HL Deb 26 July 2000 vol 616 cc562-3

(" . In paragraph 2(5) of Schedule 3 to the Road Traffic Act 1991 (special parking areas), at the end of the words in parentheses insert "and to moving vehicles failing to comply with the indications given by the signs shown in any of diagrams 612, 613, 614, 953, 960, 961, 1043, 1044, 1048 and 1048.1 of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 1994.").

The noble Lord said: I move this rather prosaic-looking amendment with some reluctance following the rich diet that we have had today with regard to concrete pumping machines.

The effect of this amendment would be to extend the scope of camera enforcement of road traffic offences outside London. It would extend that scope in terms of going outside London geographically and would also include other offences, such as banned turns, restricted access, yellow box markings, no entry restrictions and the like.

First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for the letter which he wrote to me and which I received by fax this afternoon. I refer to matters which were raised in the Moses Room during the Grand Committee stage.

I know that the Government—the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said so then and says so in this letter—want to extend the experience of camera enforcement of bus lanes outside London before moving to extend that enforcement to other offences. Local authorities also want that extension. I have a letter from one local authority which states that it would very much like to have added to the list of offences banned turns, restricted access and parking within yellow box markings.

I do not ask that the powers should be extended immediately, but that the opportunity should be taken in this legislation to build in the possibility at some future date to extend the powers by order rather than return to primary legislation. The major way to improve public transport in the short term is to get more use out of buses. The greater use of buses is closely linked to buses moving freely along the highway. That means two things: first, the enforcement of parking, to which the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, refers in his letter; and, secondly, local authorities should take up the powers available to them to take over the enforcement of parking areas through special parking area regulations.

The police should be able to enforce the provisions on the operation of buses properly throughout the length of streets. We have just talked about their inability to enforce the mobile phone regulations and I was talking earlier about their inability to enforce the rules on the use of restricted roads by heavy lorries. The police do not do those jobs. We have to move on technologically. I seek an assurance that the Minister will at least consider taking the powers, even if they are not used until he has the experience that he is seeking of the enforcement of bus lanes outside London. I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty

The noble Lord has correctly divined that my view is that we should concentrate on making sure that the extension of enforcement powers to bus lanes, which we agreed in Grand Committee, should run and we should see how the enforcement powers work, rather than extending them to other potential offences. I remain of that opinion. The amendment would not meet the noble Lord's objectives because it would make no provision for the issuing of regulations, which he recognises would be needed were we to do as he suggests.

In general, the Government tend not to warm to suggestions that we take powers that we are probably not going to use within the foreseeable future. We intend to stick with that doctrine and not take powers when we will not know for some time whether we will need them. That will depend on how effective the bus lane enforcement provisions are. Reluctantly, I fear that I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Bradshaw

I thank the Minister for that reply. All that I can say is that the prospects of the Government achieving their 10-year transport plan and the better use of bus services and reductions in traffic levels that I know that they want will be very much reduced if they do not take powers to enable them to free up our streets as quickly as possible so that buses can make a proper contribution. I am very disappointed with the Minister's reply, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments No. 420 and 421 not moved.]

Baroness Scott of Needham Market moved Amendment No. 422:

After Clause 257, insert the following new clause—