HL Deb 21 October 1999 vol 605 cc1315-22

(" .—(1) The Highways Act 1980 shall be amended as follows.

(2) In section 90A(1) (construction of road humps by highway authority) at the end of paragraph (b) there shall be inserted "or

  1. (c) (whether or not the highway is subject to such a limit) the road humps fall within section 90CA below."

(3) After section 90C there shall be inserted—

"Special procedure for certain road humps in London.

90CA.—(1) A road hump falls within this section if—

  1. (a) it is constructed by a local highway authority in Greater London, and
  2. (b) the requirements of subsections (2) and (3) have been complied with.

(2) The requirement of this subsection is that before starting to construct the road hump the authority concerned gives the Secretary of State notice stating—

  1. (a) the nature, dimensions and location of the proposed road hump,
  2. (b) the spacing between the proposed road hump and any other humps constructed, or proposed to be constructed, in the vicinity,
  3. (c) the type and description of signs which are proposed to be located in the highway in connection with the proposed hump.
  4. (d) the statutory speed limit for motor vehicles to which the highway where it is proposed to construct the hump is subject, and
  5. (e) the period (of not less than one month) within which, and the address to which, the Secretary of State may send any comments on the proposal to the authority.

(3) The requirement of this subsection is that in deciding

  1. (a) whether to proceed with the construction of the road hump, and
  2. (b) what the nature, dimensions and location of the road hump as constructed are to be,
the authority concerned has regard to any comments made by the Secretary of State within the period stated in the notice.".

(4) After section 90D(4) there shall be inserted

"(5) Regulations under this section do not apply where a road hump falls within section 90CA above.".

(5) In section 90E(1) for the words from "Where" to "satisfied" there shall be substituted "Where the requirements of subsections (1A), (1B) or (1C) are satisfied in relation to a road hump".

(6) After section 90E(1) there shall be inserted—"

(1A) The requirements of this subsection are that—

  1. (a) regulations under section 90D above apply to the road hump,
  2. (b) the road hump conforms to the regulations, and
  3. (c) if the road hump is in a highway maintainable at the public expense. the conditions mentioned in subsection (2) below are satisfied.

(1B) The requirements of this subsection are that—

  1. (a) the road hump is specially authorised by the Secretary of State,
  2. (b) the road hump conforms with the conditions attached to the authorisation, and
  3. 1317
  4. (c) if the road hump is in a highway maintainable at the public expense, the conditions mentioned in subsection (2) below are satisfied.

(1C) The requirements of this subsection (1) are that—

  1. (a) the road hump falls within section 90CA, and
  2. (b) if the road hump is in a highway maintainable at the public expense, the condition mentioned in subsection (2)(a) below is satisfied.".

(7) Section 90E(3) shall be omitted.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I wish to speak also to the other amendments in the group. In our White Paper we said that traffic calming measures and stopping up orders on borough roads would be purely a matter for the boroughs. These amendments give effect to that commitment and reflect one of the overall aims of the GLA Bill, which is to devolve power to the appropriate level of government in London.

Among other things this group of government amendments provides that where boroughs propose to introduce non-standard traffic calming schemes they must notify the Secretary of State and take into account any comments. They are also required to continue to consult bodies such as the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority. This is a sensible group of amendments which I commend to the House as a welcome devolution of power from the Secretary of State to the London boroughs. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I understand the principle underlying the provisions. It is an important one in relation to traffic calming measures. However, there seems to be a lack of uniformity in London boroughs about the dimensions of road humps. Some are higher than others. Even travelling at a modest speed—which is the intention—some damage can be done to the underside of the vehicle. What is the likely policy of the Secretary of State? Is there to be a measure of uniformity? That would seem common sense in relation to the liability of traffic calming measures. An unnecessary obstacle ought to be avoided. What reasons would there be for not having uniformity in this regard? I do not claim expertise but it seems to me that the differential in terms of measurements is undesirable.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, says that consultation with the LFCDA and others will continue. But the LFCDA is worried that that is not what the new clauses mean. It is stated that road humps can be installed without complying with the regulations. Those regulations insist that consultation should take place. Obviously, the fire brigade desires, indeed insists, that it should take place. I understand that it contacted the Government Office for London which confirmed that there was no intention to include consultation but suggested that new regulations to require that would be forthcoming once the GLA Bill was enacted. The LFCDA is receiving mixed messages. Perhaps the Minister can clarify the situation and say whether it is his intention to bring forward new regulations on consultation with the London Fire Brigade once the Bill is passed. If not, can he tell us where in the Bill it is clearly written that consultation will continue to take place?

