HL Deb 08 July 2004 vol 663 cc946-88

1.2 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 18 [Guidance to local traffic authorities]:

Lord Rotherwick

moved Amendment No. 1: Page 8, line 30, at end insert— "( ) The guidance shall cover, among other matters, the respective responsibility of a local traffic authority, the police and fire service to attend to spillages of diesel fuel and render the road safe again for the passage of motorcycles and other vehicles.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have decided to return once again to the issue of diesel spills. With the patience of noble Lords who have heard it before, I shall briefly outline for those who may have missed it on the previous occasion what the amendment does.

The amendment aims to ensure that diesel spills are cleared up by the local authorities which manage the roads in question in order that such spills do not pose a threat to road users. My particular concern in this case is with the relatively small spills that affect motorcyclists and bicyclists.

I have taken on board what the Minister said on Report—that guidance is available on diesel spills in general—but, on looking at the section to which he referred me in the code of practice for maintenance management, there is no direct reference to diesel spills but only to flooding, high winds, temperature and so on.

While I acknowledge that the Minister outlined the possibility of this issue being discussed in public consultation on the draft network management duty guidance, the department does not have a duty to take on board all aspects of the consultation; the Bill as it stands allows only that guidance "may" be published, rather than a commitment that it "shall" be published.

I welcome the fact that local authorities are given advice on the management of incidents, which covers diesel spills, and I support the idea of the emergency services and local authorities working together. But the Minister did not say whether local authorities have to adhere to such advice, nor whether it is ever checked that they are adhering to the advice by the emergency services. Can the Minister clarify this issue?

It would appear that there is a system in place at the moment for dealing with diesel spills, but in practice it does not always work. The British Motorcyclists' Federation's journal, the Motorcycle News, on 3 March 2004, revealed that there are now less than 3,000 dedicated UK traffic police, down from 9,000 in 1992. The other 6,000 are now used to tackle a variety of crimes. However, the forces claim that they still have time for traffic duties to ensure that our roads are safe.

The British Motorcyclists' Federation tested this claim. In five police force areas where, I understand, those 6,000 police officers have multiple roles, it found five dangerous diesel spills, each of which could have caused a crash. It concluded that four out of five of those diesel spills were not made safe, and the fifth one was made safe only because a road gritting lorry went past. The Association of Chief Police Officers has stated that if a diesel spill is likely to cause an accident it is deemed an emergency and you can call 999 to report it. If it is not, you should call the local police force or the council. That does not seem to have any effect on cleaning up a diesel spill. It may get a policeman out, but it does not make it safe.

To highlight this concern, a traffic officer from Norfolk said that a diesel spill should be dealt with as a "grade two emergency", which means that the police can put on their flashing blue lights and get there. At the officers' discretion it can be changed to a grade one, which means that they can exceed the speed limit and go through red lights. The officer said: If it's rush hour and only a grade two, you'll get there late to find that some motorcyclist has crashed".

I look to the Government to give an assurance that this issue in particular will be subject to discussions between the department, the emergency services and local authorities, as well as any other stakeholder they deem fit, be it as part of the consultation on another issue or as an issue in itself. This may be a small issue but I believe that it will make a huge difference to road users and the prevention of accidents, which cause congestion.

I make the point, once again, that motorcyclists represent 22 per cent of those killed on British roads each year, even though they represent only 4 per cent of the traffic. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I am sorry that I was unable to reassure the noble Lord at the previous stage of the Bill that we are tackling the issue of diesel spillage. I recognise that it is a serious issue, particularly in respect of the safety of motorcyclists and others.

As I mentioned at previous stages of the Bill, there are already regulations aimed at preventing diesel escaping in the first place. It is an offence to spill any oily substance on a carriageway if it is likely to cause danger. The Department for Transport has been tasked with considering the possibility of raising both the profile of the existing regulations and their enforcement.

Turning to the issue of who is responsible for the removal of spills, this clearly falls to the local traffic authority. Guidance on dealing with diesel spillages and similar accidents is already covered in the code of practice for maintenance management, and the network management duty guidance reinforces this in its advice to local traffic authorities on the management of incidents.

In addition—I hope this is a direct response to one of the noble Lord's stronger points—the department is involved in drawing up engineering guidelines for powered two-wheelers, which will include the concerns of motorcyclists, when advising on the planning, designing, implementing and maintenance of the road network. So the action we are taking is not inconsiderable. As I sought to assure the House on the previous occasion, we recognise the issue raised by the noble Lord as a matter of considerable importance. I hope that the noble Lord recognises the seriousness with which the Government view the safety of motorcyclists. He will be delighted to know that we will soon be launching a motorcycling strategy with a view to improving conditions for all motorcyclists. With that in mind, the department convened an advisory group on motorcycling that included representatives of the Motorcycling Action Group and the British Motorcyclists Federation. They have been working on a report that will contain recommendations to Government on the issues of most concern. We are expecting it to be published next month. Ministers will give it careful consideration when developing the strategy.

I respect the points the noble Lord made about the accident rate for motorcyclists. Only a short while ago in response to a Question in the House I indicated how concerned we were about the rise in deaths and serious injuries among motorcyclists. That is why we are concerned to take the measures I have outlined. But there is a salient point in relation to the amendment. The noble Lord said that motorcyclists represented 22 per cent of those killed when they comprised only 4 per cent of the traffic. Those are chilling statistics that we take extremely seriously, as we do the upturn in motorcycle casualties, which is a worry to us all.

However, diesel and oil spillages were present in less than 1 per cent of all injury accidents involving two-wheeled vehicles last year. Although I hope I have convinced the noble Lord, I am sure that he is aware that my colleagues and I have the issues of motorcycle safety very much in mind. We need to pursue the matters with vigour. The amendment relating to spillages is not justified by the figures, but we are taking on board the representations that the noble Lord has made so forcefully again today. We will keep the issue under review. I want to reassure him that motorcycle safety is an important feature of the Government's perspective on road safety.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his kind assurances and for the information he gave us about the report due for publication next month. Perhaps my reading skills are not up to it, but I have a copy of the code of practice for maintenance management and we could not find any reference to diesel spills.

Furthermore, both the times I have come off my motorcycle on diesel spills, neither of those occasions were included in the accident statistics. It would be misleading to think that the accidents caused to motorcyclists due to diesel spills are just 1 per cent; perhaps the figure is much larger because they are not recorded. Notwithstanding that, I am grateful to the Minister for his assurances and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 [Interpretation of Part 2]:

Viscount Astor

moved Amendment No. 2: Page 9, leave out lines 8 and 9.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, we move from the dangerous position of two wheels to the safety of four wheels. My amendment is purely for tidying up because your Lordships deleted Clauses 20 to 30 on Report. We needed to table the amendment because it removes the definitions of "intervention notice" and "intervention order" from the current Clause 20 as they are no longer needed in the Bill. I hope that the amendment is helpful to the Government. I beg to move.

Lord Borrie

My Lords, this is an obvious amendment in view of what happened. It was a most unfortunate decision by the House and I hope that it will not prevail indefinitely.

1.15 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. Like me he is careful of the Danaans when bearing gifts. Of course the noble Viscount has an unexceptionable and unarguable case that once Clauses 20 to 30 were excised from the Bill—temporarily I trust, like my noble friend—the amendment should be carried. As he will recognise, although we do not accept the reason why it has become unarguable, we accept the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 33 [Directions as to placing of apparatus]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 3: Page 17, line 2, after "to" insert "the persons who may determine appeals and

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 33 inserts a new Section 56A into the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. That will provide a new power for street authorities to direct undertakers that in certain circumstances they cannot place new apparatus in a particular street. Subsection (5) already allows the Secretary of State to make provision in regulations for a system of appeals against such directions and the procedure for appeals. Upon reflection, we believe that it would be sensible to make it clear that the regulations can also make provision as to the persons who may determine such appeals, which is what Amendment No. 3 does. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, the amendment clarifies that regulations made by the Secretary of State to allow appeals against directions preventing the placement of new apparatus by undertakers—in particular, for roads as set out in Clause 33—may also make provision as to the persons who may determine such appeals. We welcome the amendment and thank the Government for tabling it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 44 [Power of street authority to require undertaker to re-surface street]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 4: Page 24, line 22, leave out "serve" and insert "give

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7, 24 and 28, which replace references to the "serving" of notices with the "giving" of notices. Elsewhere the Bill refers to the giving of notices and for consistency we consider it best to refer to one term. Amendments Nos. 23 and 27 are also grouped with Amendment No. 4. They correct references in two of the schedules for fixed penalty offences. Both Schedules 3 and 6 incorrectly refer to "section". The amendments correct the errors so that they refer to "paragraph", which is the appropriate terminology when referring to schedules. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 5: Page 25, line 5, leave out "served with" and insert "given

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 45 [Re-surfacing: regulations and guidance]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 6 and 7: Page 25, line 28, leave out "served on" and insert "given to" Page 25, line 30, leave out "be served with the notice" and insert "whom the notice is to be given

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 46 [Contributions to costs of re-surfacing by undertaker]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 8: Page 27, line 32, leave out "(corresponding to subsections (1) to (5))

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 9. Clause 46 inserts a new Section 78A into the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 providing for undertakers to make a contribution to the costs of resurfacing roads in certain circumstances. The amendments provide that regulations under subsection (7) are able to make substantive provision for payments and so on and are not simply intended to give powers to the Secretary of State to require payments. The drafting amendments are to make clear the scope of provisions. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, will regulations provide undertakers with a choice, or will they prescribe the circumstances in which an undertaker is entitled to pay a sum with regard to resurfacing? It would help if the Minister could give me some understanding of how they consider the regulations will be framed. In principle, we support the amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for asking that question. The regulations will indeed prescribe. I believe that clears up the uncertainty that he expressed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 9: 0Page 27, line 39, at end insert— "( ) The power in subsection (7) includes power to make provision corresponding to provision that may be made under subsections (1) to (5).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 10: Page 27, line 46, at end insert— ( ) No contribution may be requested under this section in respect of works carried out before regulations under this section have first been made.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I thought that we knew where we were on this new section, and that through the process of Committee and Report we had gained an understanding that no retrospection was involved. But then it appears from comments made very recently by Ministers that there is to be retrospection, and that the way in which this section of the Bill will work is that it will be brought into effect next year some time, but the regulations will not be promulgated for the first time until some years afterwards. When the regulations are promulgated, the whole period between the Bill coming into effect and the regulations being agreed to will then be covered by the section, and there will be an immediate back-charging of the utilities which have done works in that period.

