the street surface. The department and other street authorities would have a duty to co-ordinate their own and undertakers' works in the street. A key instrument in this would be a register showing information on works of all kinds in streets. Many of the requirements in the order would be supported by criminal penalties for failure to comply.

Street works are a major factor in congestion and delays in towns and cities in Northern Ireland and there is a clear need for a flexible system of organising street works to accommodate increasing traffic and increasing activity by utilities. I am delighted that the increase in traffic reflects a growing economy. I am confident that the order, in broadly harmonising the law in Northern Ireland with that in Great Britain, would be to the benefit not only of the utilities, but also of considerable benefit to road users, from improved planning and execution of street works and reduced traffic congestion.

My Lords, I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 16th November be approved.—(Baroness Denton of Wakefield.)

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I support this matter. I have neither criticism, question nor complaint. If this is the last Northern Ireland business this Session, I wish the Minister a happy Christmas.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham

My Lords, I had not intended to rise to my feet, but I offer from these Benches our best seasonal wishes to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, it would be discourteous of me not to return those felicitations. I thank noble Lords for the great support that they have shown for Northern Ireland, this year, for which everyone in Northern Ireland is most grateful. I commend the order to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.