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, the matter to which my noble friend alludes is important for all the emergency services. I wish to follow up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. It seems to me that road humps and traffic calming measures are treated differently but both achieve the same end. There is a certain fashion in traffic calming measures. One year, one gets chicanes; another year, road humps; another year, mini-roundabouts and so on. Occasionally, there follows a spate of accidents. The traffic calming measures are found not to be calming but causing accidents and they are removed. Does reference have to be made to the Secretary of State about the removal of what were standard or specifically approved traffic calming measures or road humps?

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I have difficulty with one of the amendments and I shall have to test your Lordships' patience in explaining why. I am still unclear why the proposals are necessary. There is, however, a greater difficulty. All noble Lords are well aware that for the government of the day there are only three types of amendments: unworkable, unnecessary or defective. Governments will always hold that defective drafting is fatal to an opposition amendment that they do not support.

It may be that the Minister can convince me and the House that his amendment is workable and necessary. Unfortunately, Amendment No. 497A is defective. The Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) empowers the Secretary of State to stop up or divert highways for development to be carried out. Amendment No. 497A removes the Secretary of State's power in London and transfers it to the London boroughs. There is no apparent justification as to why London is treated differently. The provision is inconsistent with other powers. I do not understand why the power has been handed right down to the boroughs and does not stop with the mayor. The Minister is always persuasive and no doubt he can convince the House of that need. However, unfortunately I do not see how he can explain why the Common Council of the City of London does not benefit from his amendment.

In the TCPA, the council of a London borough, under Section 336(1), includes the Common Council unless the context indicates otherwise. Section 247(3)(b) mentions, a London borough council specified in the order or, if it is so specified, the Common Council of the City of London'`. The Minister's amendment introduces a new subsection (2A) into Section 247 of the TCPA which allows the council of a London borough by order to, authorise the stopping up or diversion of any highway". It does not mention the Common Council of the City. Given that it is mentioned as an alternative to a London borough in the same section, surely the Common Council cannot benefit from the Minister's amendment. That may be the effect that the Minister desires. If so, we will have to check later to ascertain whether it is acceptable to ourselves.

Paragraph 7(7) contains a serious defect. The new subsection (5A)(c) of Section 252 of the TCPA refers to, or transporter as are mentioned in that subsection", that is, subsection (4). Unfortunately, that subsection refers to a public gas supplier, not a transporter.

There is a further difficulty in paragraph 6 which applies the provisions of Section 250 of the Local Government Act 1972 (the LGA) relating to evidence and costs at inquiries. Paragraph 7(8) of the amendment purports to apply these provisions to inquiries ordered by London boroughs. Unfortunately, subsections (4) and (5) of that section refer specifically to, Where a Minister causes an inquiry to be held". Those subsections allow costs to be awarded. The amendments in this schedule do not extend the power in the LGA to a situation where a London borough rather than the Minister causes an inquiry to be held. They are, therefore, defective and we cannot allow them to go on to the face of the Bill.

There also appear to be difficulties with paragraph 8 of the new schedule. At present, the relevant section allows the Secretary of State to make an order after considering objections to any inspector's report. The amendment allows the mayor to make an order but the rest of the provisions give the order-making powers to the London boroughs. This problem arises because the order-making powers are not transferred when a London borough causes an inquiry to be held and it reports to that London borough and not the mayor. The amendment does not specify what orders the mayor may make. The error may be explained by the summary of the subsection, confirmation of order after local inquiry". These orders are not made by an authority at one level and confirmed by another. In the existing legislation they are all made by the Secretary of State. The amendment appears to try to bring in the mayor to confirm the order but the statutory framework does not provide for confirmation. These orders are usually sought only when planning permission has been obtained. Section 253 allows the order process to begin earlier in respect of local government, statutory undertaker development or if the planning application has been either called in by the Secretary of State or is being appealed to him. The latter provisions allow objectors to the highways orders to be heard at the same inquiry as the planning application and the decisions can be issued at the same time.

These amendments mean that the ability to run applications together will be lost if the Secretary of State does not have power to make the orders in London. Is that what the Minister intends? Is he content with that situation?