My objection is not that utilities should be charged for such things; we are all agreed on that point. I object, however, to the idea that an unspecified and unquantified charge will suddenly materialise in five years' time. Utilities are presumably meant to reserve for that eventuality—but how can they reserve for something when they do not know the scale and extent of the charges? The Minister has said that these cases will be rare and occasional, but there is nothing in the Bill to say that; it all depends on the nature of the regulations.

The Minister must be straight and keep to what he has said before—that there will not be retrospection. Until it is possible for the utilities to know when the charges will arise and how large they are likely to be, they should not be asked to pay them. That seems to me the very basis of fairness and reasonableness, on which we thought we had agreed.

My decision on the amendment depends very much on how the Minister replies. Given that we are at this stage, I shall not know until he has whether this is a matter that I want to take seriously. I would hope that if my noble friend Lord Astor and the Liberal Democrats have some reason for me not to divide the House on this matter, if the Government are going retrospective, they will let me know—because I certainly shall divide the House if they are. I beg to move.

Lord Borrie

My Lords, I do not find myself very often in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, so it is a pleasure to agree with him today. It seems quite unreasonable that utilities should engage in work tomorrow, next week or the month after on the basis of the present law, then find that because regulations are made retrospective some time in the future their liabilities are much greater than they thought. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and myself, that that is not intended. Otherwise, I believe that the noble Lord has an important point.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I understand the point that my noble friend Lord Lucas is making, and I entirely agree with him. I had thought, although I may have got it wrong, that the Minister had given assurances about this matter before. I may not be right, and it would be very helpful if the Minister could clarify the situation.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I shall address myself to the issues, although I regret that I shall have at one stage to indicate in a rather technical way that the amendment would not quite achieve what the noble Lord seeks. However, it would do the noble Lord a disfavour if I merely addressed the technicality and not the real issues that he has raised.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said, we have had considerable debate on these issues in Grand Committee and at Report. The concerns of utilities about the resurfacing powers have been raised previously, and it is right that they should be today. There is not a great deal to add to what I said before; I had sought to meet these points in the assurances given about the use of the powers. The assurances have been given, not only during the proceedings of the Bill in this House and in another place but outside the House by my colleagues in the department.

I emphasise the point that the provision is not a way for authorities to get their roads resurfaced on the cheap. The Government envisage that the powers would be used only where problems were most serious, and where a succession of works had left roads in a particularly bad condition. Regulations will place the appropriate limitations on the circumstances in which these powers could be used. We gave the assurance on Report that the first of the regulations will be subject to affirmative resolution, so both Houses of Parliament will have the opportunity to consider them.

We envisage that the authority itself would still be expected to make the largest contribution to resurfacing costs even when the new powers were triggered. The basis on which costs are to be shared between undertakers and the authority would of course be part of the regulations, so there will be an opportunity for this House to scrutinise the powers before they come into effect. As and when the regulations are brought forward, they will be developed with the help of undertakers and authorities, and will be subject to full public consultation.

The amendments that the Government tabled at Report already limit the liability of undertakers to exclude any works before commencement of these clauses. Amendment No. 10 seeks to stretch that exclusion to the time when regulations are made. I understand the concerns about how contingencies for resurfacing costs can be dealt with by utility companies. But we need to balance that against the principle that where utilities' street works have made a significant contribution towards damaging a road, the utilities in question should contribute towards the necessary resurfacing. As I said at Report, the Government have increased substantially the funding of maintenance on our roads, and we do not want to see that investment prejudiced. We do not of course want to make it difficult for utility companies to operate. I can assure your Lordships that all these matters will be the subject of proper discussion and consideration when developing the regulations so that we can come to a reasonable conclusion, which will take on board the point that the noble Lord has made.

The amendment itself in fact only partially addresses the concerns that the noble Lord articulated so clearly. This is where I shall lapse into the slightly more technical argument. While the amendment would add a subsection making liability start only after the regulations have been made, it leaves intact subsection (2)(a), which was amended at Report to make it clear that the starting point is that, subject to the eventual provisions made in regulations, liability may start at commencement of the clause, irrespective of whether regulations have been made. So the amendment would inadvertently cast doubt on the intended effect of the provisions in new Section 78A, if it were made. That would be deleterious to how we envisage these issues developing and to how the noble Lord addressed them.

Returning to the point of principle, I want to give the assurance that I have given in the past about these powers. The regulations will be developed in conjunction with the undertakers and authorities. They will take into account all the points that have been raised during the passage of the Bill. They will be subject to the fullest public consultation and of course they will be subject in the first instance to parliamentary scrutiny under the affirmative procedure for regulations. On that basis I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, not really—not at this stage. If my noble friend Lord Astor chooses to indicate that he would rather I did not divide—by a thumbs down or similar motion—I will of course follow his advice. However, I thought that we had established the principle in Committee and on Report that there would be no retrospection, and now we find that there is this long period between commencement and the issuing of regulations when retrospection will apply. Furthermore, there will be no indication of the extent of the coverage or of the costs when they are incurred.

I thought that we had all agreed that there should be no retrospection, or at least not for more than six months or a year, which is survivable in the context of company accounts. The prospect of five years of retrospection is just not on and what the Minister said did not satisfy my concerns. I appreciate that the amendment is defective, but I hope that it is irritating enough to get the Government to correct it and put something in place that will work in principle. We all agree that utilities should pay their share of the costs. I hope that the amendment will make the Government hurry on the regulations so that they can. 1.32 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 10) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 81; Not-Contents, 126.

Division No. 1
Anelay of St Johns, B. King of Bridgwater, L.
Astor, V. Knight of Collingtree, B.
Astor of Hever, L. Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Attlee, E. Lane of Horsell, L.
Blaker, L. Lawson of Blaby, L.
Blatch, B. Liverpool, E.
Bridgeman, V. Lucas, L. [Teller]
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. Luke, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lyell, L.
Burnham, L. Mancroft, L.
Byford, B. Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Cockfield, L. Montrose, D.
Colwyn, L. Murton of Lindisfame, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. Norton of Louth, L.
Crathorne, L. O'Cathain, B.
Crickhowell, L. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Dixon-Smith, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Eden of Winton, L. Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Platt of Writtle, B.
Elton, L. Plumb, L.
Ferrers, E. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Flather, B. Prior, L.
Fookes, B. Rawlings, B.
Freeman, L. Renton, L.
Geddes, L. Rotherwick, L.
Glentoran, L. Seccombe, B.
Goschen, V. [Teller] Selsdon, L.
Hanham, B. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Hanningfield, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hayhoe, L. Slim, V.
Higgins, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L. Strathclyde, L.
Howe, E. Swinfen, L.
Howe of Aberavon, L. Trumpington, B.
Hunt of Wirral, L. Ullswater, V.
James of Holland Park, B. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Wilcox, B.
Jopling L. Williamson of Horton, L.
Windlesham, L.
Acton, L. Brookman, L.
Addington, L. Burlison, L.
Ahmed, L. Campbell-Savours, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L. Carter, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President of the Council) Carter of Coles, L.
Andrews, B. Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Clinton-Davis, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Avebury, L. Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Bech, L. Crawley, B.
Barker, B. Dahrendorf, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Davies of Oldham, L.
Berkeley, L. Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L. Drayson, L.
Bhattacharyya, L. Dubs, L.
Blackstone, B. Elder, L
Blood, B. Evans of Parkside, L.
Borrie, L. Evans of Temple Guiting, L. [Teller]
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor) Ouseley, L.
Pendry, L.
Falkner of Margravine, B. Pitkeathley, B.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Faulkner of worcester, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Filkin, L. Puttnam, L.
Garden, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Gavron, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Gilbert, L. Rogers of Riverside, L.
Goldsmith, L. Roper, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Russell-Johnston, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller] Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Harris of Haringey, L. Sawyer, L.
Harris of Richmond, B. Scott of Needham Market, B.
Harrison, L. Sewel, L.
Hart of Chilton, L. Sharp of Guildford, B.
Haskel, L. Sheldon, L.
Henig, B. Simon, V.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Stone of Blackheath, L.
Hooson, L. Strabolgi, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Hoyle, L. Temple-Morris, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Thornton, B.
Janner of Braunstone, L. Tomlinson, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. Tope, L.
King of West Bromwich, L. Tordoff, L.
Lea of Crondall, L. Triesman, L.
Lipsey, L. Truscott, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L. Turnberg, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L. Turner of Camden, B.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B. Uddin, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L. Wall of New Barnet, B.
Masham of Ilton, B. Walmsley, B.
Massey of Darwen, B. Warner, L.
Maxton, L. Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B. Weatherill, L.
Mitchell, L. Whitaker, B.
Morgan, L. Whitty, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B. Williams of Crosby, B.
Morris of Aberavon, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Newby, L. Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

1.42 p.m.

Lord Berkeley

moved Amendment No. 11: Leave out Clause 48.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a probing amendment about the inspectors' role in looking at road works. I am seeking a few words of comfort from my noble friend that those who do the roadworks well will get some reward for good behaviour because the inspections cost money. There has been a lot of correspondence between my noble friend and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, on this subject. I shall not go over it now.

The Government have commented that they see the role of using a stick to punish those companies that do not improve their service. However, they have said little about a corresponding carrot for those who do improve; that is, a reduction in the number or proportion of inspections, and therefore a reduction in cost, if a company's work is shown to be good. It would good to hear from my noble friend whether the percentage of inspections carried out will vary according to the previous performance of the utility, or maybe even the local authority. It would be good to see whether the Government will accept the principle that the better company should, after a bit, have the proportion of its works inspected reduced, even down to something like 10 per cent. Of course, if the inspections found that its work was getting worse, it would be perfectly reasonable to put the percentage up higher. It would be very nice to hear a few words from my noble friend about the carrot as well the stick. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I appreciate the spirit in which my noble friend proposes to delete an important clause of the Bill. But, despite bringing a nuclear weapon to his aid, I understand that he is seeking to air a concept and a principle that I find attractive.

As the noble Lord will know, it is certainly the case that in other areas where we have regulation it becomes lighter-touch when the performance record of the body to be inspected merits confidence. I think that that is the burden of my noble friend's remarks. I think it is an attractive concept and one that is not unknown to government in a number of areas. I will bear in mind the principle that he is identifying. We have quite a way to go before we reach conclusions on these issues so it is a helpful contribution.


As the noble Lord will know, it is certainly the case that in other areas where we have regulation it becomes lighter-touch when the performance record of the body to be inspected merits confidence. I think that that is the burden of my noble friend's remarks. I think it is an attractive concept and one that is not unknown to government in a number of areas. I will bear in mind the principle that he is identifying. We have quite a way to go before we reach conclusions on these issues so it is a helpful contribution.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for that response. It is exactly what I hoped he would say. I had no intention of throwing any nuclear weapons in his direction. I was trying to convert my thoughts into an amendment that fitted into the Bill in order to get some very helpful words of comfort. I am sure he will understand why I chose the simpler option. I am very grateful to him. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 68 [Immobilisation of vehicle where penalty charge payable]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 12: Page 45, line 6. leave out sub-paragraphs (ii) and (iii)

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 12 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 13, 14 and 15. On Report, we debated an amendment moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that sought to prevent the immobilisation of a vehicle for a period of 15 minutes after a penalty charge notice had been issued for a parking contravention. On that occasion, I explained that we could not accept that amendment because it would apply not just to overstaying in a paying parking bay but also to other circumstances. It would have also prevented immobilisation for 15 minutes following the issue of a charge notice for other parking contraventions, such as parking on yellow lines. That is why we could not accept it as drafted. People who knowingly park unlawfully in the first place should not be given a period of grace against having their vehicles immobilised.

However, I indicated that we were prepared to amend what is now Clause 68 so that a vehicle cannot be immobilised for contravening the conditions of use of a paid-for parking bay until a period of 15 minutes has elapsed from the time that a penalty charge notice for the contravention was issued. That is the purpose of our amendments to Clause 68 and I think they meet the argument that the noble Viscount advanced in Committee and on Report.

Amendment No. 12 removes the existing prohibition on immobilisation for overstaying until a period of 15 minutes has elapsed from the end of the period of parking paid for. Amendment No. 13 replaces it with a prohibition on immobilising a vehicle in a parking place for a period of 15 minutes after a penalty charge notice has been issued for failing to pay a parking charge, failing to display properly a parking ticket showing that parking has been paid for or failing to remove a vehicle from a parking space at the end of the time paid for.

The prohibition on immobilisation for failure to pay a parking charge or to display a ticket would cover, for example, the eventuality of someone who went to a nearby shop to obtain change for the ticket machine and who, as matters stand at present, could potentially receive a penalty charge and have his vehicle clamped while carrying out that activity. The noble Viscount made a persuasive case that people may not immediately be able to meet the requirements of the parking charge, and that an element of grace would be appropriate.

The proposed new paragraph in Amendment No. 9 replaces the provision on overstaying removed by Amendment No. 8. It means that there would be a period of grace of at least 15 minutes before a vehicle could be immobilised for overstaying. In practice, that period could be longer, depending on when the contravention of overstaying was detected and when the penalty charge notice issued.

Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 are consequential. They address the anomaly that the Government seek to correct. Rather than a no-score draw, which is how the noble Viscount characterised our position last time we discussed the issue, I hope that we have the most unusual phenomenon of a win-win situation. I hope that he will accept the government amendments in those terms. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I thank the Minister for addressing the concerns that we raised in Committee and on Report, and for bringing forward his own amendment, which deals with the problem. As I said previously, I have no problem with the issue of a ticket, but my concern has always been for someone who is trying to find a machine that works having to pay a charge. They might get a ticket and can then write to say that the machine was not working or whatever, but there are too many instances in London where the clamping car follows the traffic warden issuing the ticket. Suddenly the innocent comes back and has been made guilty, inconvenienced, and has to pay and then appeal.

The amendment will not lead to people parking in places where they should not park, and one advantage of it is that it will reduce the number of appeals in which the payment of clamping has to be refunded, because of the 15 minutes. It will be beneficial to the system, and I support it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 13 to 15: Page 45, line 22, at end insert— "( ) The regulations shall also provide that an immobilisation device must not be fixed to a vehicle in a parking place in respect of a contravention consisting of, or arising out of, a failure—

  1. (a) to pay a parking charge with respect to the vehicle,
  2. (b) properly to display a ticket or parking device, or
  3. (c) to remove the vehicle from the parking space by the end of a period for which the appropriate charge was paid,
until 15 minutes have elapsed since the giving of a notification of a penalty charge in respect of the contravention." Page 45, line 23, leave out "subsection (5)" and insert "this section" Page 45, leave out line 26 and insert— ""parking device" means a parking device within the meaning of section 35(3B) or 51(4) of that Act; "parking place" means—
  1. (a) a parking place designated by an order under section 45 of that Act, or
  2. (b) an off-street parking place provided under section 32(1)(a) or 57(1)(b), or under a letting or arrangement made under section 33(4), of that Act."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 69 [Representations and appeals]:

Viscount Astor

moved Amendment No. 16: Page 46, line 2, at end insert— "( ) enabling an adjudicator to refer an appeal made under subsection (1) back to the enforcement authority if he sees fit.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I see that a similar government amendment is grouped with my Amendment No. 16. However, it may be for the benefit of the House if I briefly explain the purpose of mine. The Government have again been very helpful and addressed my concern, and I will leave the Minister to put the case for his own amendment.

Amendment No. 16 is about adjudication, fairness and mitigating circumstances. It gives parking adjudicators the statutory power to refer an appeal case back to the enforcement authority if they feel that the authority should reconsider the case in the light of mitigating circumstances. Amendment No. 17 is the wording suggested by the London chief adjudicator, Martin Wood, who argued that the adjudicators need more teeth so that, in particular cases, they should have the power to alter penalty charges. The example raised was if someone has been on holiday and his permit falls off his windscreen, so he returns to find £1,000-worth of tickets that he then has to try to contest.

The amendment is also supported by the National Parking Adjudication Service and its chief adjudicator, Caroline Shepherd. She and Martin Wood have been enormously helpful to me in addressing the issue, for which I am grateful.

National and London parking adjudicators have expressed concern, in various annual reports over the years, that some councils have not been using their power to take into account mitigating circumstances when reconsidering fixed penalty notices in the correct manner, and that there should be more scrutiny and transparency. Recent Department for Transport figures published in the Evening Standard, no less, on Tuesday 6 July showed that drivers across England spent £1 billion on parking charges and fines last year, which is 50 per cent up since the Government came to power in 1997. I am not sure what the Minister feels about that, or what it says about motorists' behaviour during the period of his Government, but I leave him to consider that.

It is important to point out that adjudicators already refer cases back to local authorities, but the adjudicators are concerned that those referrals are not considered properly. Not all local authorities are bad, but not all are good. I can give some examples of good local authorities—Winchester, Oxford and Harrogate—but in Birmingham and Liverpool it can take up to seven months to get a reply to a letter.

The amendment ensures that the ability to take account of mitigating circumstances remains with local authorities, but the power of the National Parking Adjudication Service to refer cases back to them will encourage them to be more responsible and accountable in the use of that discretionary power. Importantly, it avoids making the power subject to judicial review, which was a concern of the Minister. Therefore, it will be of no additional cost to the taxpayer. It has received support from the National Parking Adjudication Service as well as the RAC Foundation. It would give tribunals a firmer overseeing principle.

The National Parking Adjudication Service has highlighted that it is vital, in conjunction with the amendment, to have strong guidance to ensure that when a case is referred back to the local authority it will be undertaken or overseen by the chief executive of the complaints department within that council, so that it is not reconsidered only by the same individual who looked at the case to start with. The NPAS has also called for better standards for dealing with parking penalties, and is calling for secondary legislation to allow the Audit Commission to outline standards that should be met, rather than the arbitrary system of enforcement that exists today. It would be interesting to hear what the Minister says on that.

The NPAS has also suggested—again, we look to the Minister to give us some understanding of the Government's thinking—that local authorities should not be allowed to spend the additional money raised from parking fines on other things until certain standards have been attained.

The Government have moved a long way on the issue, and their amendment is rather similar to mine. However, there are still some questions which I hope the Minister will answer when he comes to explain his amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for his persistence on the matter. Were my noble friend Lord Bradshaw here, he would add to my thanks, because he has also expressed some concerns about it. In supporting the amendment, I plead guilty to a certain amount of inconsistency. My feeling is usually that most things are best left to local authorities and local discretion. Nevertheless, it has become evident that, at the worse end of the scale, some of the activities of local councils in not taking mitigating circumstances into account are virtually a miscarriage of justice, and cause immense anger and frustration among the public.

Under those circumstances and given the very strong will of the adjudication service that such a provision be in the Bill, I am glad in principle to support any such amendment on offer today. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I had it in mind to congratulate the noble Viscount, both on his assiduity in pursuing the issues over a long period and on the considerable success of the drafting of the amendments. We will not move our amendment to score a point over him at all; we merely seek to make eminently workable the case that he has established. I was in my most benign mood, but it never lasts long. It certainly does not last very long if I get an onslaught on the issue of the present parking policy of local authorities and what the Government are meant to do about it. First, we would be here all day on this issue of where the motorist stands in his right to park in certain areas. Secondly, I do not think that this is the time to pick up the cudgels in that respect. There is probably a good deal more agreement between all three Front Benches on these issues than might be thought when tendentious matters arise in particular cases in the press.