Paragraph 9 appears to allow a London borough to make temporary stopping-up orders for highways that are affected by mineral workings. I sometimes wonder where any mineral workings will be in the GLA area, but that is what we face. The amendment sits uncomfortably with the power of local planning authorities to make orders to stop up or divert footpaths and bridleways (Section 257 of the TCPA). If objections are made, those orders are subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State. This amendment gives London boroughs the choice between seeking the Secretary of State's confirmation under Section 257 or making the order under Section 248 with some procedure involving the mayor. It is not obvious why that should be so. Can the Minister explain why?

Many of these amendments are fatally flawed; alternatively, they might not have the effect that the Minister intends. The defects illustrate our worst fears that the Bill may contain some even more serious time-bombs that are ticking away. We cannot detect them all, and no doubt some will escape our attention and even that of the Minister. I suggest that the Minister takes these amendments away and revises them. The Minister would never accept one of our amendments if it was defective, and I hope that he will not try to put defective amendments on the face of the Bill. If he is tempted to do so, we shall oppose Amendment No. 497A when we come to it in the Marshalled List.

I am sorry to have taken so long, but the Minister has tabled a huge raft of amendments to cover different issues. I have focused on one amendment that covers a large schedule which gives rise to a problem. Because it is defective in several places, I have had to address a good number of issues.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the noble Earl and other speakers in this debate have touched on a range of issues. I am aware that road humps cause a certain amount of controversy, in whatever context they are debated. In response to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, who I am sure always drives at a modest speed whether or not there are road humps, I point out that existing road humps must comply with regulations. Traffic-calming measures come in a whole range of different sizes, shapes and situations based on advice from the Highways Agency and our other technical staff. Some of them are larger or higher than others; some cover part of the road or the whole road, but there are specifications for those standards, and existing road humps should comply with the regulations.

Inevitably, there is a certain amount of experimentation in the field of traffic calming and traffic management. Therefore, on occasion, nonstandard road humps and other engineering changes are proposed. In those circumstances, the Secretary of State must approve them, and that is provided for in Amendments Nos. 484A and 484B.

The intention behind all of these amendments, which effectively fulfil our commitment in the White Paper to push this range of decisions away from the Secretary of State and towards the boroughs, will be widely welcomed in London. We have followed this through in the earlier amendments to the clause. At various points we have included the mayor in the structure of consultation. There will have to be consultation under different powers in this Bill, in the Town and Country Planning Act and in the Highways Act about the provisions that deal with humps.

As to the fire and civil defence authority, I understand that there are anxieties in that area. However, I believe that my commitment that the present requirement for consultation with the emergency services will continue to apply will reassure the fire and civil defence authority.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, before the Minister leaves that point, perhaps he will confirm precisely what will be the consultation arrangements with the emergency authorities. This is an important point which deserves specific attention.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the point I make is that there is nothing in this group of amendments which changes the present consultation. I can in writing cross-refer the noble Baroness to other regulations, but the point I seek to make both to the House and to those on the current and future authority is that there will be no less consultation than before. I am aware that the emergency services have anxieties about some traffic-calming measures. It is important that they are built into consultation on those issues.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, concentrated mainly on Amendment No. 497A which deals with a rather lengthy schedule containing a number of provisions. The main provisions are that a borough, including one that acts on behalf of another, will itself be able to make unopposed stopping-up orders and decisions that are opposed will be made by the mayor. The mayor will also be able to dispense with a public inquiry if the mayor so sees fit. At present, the cost, another issue raised by the noble Earl, of making stopping-up orders falls on the Secretary of State. In devolving that role to London boroughs we intend to use the order-making powers to enable them to charge the applicant. They are Secretary of State order-making powers but they will allow the London borough to make the charge. Before we finally make such an order there will be wide consultation.

The noble Earl asked a number of questions relating to the cross referencing of these provisions with the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. There are also cross-references to the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 which are, therefore, not apparent and explicit on the face of the amendment. He also asked whether the references to London boroughs included the Common Council of the City of London. I am reasonably confident that the definition of the London authorities in this context includes the City of London. However, I am not absolutely confident. Because of the complexity of the cross-references to other legislation which is not immediately to hand to noble Lords, and because of my uncertainty in relation to the City, with the leave of the House I shall not proceed with that amendment and will try to clarify the situation for noble Lords opposite between now and Third Reading. I beg to move the first amendment, but I shall not move Amendment No. 497A at the appropriate time.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5 p.m.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 484B: After Clause 231, insert the following new clause—