I bear in mind the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, mentioned a moment ago. We have become concerned at the increasing number of cases—and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, established this case at earlier stages of the Bill—in which there could be a real miscarriage of justice because of the rather rigid way in which the procedures operate. So we are entirely sympathetic to the case that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, has made so ably and well.

The noble Viscount's amendment highlights the important issue of the need for proper consideration of cases where penalty charges are incurred, but compelling mitigating circumstances suggest that they should not be enforced. He gave us a number of examples on previous occasions including one in which a vehicle was abandoned in a snow storm the previous night and the owner was penalised the next day before he could even get to his car. That, to put it mildly, is not the basis on which parking penalties should normally be enforced.

When we discussed this issue on Report, we said that we intended to take into account how to tackle mitigating circumstances. However, that rests first and foremost with the local authorities undertaking the civil enforcement of traffic contraventions. It is their decisions that are important. The real need is to get enforcing authorities properly to consider mitigating circumstances.

One element will certainly be our determination to issue statutory guidance to authorities under Clause 76 on dealing with such cases. By virtue of subsection (2) of that clause, authorities will be under a duty to have regard to such guidance. However, giving adjudicators the ability to refer cases back to the enforcing authorities if they think that they have not properly exercised their discretion would be an additional useful string to add to the bow. The noble Viscount has made his case and we agree with him.

We have subjected the noble Viscount's amendment, as we are bound to do, to the scrutiny of parliamentary draftsmen. Government Amendment No. 18 would enable regulations to be made providing that mitigating circumstances are a ground for appeal and that the potential outcome of such an appeal is that the adjudicator could decide to refer the matter back to the enforcement authority for reconsideration. That would effectively be giving the adjudicators a supervisory role over how enforcing authorities exercise their discretion in cases where there are mitigating circumstances. If the case is cut and dried and there are no issues to be discussed, the regulations would go through in the normal way. However, we are talking about cases where there might be mitigating circumstances.

We believe that, with our amendment, Clause 69 will provide sufficiently wide powers to enable regulations to be made to deal with representations and appeals, including giving adjudicators a lever to address the issue of mitigating circumstances. That is the burden of the noble Viscount's argument and all the discussions on this issue. As I think will be recognised, the detail of those regulations is for another day. However, I assure the House that their preparation will be subject to wide-ranging consultation. We will certainly be discussing their scope with the chief adjudicators. I would also remind the House that the regulations will be subject to parliamentary approval under the affirmative procedure.

So there will be another opportunity to look in detail at how these regulations will actually work. I therefore commend Amendment No. 18 and ask the noble Viscount to withdraw his amendment. He has made his case, but I think our amendment hits the nail slightly more accurately.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I can ask one question. When it comes to the guidance, will the Government undertake to address the point raised by both adjudicators—that it is important that, when cases are sent back to local authorities, they are not overseen by the same individuals who looked at the case initially, but go to the chief executive's complaint department within that council? It would be very helpful if the noble Lord could answer that point.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I am again happy to reassure the noble Viscount. I accept the point. It would not be appropriate to return the matter to those who may not have been as judicious in their assessment as the adjudicator would have liked. If an adjudicator asks quite specifically for mitigating circumstances to be taken into account, the local authority should recognise that as a quite serious point. I can therefore give the noble Viscount that assurance.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for his contribution and indeed for his amendment. I accept that his ability to draft amendments is sometimes better than mine-not surprisingly; he has rather a larger team behind him. This is important for one reason which perhaps has not been addressed today. The Bill is going to extend the powers of civil enforcement officers to move vehicles; therefore, there will be much more opportunity for difficulties and problems to arise. When that happens, it is important that we have a strong and robust appeals service that works. As I said, I am very grateful to the Minister for his reply. I will of course beg leave to withdraw my amendment in favour of his.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 18: Page 46, line 2, at end insert— "( ) The regulations may provide that, as respects a ground on which representations may be made, the adjudicator's function on an appeal is to decide whether to direct the enforcement authority to consider or re-consider (as the case may be) any representations relating to that ground.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 70 [Adjudicators]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 19: Page 47, line 7, leave out "Lord Chancellor" and insert "appropriate national authority

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a minor operational amendment. It provides for enforcing authorities to report to the appropriate national authority rather than to the Lord Chancellor on the discharge by adjudicators of their functions. The appropriate national authority is the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales.

The change brings the provision in Clause 70 about annual adjudicator reports into line with the current arrangement under Section 73(18) of the Road Traffic Act 1991. This requires that the local authority joint committees responsible for the appointment of adjudicators make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the Secretary of State. The change reflects the fact that, on balance, we feel that the reports issued by adjudicators will be more likely to contain substantive comments about enforcement mechanisms as a whole, rather than about the role of parking adjudicators. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I have only one question for the Minister. He said that the Secretary of State will be the appropriate national authority. Am I not right that the Lord Chancellor is the person who makes regulations with regard to the adjudicators? Is it therefore not sensible that he should receive the report on how they discharge their functions, as he has set them up to do? Will that still happen? As far as I can see, the Minister's amendment changes that. The report would go to the Secretary of State, who is not responsible for making the regulations for adjudicators. Will there be a split? It seems a slightly strange process. I may not have phrased the question correctly; I accept that I may not have. However, I should be grateful for clarification from the Minister.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, it would be totally illogical if the amendment were agreed to, because the Bill states that the Lord Chancellor appoints the adjudicators and makes the regulations. Therefore, as my noble friend said, why should the report go to another authority? That seems totally illogical.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, the issue concerns the functional operation of the adjudicators and the effectiveness of their actions. The report goes to the Secretary of State because they are working within his purview. The reason the Lord Chancellor establishes them is that they have a quasi-legal position. But the reports go to the appropriate Secretary of State or, in the case of Wales, the National Assembly.

It is not quite as the noble Lord suggested—perhaps I did not make the matter entirely clear. The Lord Chancellor approves the appointments—they are made with his consent—but the adjudicators are appointed by the enforcing authorities, which are within the purview of the Secretary of State. I should have thought that it was obvious why those appointments are made with the consent of the Lord Chancellor: because of the quasi-judicial dimension. But they are bodies established by the enforcing authorities and answerable to the Secretary of State or, in Wales, to the National Assembly.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, if the report states that the regulations need to be changed, which could well happen, surely that should go to the Lord Chancellor, not the Secretary of State. It is obvious that the report could cause a change in the regulations.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, before the noble Lord replies to that question, perhaps he could answer a brief question of mine. As the Minister is only too well aware, we are on Third Reading but this issue has not come up before. Indeed, the Government drafted the Bill naming the Lord Chancellor as the appropriate person. The Minister has not explained why the Government have changed their mind since the original drafting of the Bill and have now proposed this change. As my noble friend said, if the Lord Chancellor makes regulations about the adjudicators, he is responsible for their successful function. I entirely accept that the Secretary of State, in his role at the Department for Transport, is responsible for the traffic rules and regulations of local authorities and nationally, but the adjudicators are clearly set up by regulations from the Lord Chancellor. The report concerns not what they are adjudicating on, but how well they are doing their job. That is the cause of the confusion.

Lord Davies of Oldham

Well, my Lords, the reports are about the operational matters with which the adjudicators have been concerned. Those reports are therefore matters appropriate to be dealt with by the Secretary of State. The consent of the Lord Chancellor and the reason why he features does not relate to a line-management function. His consent is required because there is a quasi-judicial aspect to the adjudicators' work. But their work concerns operational matters and their reports are judgments on enforcing authorities. That is why it is appropriate that they should go to the Secretary of State who, after all, is responsible for that whole area of policy.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

2.15 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick

moved Amendment No. 20: Before Clause 83, insert the following new clause—


The maximum speed on a motorway shall be 80 mph and in bad weather determined by highway controllers with access to the motorway warning signs system.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we on these Benches believe that raising the maximum speed limit to 80 miles an hour would ensure the most expeditious, effective and efficient use of our motorway network. That is just one prong of our ideas on transport. I disagreed with the Minister when he said on Report: Defining bad weather and determining the appropriate speed limit needs more serious consideration".—[Official Report, 29/6/04; col. 251.] We have all seen speed limits enforced on motorways in bad weather and speed limits varied during congestion on roads such as the M25. If such evidence shows that such decisions can already be made, that is not a problem.

Although I welcome the fact that the issue is not settled for all time, and that powers are already in place to alter speed limits on our roads, when will the next review of motorway speed limits take place? If the Minister cannot tell me, will he now give me a commitment on the Floor of the House that the Government will undertake a review within a year? In 2005, it will be four years since the last review and I argue that it is time to reconsider the issue.

I do not want to waste time reiterating points from previous debates. I beg to move.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, the amendment moved by the noble Lord is identical to one that he moved in Grand Committee on 4 May. He may recall that he and I exchanged some words then and he challenged me to produce figures for the increase in accidents on motorways and on smaller roads that has taken place elsewhere when speed limits have been raised. I then undertook, as president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents—an interest that I declare in this debate—to ensure that a brief was prepared for the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, and sent to him. That was done three days later and copies were sent to the noble Viscounts, Lord Goschen and Lord Astor.

I am a little surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, is moving the amendment again given the information contained in that briefing. For example, it stated: A study of the effects of raising the speed limit on Washington State's rural freeways from 55 mph to 65 mph in 1987, found that the incidence of fatal crashes more than doubled afterwards compared with what would have been expected if the limit had not been raised. A 1999 study compared the number of motor vehicle occupants killed in 24 States that raised their speed limits in 1995–96 with the period before the speed limits were increased, and with 7 States that did not increase the speed limit. The study concluded that where the limits were increased deaths on interstates and freeways rose by 15%, but did not increase in those states where the speed limit was left at 65 mph". There is a great deal more, but I do not intend to read out the whole letter. I will just make the point that it is a three-page briefing which counters, point by point, the arguments used by the noble Lord in Grand Committee. As I said, it is a pity that he is not using that in this debate.

I shall give one more example. The briefing states: In states that increased speed limits to 70 mph, deaths were 35% higher than expected based on deaths in states that did not increase their speed limit, resulting in 1,100 extra deaths". It would be the height of irresponsibility for us to contemplate an increase in the speed limit, largely—if I recall the noble Lord's argument in Grand Committee—on the grounds that, as most people do not observe it, the obvious thing is to raise the limit. The truth is that if the limit were raised, the acceptability of a new breaking of the law would be raised by 10 or 15 miles an hour. Instead of breaking the law at 80 miles an hour, people would be breaking it at 90 miles an hour.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes

My Lords, on the point about American freeways, as a past vice-president of RoSPA for many years, I point out to the noble Lord that the way in which freeways operate in the United States is not remotely comparable with motorways in this country. There are many more lanes and there is no outside lane as such—you can pass on either side. Under those circumstances, there may be a case for reducing speed. Those circumstances do not exist on our motorways.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, unfortunately that is not at all what the Transport Select Committee in another place said when it looked at this issue. It said that if speed limits were raised to 80 miles per hour, casualties on motorways would rise by between five and 10 per cent. Based on 2002 casualty figures, that would suggest an extra 75 to 150 would be killed or seriously injured.

I quote the final sentence in the letter that went to the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick: But ultimately, the public as a whole needs to be persuaded that driving at inappropriate speeds is not a minor, technical offence that everyone commits, but a serious, dangerous and antisocial activity in which the speeding driver places his or her own convenience above the safety and well-being of other people". I hope he does not press this amendment.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

My Lords, on these Benches we have consistently opposed the notion that the speed limit on our motorways should increase. It seems extraordinary, given that our motorways are currently the safest roads we enjoy, that we should jeopardise that position by tacking such a complicated subject on to a Bill such as this, and taking such a drastic step with so little debate and evidence. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, does not push this amendment, because we will certainly not be supporting it from these Benches.

I have a fragment of sympathy with the noble Lord and his sense of frustration about general speed limit policy. It has become clear that we need a proper debate—what I think people call a "mature debate", whatever that means—on the whole question of speed limits: how they are set, and whether they are enforced. In that context, I would be quite happy, and would support the Government looking at motorway speed limits again, but not in isolation from all other types of roads, and certainly not in the context of this Bill.

Lord Snape

My Lords, it would be extremely irresponsible if the amendment were pressed to a Division. The rules of your Lordships' House precluded me from speaking at an earlier stage in the debate and, despite being very new to this place, I am surprised that something so fundamentally important should be tagged on the back end of a debate in the way this amendment has been.

Like every other motorist, I have broken speed limits on a regular basis. I probably tempt providence when I tell your Lordships that the last time I was fined for doing so was in the mid-1970s. I feel—having done 30,000 miles per year until comparatively recently, much of it on motorways—that an extension of the speed limits in the way outlined in this amendment would be grossly irresponsible.

We are all familiar with the dangers of driving on our roads. My own motorway experiences tell me that the problem is not so much speed but, quite often, driver reflexes. Even smallish modern motor cars are capable of speeds undreamed of 30 or 40 years ago, when I first got a driving licence. There are far too many vehicles being driven at 80 miles per hour by people with their brains firmly stuck at 30 miles per hour. Anyone who has seen the carnage on our motorways caused by excessive speed would feel that to pass such an amendment after so little debate would be grossly irresponsible. I notice from reading the national newspapers that there is an organisation called the Association of British Drivers, which seems to be one of the few bodies in favour of this measure. I do not know who it speaks for. It certainly does not speak for me, having held a driving licence for more than 40 years. It is supported by the Daily Mail. I have a simple rule of thumb: if the Daily Mail is in favour of it, I am, by and large, against it. The Association of British Drivers does not speak for the majority of drivers, I am sure. We all think that we are better drivers than we are, I suspect. It is a bit of a male characteristic, as one sees on the motorways. I know that if I catch up with a Jaguar—I used to drive one myself, so I am not picking on Jaguar drivers—with a personalised number-plate, it will rarely move out of the outside lane. All too often, the driver appears to feel that he—and it is invariably a "he"—is somehow diminishing his masculinity by doing so.

If this amendment were accepted and that driver could drive legally at 80 miles per hour—which, as we all know, would mean 90 miles per hour—it would mean he was driving in exactly the same way, except that he would do so just that bit faster. We need not higher speed limits but better driver education. I know it is not, strictly speaking, a matter for this amendment. Despite the attacks on the proliferation of cameras, I am inclined to drive more carefully since their proliferation, for the reason—like everyone else—that I do not wish to risk my own driving licence.

Will the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, consult other Members of his own party before pushing this amendment to a vote? It strikes me as one of the populist and irresponsible measures that oppositions all too often introduce in the run-up to a general election. I rate it no higher than that. It is perhaps a measure best left to the counterparts of the noble Lord down the Corridor.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, we have heard it suggested that introducing this amendment is an irresponsible act. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My noble friend Lord Rotherwick is quite right to draw attention to the fact that, at the moment, we have a totally unacceptable situation with a de facto speed limit on motorways of around 85 miles per hour, below which the police will not stop drivers in good weather. Anyone who drives regularly on motorways will see people driving quite happily at 85 miles per hour and not being stopped by the police. My noble friend is quite right to draw attention to the fact that this uncertainty about speed limits—having a law that the Government know perfectly well is not designed to be enforced at the level set down in statute—is quite wrong. For the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Snape, my noble friend has already admitted that the Secretary of State has the powers to vary the speed limit without resorting to primary legislation. The purpose of this debate, I would suggest, is more to draw attention to the fact that the Government cannot just brush this under the carpet and pretend it is all too difficult to deal with. There does need to be a proper debate about speed limits. To the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, I would suggest that the answer is to determine the appropriate speed limit, and for it to be agreed by Parliament and then properly enforced. At the moment it is not properly enforced, as the Government admit. That is an unsatisfactory situation.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, said that increasing the speed limit would get you there quicker. I would draw his attention to the report of the Transport Committee of the House Commons on the road traffic speed. It found that: Higher speeds would do little to reduce journey time; on the congested motorways of England an 80 mph limit might well increase them because it would create an uneven flow". So you are not going to get there quicker. Yes, we need some enforcement, and if the Government are going to have a review of speed limits, I hope that they will consider reducing them as well as increasing them, along with enforcement.

Given the facts that my noble friend Lord Faulkner has given to the House, both in his letter and today, and many other facts that we have seen, I just cannot understand how the Conservative Party can be promoting a policy that will increase by many hundreds a year the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads. I cannot understand it. I strongly oppose this amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, we had the benefit of this debate on Report and in Committee, although, as I recall, there were slightly fewer participants than today. My noble friend Lord Snape has got the perfect alibi for that: as he was not eligible to speak earlier in the Bill, he has taken his opportunity now. But I agree with him. His main point is that this is not the occasion upon which this debate ought to take place, because the amendment is misplaced in relation to this Bill. That is certainly the Government view on the broad issues, and I am going to speak very negatively on the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, and supported by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen.

The concept I find most difficult to accept is that if we legitimise those who are breaking the law by travelling at over 80 miles per hour now, we will consolidate it nicely around 80 by moving the speed limit up to that position. The obvious question is: why would not those who currently break the law by 10 to 15 mph and appear to get away with it increase their speed with considerable abandon by another 10 or 15 mph when we have the higher speed limit? It seems obvious—

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I have no desire to prolong the debate. There is an obvious answer to the noble Lord's argument: enforcement. Technology now allows us to enforce speed limits perfectly well. If the speed limit that is eventually decided were properly enforced, motorists could not travel at 10 to 15 mph faster without being apprehended regularly. Proper enforcement must be the answer.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, but the enforcing authorities have due regard to what is reasonable in their policing of the motorways and the rules of enforcement. It is not because they think that the speed limit ought to be 10 mph higher, but they recognise that a considerable number of motorists have difficulty in regulating their cars precisely to the speed limit—as evidenced every time one travels on the motorway. That will occur no matter what speed limit is enforced on motorways.

The noble Baroness, Lady Oppenheim-Barnes, challenged my noble friend Lord Faulkner on his American illustration on the grounds that American roads are not exactly the same as ours. Of course they are not; each country has a road system to reflect its geography, the weight of traffic and to some extent the nature of its drivers. In Europe, where speed limits are much higher than 70 mph—indeed, much higher than noble Lords opposite dream of—we see carnage. The figures for road deaths in France and Italy are horrendous.

Noble Lords may argue that French roads differ from British roads. That is certainly so, but Britain has tremendous problems with pedestrian deaths on urban roads, which is why children suffer so on our roads. France has much freer motorways and lighter traffic than is customary on all our main motorways. I hate to say it, but whereas there have been 6.1 deaths per 100,000 in the United Kingdom, there have been 11.1 in Italy and 13.8 in France.

When we debated the issue on Report, the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, asked me whether I recognised that the autoroutes in France were much safer. He asked me when I had been worried about speed in France. I have been worried pretty much every time I have been in France. Whenever the motorways have become crowded, I have been anxious. I doubt that many noble Lords who have driven on French autoroutes are unaware, first, that the speed limit is 10 mph higher than ours, and, secondly, that there is a built-in tolerance level that means that a fair percentage of drivers expect to travel a good deal faster. Therefore when one travels at around the legal limit of 80 mph, in an outside lane, in reasonable queues of traffic—that is to say, those regulated in distance—regularly you have drivers coming at you at over 100 mph. We all know that phenomenon. Not a motoring correspondent in the country does not attest to that from time to time and even indicate that it sharpens one's reflexes. I am afraid that it also produces drastic accident statistics.

I accept one aspect of the noble Lord's argument. He asked whether it was not time that we had a review of speed limits. Yes, it is. Such a review is under way. We expect it to conclude before the end of the year. It will give us further evidence on how we should tackle the issues.

When the reputable organisation on whose behalf my noble friend Lord Faulkner spoke, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, produced statistics indicating that speed kills, they were sufficiently strong for the Government to feel the need to convey that message to the whole country. Extending the motorway speed limit would give an indication in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, our minds are not closed on these issues. If our review indicates that we can safely increase the speed limit without deleterious effects, we will return to the issues after the end of the year.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, that was an exciting debate. I am not sure whether the rest of the Traffic Management Bill will be so lively; perhaps it will be, now that lunch has finished.

The emotion expressed is perhaps derived from the fact that people envisage drivers travelling faster on the motorways. Our angle is to try to legalise motorists who already travel at 80 mph and not to criminalise them as they are at the moment. We have already heard from one noble Lord opposite that, if he travelled at 70 mph, everybody overtook him. I do not agree with many of the arguments that increasing speed means that accidents will occur. There was a period in the 1980s when speeds went up and the number of incidents went down, so that cannot be a logical argument.

Cars in the USA are built to travel at only 50 to 60 mph; they do not perform technically in the same way as European cars. The argument about Europe is more difficult, but I still believe that in some respects the difference is like chalk and cheese.

I am confused by the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, because her party's Front-Bench spokesman in another place says the exact opposite of what she said. As the Front-Bench spokesman, presumably he has some view. He says: I have said that I see nothing wrong in the principle with the possibility of raising the speed limit to 80 mph". He goes on to say: I remember that when I worked in a business in the south of England, I had a conversation with the then chief constable for the area, who said that he, too, was quite happy with the concept of increasing speed limits on motorways".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee A, 10/2/04; col. 354.] He continues very much in the same mode.

It was very nice to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Snape, although I am sad that we could not have heard from him earlier. I am very grateful to the Minister for what he said. I do not wish to waste any more of the House's time or to leave noble Lords on the edge of their seats. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Astor

moved Amendment No. 21: After Clause 84, insert the following new clause—


  1. (1) Section 295 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c. 29) (road user charging) is amended as follows.
  2. (2) After subsection (1) there is inserted—
    1. "(1A) After the coming into force of section (Public consultation on the London Congestion Charge) of the Traffic Management Act 2004, the Mayor of London and Transport for London may not establish, extend or operate a scheme under subsection (1) above unless the scheme has been approved by a majority of the residents of any London borough proposed to be included, wholly or in part, in the charging area.
    2. (1B) The approval of a scheme mentioned in subsection (1A) shall be determined by—
      1. (a) a local referendum conducted by the borough concerned under section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003 (c. 26) (local polls); and
      2. (b) where at least 50 per cent of the residents of the borough concerned have voted in that referendum.
    3. (1C) Subsection (1A) shall not apply in the case of a scheme already in operation, but Transport for London shall take into account the result of any referendum that may be conducted by a borough in which such a scheme is in operation in determining—
      1. (a) whether it is reasonable to continue to operate an existing scheme concerned; or
      2. (b) whether the existing scheme shall be modified."
  3. (3) After paragraph 3 of Schedule 23 (road user charging) there is inserted—
"3A. A charging scheme may only be made by the Mayor if it is also approved by the council of the borough or boroughs, included wholly or partly within the boundaries of the scheme, following a referendum conducted by the borough or boroughs concerned under section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a simple but important amendment. I see no reason that the Government should not accept it. After all, they believe in local people being consulted on local issues. The amendment requires that the congestion charge should be extended in London only if it is clearly supported by local people and local councils, who know best about the local economy and the effects that the introduction of a charge might have on the local way of life. It does not empower any council to enforce the lifting of an existing charge zone, although it rightly says that the Mayor and Transport for London should take note of local opinion on the impact of the charge.

The Minister said in a rather brief debate on Report that he accepted that there should be consultation on such a controversial policy—and so there should be. But the trouble with the congestion charge is that its impact on business and local life is very local while the Mayor's consultation, such as it is—apparently, 3 million letters were sent out to which there was a 3 per cent response; not a very high hit rate—covers the whole of London, including areas far distant and totally unrelated to those areas where the charge is threatened to be introduced. Even the Mayor admits that, according to his private surveys, over 60 per cent of local people are against extending the charge.

I take no particular view on the charge. I believe, as set out in the amendment, that it is a matter for local people. Surely they must be allowed to decide. The Government legislated for local referendums only last year, so what possible reason can the Minister think of to say that they should not be used as is proposed in this amendment?

My amendment states that local people should have the right to have their say and that the Mayor should be required to listen to them. In this, as in other areas, we believe in extending the right to choose. I would be surprised if the Government were, by contrast, to defend the Labour Party's newest member's right to dictate.

Local determination featured heavily in the mayoral election and was supported by the Liberal Democrats, particularly by their candidate, Simon Hughes. I am sure that the Lib Dems will show their normal consistency in these matters. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships' of what Simon Hughes said in the campaign: Liberal Democrats support the principle of Congestion Charging in central London and are committed to making it work better for all Londoners. We will:… Only consider expansion of the zone in boroughs already partly covered by the zone. Decision would ultimately be decided by a vote in a local ballot of registered electors in the possible extension areas". That is exactly what my amendment provides. I hope that the Government will support local democracy instead of just paying lip service to it. I beg to move.

Lord Borrie

My Lords, this is a mischievous and misguided proposal. It is mischievous because, among other things, it proposes a hurdle of 50 per cent of the voters having to take part before a referendum would have any validity, knowing that that is a very high hurdle. It is also mischievous because not only today but also on a previous occasion when the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, raised this matter he referred to his amendment as a "simple little amendment". It is no such thing. It is an amendment that seeks to do battle not just against the existing congestion charge system in London but against any extension of it in London and against the possibility of it being introduced in many other cities and towns, which are naturally thinking about it now because of what we all know to be the great success of the congestion charge system so far in London.

The other reason why I think that the amendment is misguided, misconceived and mischievous is because it provides that a very narrow electorate should determine for everybody whether the congestion charge system should be extended or initiated in another city. It is concerned to have a vote among, the residents of any London borough proposed to be included … in the charging area". Whether there is a congestion charge in any London borough is of vital interest, not only to the residents or the businesses of that area but also to vast numbers of other people who drive into or through it. I refer not only to visitors but also to people who commute regularly. They have at least as much interest in the matter as anyone else.

If we are to have voting or consultation, surely it must be done on a wide scale. I need hardly remind the noble Viscount—who knows very well but deliberately did not mention in his speech—that the Greater London Authority Act 1999 requires the Mayor to consult before any congestion charge system is introduced or extended. Consultation has been carried out already and will be done again. That is a much more sensible way of dealing with the matter than having a narrow voting system as proposed by the noble Viscount.

2.45 p.m.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes

My Lords, I hesitate to cross swords with the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, who knows that my respect for him is second to none, so I do so with due humility.

One important aspect of the amendment is the issue of local accountability. One of the most unacceptable features of the current congestion charge is that there is no accountability for anybody outside the GLA. Have we ever been told exactly how much the scheme has cost, how much it has raised and how much of that has been put into improving public transport other than empty red bus after empty red bus, one behind another? There is no accountability for the ordinary people who use London's streets. I would hazard a guess that, given the operating costs, the system is not only not making money but also losing a substantial amount.

The system is also totally unacceptable for people who live very close to the edge of the zone. The amendment refers to boroughs that are partly but not wholly within the scheme. That is another consideration to which your Lordships should give some thought before deciding whether to reject the amendment.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I warmly support the amendment. It is extraordinary that a measure that would cause so much hardship for tens of thousands of people for extremely dubious net benefits could be pushed through against the wishes of the majority by somebody elected by a minority of the electorate—who, moreover, was elected not with vast enthusiasm this time round, but simply as the least unattractive to the electorate of the major candidates.

I declare an interest as a long-time Kensington resident. However, that is a peripheral interest, because, with the big proviso that the weekly charge for residents is the same as that paid by central London residents—most of whom are business people, not residents—it will not be seriously disadvantageous for me or my wife. However, younger members of my family definitely will suffer.

Let us suppose, for example, that my son and daughter-in-law drive in from Hammersmith to have Sunday lunch with us, when no congestion charge is payable, but one of my granddaughters accidentally leaves behind her favourite toy or colouring book. At present, my daughter-in-law could arrange to pop in on Monday for no charge, leaving the engine running as she collects the item from my wife at the front door. However, if the measure goes through she will have to pay £5 for the privilege. It would be much cheaper to go out and buy a new toy or colouring book. Others will be far worse affected, such as all those whose school runs necessarily take them through Kensington, to say nothing of those who live in the part of Kensington on the other side of Earl's Court Road, who will not be included and will have to pay to come east of Earl's Court Road.

I hope that your Lordships enthusiastically support the amendment.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, made a rather unworthy point about our mayoral candidate and the Liberal Democrat position on the issue. The debate so far has given the game away, because, although the amendment purports to be about consultation on the congestion charge, the debate has been about the charge itself. In that sense, he is driving a Trojan bus through your Lordships' House. Sorry, that was a bit feeble. From the point of view of these Benches, it is a matter for London people and the London Mayor. My friend in another place who was our mayoral candidate was quite right if he wanted to offer, as part of his package for Mayor, a local referendum on this subject. It is not for your Lordships' House to impose that condition on the Mayor, who has after all only just been elected on a perfectly open platform.

I am a little surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Monson, refer to the Mayor's mandate perhaps being wafer-thin because so few people voted. The entire British constitution is based on that. It is often the case that the government do not enjoy a majority. We are skating on rather thin ice if we pretend that immediately after an election the views and the platform on which the winner stood can be overturned by Members of your Lordships' House. From the point of view of these Benches, we take this amendment at face value. It is about whether some sort of local referendum should be a statutory obligation. We do not think that it should, and in that sense there is no inconsistency between that and the voluntary offering of such a ballot or referendum by my friend in the other place.

Lord Harris of Haringey

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Borrie referred to this amendment as misguided and mischievous, and the look on the face of the noble Viscount as he moved the amendment suggested that there was a significant element of mischief in it. This is also a highly misconceived amendment. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said when he introduced it that there was no intention to undermine the position of the existing congestion charge. However, the proposal is that they, may not establish, extend or operate a scheme". I am not a lawyer, so I have probably got it wrong, but I read that as meaning that unless there was instantly a referendum on the existing scheme, it would have to be dropped. That may not be the intention of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and I can see that he is looking at it again, which probably means that I got the legal phraseology wrong. I suspect that this is a misconceived part of the amendment. I take issue with the proposals about a referendum. There are existing, clear obligations on the Mayor of London who was, incidentally, elected by more than a simple plurality of votes. The supplementary vote system required that second choices were counted in the election. There is already a strong obligation on the Mayor of London to consult. Indeed, the consultation that seems to have excited some noble Lords is not about a specific proposal to extend the area of the congestion charge in London. It is about a proposal to amend the transport strategy of the Mayor of London. If having considered the outcome of that consultation, the Mayor of London believes that he should amend the transport strategy, there would then be a further detailed consultation on specific proposals in respect of the extension of the congestion charge zone. There are already substantial requirements on the Mayor to consult in the Greater London Authority Act 1999.

In his amendment, the noble Viscount is attempting to impose belt, braces, string and sealing wax in a series of tests that must be passed by the Mayor of London before any congestion charge change can take place. Not only would there presumably still be those requirements for two stages of consultation; there would then be the requirement of a referendum and a further requirement for the approval of the individual local authorities concerned. The fundamental fallacy of all of this is that it is restricted to those residents of particular boroughs who are affected by the change.

I recently fought an election for the London Assembly. The proposed extension of the congestion charge zone did not apply anywhere within the borders of the constituency that I fought in the London Assembly elections. It was, however, an extremely topical issue as far as people in the southern part of my constituency were concerned, because they might have been affected. We have heard the touching tale of the putative issues affecting the family of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and events of cuddly toys being left behind. However, there were residents in the area that I previously represented for the London Assembly who were concerned that they would have to pay a congestion charge any time they went to the supermarket or to visit the graves of relatives in nearby cemeteries.

The problem with this amendment is that they would still have no more say in the proposals concerned than exists at present in terms of the consultation. They would not be enfranchised in any way, and they would not be given any more right to intervene. That is a fundamental fallacy in the amendment. I was unconvinced by the logic of the proposed extension to the congestion charge. What we were being asked to do as Londoners was agree to the subsidy of the residents of Kensington and Chelsea, many of whom are extremely well-off already, so that they could get discounts on the congestion charge, whether they were visiting family members or driving at random across central London, because they would be enabled to have the residents discount. Why give a referendum to the people who would benefit from the change—the people who would receive the subsidy—through a reduced payment of the charge? They will get the residents discount. That is the illogicality of this amendment. Not only it is misguided and mischievous, it is also misconceived.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to subsection (1C) of the amendment. It says, Subsection (1A) shall not apply in the case of a scheme already in operation". That addresses the point.

Lord Harris of Haringey

My Lords, I am well aware of subsection (1C). My point was that it was poorly drafted, because subsection (1A) clearly refers to schemes that are in operation.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, apart from those in subsection (1C). Let us not argue over the legalese or whether it could be drafted in a more concise way. The point that the noble Lord was worried about is taken care of in the amendment.

I support my noble friend in his desire to ensure that those affected most by the congestion charge should at least want it. That is what the amendment boils down to. My reading of the amendment is not that the residents of the borough concerned can make it happen but that they can make it not happen; in other words, they have a veto. Of course, there are others who are concerned and who have a considerable interest. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, referred to commuters. Surely those living in the borough concerned have the greatest interest. Before such a scheme happens, those people at least should really want it. They should not as a group be heavily against such a charge being made within their borough. For that reason, I do not think that this is as nuclear as noble Lords who have spoken against the amendment have suggested. It is merely ensuring that the residents of the borough have the greatest say before anything happens.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, I am getting a sense of déjàvu in this debate. Many of the arguments were used during the passage of the Greater London Act and in the months prior to the introduction of the congestion charge. All sorts of dreadful warnings were being given at that point of how London would grind to a halt, that people would refuse to pay and that it would add to congestion, not alleviate it. Indeed, we had a debate that the noble Baroness initiated on traffic in London, in which I remember I crossed swords with her on this subject. I think that I can claim that I was one of the first people on this side of the House to support the congestion charge when some of my colleagues were not quite as enthusiastic.

I hope that the majority of noble Lords will realise that the congestion charge has been a thundering success. It has made a huge difference to the volume of congestion in London. The volume of traffic has fallen by 30 per cent in the centre. Londoners are able to move about much more freely. The air is better; the quality of public transport has improved; the red buses that the noble Baroness referred to are not running around empty. I came in on one this morning and it was packed.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that figures were published only last week showing that the air quality on Marylebone Road is one of the worst in any inner city in the world?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, I am talking about air quality in central London as a whole, which has improved as a result of the diminution of traffic.

We have had a long debate on this. But, briefly, my second point relates to the will of the public. I cannot think of any better way to ask the public what they think than to have an election for the whole of London in which everyone has a vote. That happened in June and it produced a result that was not to the liking of the party opposite. Sadly, it was not to the liking of my noble friend Lord Harris either.

It is an inescapable fact that in the mayoral election the only candidates who were in favour of scrapping the congestion charge were from the Conservative Party and, I think, the UKIP. All the other parties and candidates were in favour of continuing it and support the Mayor's approach. If the people of London have spoken in that way, it is outrageous for this House to attempt to undo that result.

3 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, sits down, does he not agree that central London, which is mainly non-residential, where there are excellent bus and Underground services, is quite different from the outer, almost totally residential boroughs that do not have such good bus and Underground services?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, the increase in the number of bus services in the outer suburbs since the introduction of the charge has been very considerable. Certainly, there are bus routes operating to places like Kensington, Clapham and other parts of London that did not exist before. There are now buses serving parts of London that have been deprived of public transport for many years.

Baroness Hanham

My Lords, I have been lured into the discussions on this Bill in which up to now I have not taken part. I declare an interest as an elected member of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council. The prospect of an amendment dealing with proposals for the extension of the congestion charge into my borough even made me bolt down my coffee to get here in time.

The amendment handles the principle of extending the congestion charge in London. Currently, that principle relates only to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The Mayor has already said that he has no intention of extending the congestion charge to anywhere else in London. As part of the consultation process, the electors of the whole of the Greater London area have been consulted on extending the congestion charge that would apply to 160,000 residents within central London, Kensington and Chelsea and the associated and nearby businesses. It seems to be a very strange consultation that would allow 13 million people to impose on 160,000 people something that the 160,000 do not want. The voices of those 160,000 people would be very muted in terms of the responses from 13 million people. To some extent, here, there is a fairness and justice in how that consultation will and does take place.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, is correct. There has been a consultation. But it is a consultation against the background of the Mayor's determination to extend the congestion charge into a borough which has said that it does not want it. This is a principle of how to test the voice of those who will be affected. Of course, it is nonsense—if I might say that—to say that those people should not have a say about what goes on within their own streets and boundaries.

First, the proposals for Kensington and Chelsea exclude about 30,000 residents who live in the area. The boundary is a nonsense. The Mayor knows that it is a nonsense. But because of the technology he cannot change that nonsense into anything that makes a fairness for the residents who live on the western side of the borough.

Secondly, of course, I am sure it is correct that arrangements will be made for discounts, and so forth. But the residents have got to think and see that there is a problem: there is no existing problem on the main roads going through Kensington and Chelsea at any time, unless, for example, the Grand Prix is being run along Regent Street, which affects us all.

There does not seem to be any fairness that something of such importance to one part of London should be judged and governed by what has been asked through the rest of London. I am bound to say that I am not sure why the residents of Redbridge, for example, who have just a touching acquaintance with the problems of the traffic in Kensington of Chelsea, should have their voice sought on this matter.

It boils down, does it not, to how, as part of the consultation process, account is taken of what the residents want to say? Some surveys have been undertaken, most of which I consider to be spurious. But I believe that the only way to hear what the residents believe would be to test their opinion. I have to talk about Kensington and Chelsea because that, currently, is the only area of London where the proposal is to extend. Should the Mayor suddenly decide to go out to the east, I assume that those residents would also want their voice properly taken into account.

There is independent government in London. The Greater London Authority, under the Greater London Authority Act, has powers to deal with the congestion charge and it has powers over some roads. But the independent government of London rests with the 32 London boroughs. It must be right that not only is the GLA consulted, but that the residents are also consulted about something that would have a very major effect on them. For those reasons I support the amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate on this issue. However, I must say to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that if he is accused of putting forward an amendment which is considered mischievous and misguided by my noble friend Lord Borrie, he had better address himself to the quality of his arguments. My noble friend, Lord Borrie rendered most of what I have to say entirely otiose by the way in which he, effectively, destroyed the case for the amendment.

I shall reiterate the points made in the debate, which show the weakness behind the thinking. First, it has been maintained that the residents should participate because they are most affected. As has been pointed out in several speeches, they are also the people who get 90 per cent of the discount. It has also been suggested that the residents are those most concerned and most affected and that they are the people who should be consulted. That is a very odd concept with regard to traffic.

As has been indicated, not all of London is affected by the congestion charge and the congestion zone that currently operates. If it is extended, there are implications for a much wider area than Kensington and Chelsea. There are implications for a very large number of people. Why should only the residents of the immediate area be consulted in circumstances where there are interests for a much wider group?

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Harris who emphasised this point. Let me make it absolutely clear, that is why we have a Mayor and a GLA. They are charged with the responsibility of strategic consideration of traffic. How can traffic be managed only on an intensely local basis in a vast area like London? That is their responsibility.

The Opposition set at naught the fact that their candidate who stood against the congestion charge lost and the fact that the candidate who stood in favour of the congestion charge won: they say that we should have a referendum among a relatively small group of those people who are affected. When they have that consultation, will it be on the basis of local democracy? Is the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, saying that of course it should follow normal, local, democratic consideration?

But that is not so. It would require a 50 per cent turnout of voters, which, I venture to think, would be higher, probably, than any of the councillors in her borough enjoyed at the last election. Of that 50 per cent, it has to be a majority of those who vote. We are creating not a democratic consultation but an artificially high hurdle to win the battle against the congestion charge, which was the subject of the last mayoral election. As has been said, it was a very lively issue in that election, and it was won by the candidate in favour of the congestion charge. The amendment is mischievous and misguided. It purports to open in this House an issue that was the subject of a democratic election only a matter of weeks ago. The Bill is concerned with the broad issues of traffic management across the country. We recognise how significant traffic is in London, and that is why we want to improve congestion and traffic flow by having a strategic plan across the whole of London. I cannot believe that the House would support an amendment to put all power and all decisions on the next stage of the congestion charge into the hands of any one borough that was directly affected.

I hope that the noble Viscount will think that he has had a good run for his money in an intensive debate, but the amendment should not be on the face of the Bill.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, that I am somewhat confused by her party's position. Simon Hughes in his manifesto said: Decision would ultimately be decided by a vote in a local ballot of registered electors in the possible extension areas". Not anywhere else. He said: in the possible extension areas". If the noble Baroness, or anyone else had said that the 50 per cent threshold is a bit too high but we accept the principle, I would understand that argument. We could debate that, and at least we would understand the point about letting local people have some say in local democracy. It pains me that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, should think that my amendment is mischievous. It is far from it. He said that consultation matters, but the problem with the Mayor's consultation is that it does not work. Three-million letters were sent out and he had a 3 per cent return. Let us say that half of those were in favour and half were against. That means that 1.5 per cent of the people who responded will be taken into account when deciding major changes in London. That is not good enough.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, talked about local democracy. I sympathise as he has unfortunately met local democracy head on. Perhaps it will give him an opportunity to spend more time in the House. We certainly welcome his presence here. His argument seemed to be that if the local borough did not agree, one should extend it and ask the borough next door. If it does not agree, one should go further and ask the one next door to that. Eventually if one goes far enough, one is bound to get a majority. That does not work either.

Lord Harris of Haringey

My Lords, that is a travesty of my argument. I said that there are people who are profoundly affected by the congestion charge who would not get the benefit of the subsidy that would be given to the residents of Kensington and Chelsea in any putative extension of the zone. They are excluded by the terms of the amendment.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is very much misguided if he thinks that the only reason why people are in favour or against the congestion charge in their area is because of financial incentive. That is nonsense. There are wider and more important issues that affect local people and businesses. The noble Lord should support my amendment if we follow his logic because he is assuming that because someone in a borough receives 95 per cent discount he will automatically support the congestion charge. His argument falls flat on its face.

The noble Lords, Lord Faulkner and Lord Davies, seemed to think that the only issue on which the two mayoral candidates fought was the congestion charge. I admit that I did not read every manifesto as closely as perhaps I should—of course, I read ours very carefully—but my brief glances showed that there were other issues. To say that the result of the recent election was solely because of the congestion charge is extraordinary. There was the recent convert—the returnee to the noble Lord's party. We must respect that. The election was not won solely on the basis of the congestion charge.

I hope that your Lordships will accept the principle of my amendment. I accept that we could debate the 50 per cent. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, misreads my amendment. It does not mean that there would have to be an instant referendum anywhere there is a congestion charge. This is about keeping local democracy with local boroughs in London. That is what is important.

3.16 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 21) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 90; Not-Contents, 132.

Division No. 2
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Eden of Winton, L.
Ampthill, L. Elles, B.
Anelay of St Johns, B. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Astor, V. Elton, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Erroll, E.
Attlee, E. Feldman, L.
Biffen, L. Ferrers, E.
Blackwell, L. Flather, B.
Blaker, L. Freeman, L.
Blatch, B. Geddes, L.
Bridgeman, V. Glentoran, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. Goschen, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hanham, B.
Burnham, L. Hanningfield, L.
Byford, B. Higgins, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Chadlington, L. Howard of Rising, L.
Colwyn, L. Howe, E.
Cope of Berkeley, L. Howell of Guildford, L.
Craigavon, V. Hunt of Wirral, L.
Crathorne, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Crickhowell, L. Jopling, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B. Kalms, L.
Dean of Harptree, L. Kingsland, L.
Deedes, L. Kirkham, L.
Denham, L. Laing of Dunphail, L.
Dundee, E. Lane of Horsell, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lucas, L. Patten, L.
Luke, L. Platt of Writtle, B.
Mancroft, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
May of Oxford, L. Prior, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. Rawlings, B.
Miller of Hendon, B. Renton, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L. Rotherwick, L. [Teller]
Monson, L. St John of Fawsley, L.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L. Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Montrose, D. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Murton of Lindisfame, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Newton of Braintree, L. Strathclyde, L.
Norton of Louth, L. Swinfen, L.
O'Cathain, B. Trenchard, V.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Park of Monmouth, B. Windlesham, L.
Acton, L. Harris of Richmond, B.
Addington, L. Harrison, L.
Ahmed, L. Hart of Chilton, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President of the Council) Haskel, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Andrews, B. Howarth of Breckland, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Howe of Idlicote, B.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Howells of St. Davids, B.
Bach, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Barker, B. Hoyle, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Berkeley, L. Irvine of Lairg, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L. Jay of Paddington, B.
Billingham, B. Jordan, L.
Blackstone, B. Judd, L.
Blood, B. Lea of Crondall, L.
Borrie, L. Lipsey, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Listowel, E.
Brookman, L. Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Burlison, L. Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Campbell-Savours, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Carter, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Carter of Coles, L. MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Massey of Darwen, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L. Maxton, L.
Crawley, B. Mitchell, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Morgan, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B. Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Dholakia, L. Moser, L.
Drayson, L. Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Dubs, L. Ouseley, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L. Paul, L.
[Teller] Pendry, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor) Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Falkland, V. Plant of Highfield, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Filkin, L. Redesdale, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Fitt, L. Richard, L.
Garden, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Gavron, L. Russell-Johnston, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Giddens, L. Sandberg, L.
Gilbert, L. Sawyer, L.
Goldsmith, L. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Goodhart, L. Scott of Needham Market, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Sewel, L.
Greengross, B. Sharp of Guildford, B.
Grenfell, L. Sheldon, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller] Simon. V.
Hamwee, B. Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Harris of Haringey, L. Snape, L.
Stallard, L. Wall of New Barnet, B.
Stone of Blackheath, L. Walmsley, B.
Strabolgi, L. Warner, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B. Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Temple-Morris, L. Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B. Weatherill, L.
Tordoff, L. Whitaker, B.
Triesman, L. Wilkins, B.
Truscott, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Turnberg, L. Williamson of Horton, L.
Turner of Camden, B. Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Uddin, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

3.27 p.m.

Lord Hanningfield

moved Amendment No. 22: After Clause 84, insert the following new clause—


  1. Except as provided in subsection (2) a London borough acting as a local transport authority shall be responsible for deciding and setting the times for bus lane enforcement on any road or any proposed road within its jurisdiction in order to secure the expeditious movement of traffic on the authority's road network.
  2. A road or proposed road designated by the Secretary of State, Transport for London or the Mayor of London as a strategic road during peak rush hour periods shall be exempt from the provision of subsection (1).
  3. In deciding the time for peak rush hour periods for a strategic road, the Secretary of State, Transport for London or the Mayor of London must consult and take have regard to the advice of the relevant London borough or boroughs."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment seeks to bring a degree of common sense to the issue of bus lanes in London. It does not seek to remove bus lanes; it merely attempts to improve the way in which they are used and to refine their use.

All too often we witness empty bus lanes and congestion in other lanes. On the flip side, we witness bus lanes that have 24 hour/seven days a week enforcement notices on them, effectively banning for ever all other traffic from those lanes. We cannot see the common sense behind this. Why ban traffic from such lanes at week-ends, when the volume of traffic is substantially lower and the number of buses in operation is dramatically lower than during rush hours?

The approach is inflexible; the amendment seeks to give more flexibility in the use of bus lanes. The policy is too rigid to cope with modern traffic flows around the capital. We have peaks and troughs—not necessarily during traditional rush hours—and if we could be more flexible in the use of bus lanes we would effectively see traffic moving rather better around London.

Under the Bill, the Mayor and Transport for London could, in effect, nationalise any road they desire in Greater London by designating it as a strategic road. This in itself is an erosion of boroughs' powers. I have no doubt that the number of these 24 hour/seven days a week bus lanes will increase as the Mayor takes over more and more roads. 3.30 p.m.

The amendment therefore attempts to ensure that London boroughs have an opportunity to influence the times of bus lane enforcement on strategic roads within their area. On other non-strategic roads the boroughs would be able to decide on the times of enforcement. Surely they and local people in an area know—going back to our previous debate—what their traffic flows and peak times are. They must know the best way to ensure the smooth running of traffic in their boroughs.

Therefore we are seeking to improve the relationship between all parties with a vested interested in keeping London moving. That is why the Mayor and Transport for London will have a duty under the amendment to consult on the times of bus lanes enforcement on any strategic road in the relevant London borough. That will guarantee that the knowledge and expertise that the boroughs presently have on traffic flow within their areas will not go to waste.

This is a sensible and rational amendment that will help maximise the use of bus lanes for traffic but also assist in the smooth running of traffic around London. I beg to move.

Lord Snape

My Lords, I declare an interest as a special adviser to the National Express Group. I used to be chairman of its bus division so I have a strong interest in these matters. I cannot agree with the views of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. It is logical that if London boroughs are to have different times of enforcement for bus lanes the opportunities for confusion—I put it no more strongly than that—are fairly high.

I am always fascinated when I listen to debates about bus lanes, because the intention behind the amendment—whether or not inadvertent—is to defend the motorist. We live in a world where, even though we are all motorists, there is a strong lobby that says that the motorist is being hounded and pursued and should be—if I may paraphrase the noble Lord—allowed to drive in bus lanes at certain times of the day or week.

However, the reason why London's bus lanes are so successful is that people are aware that there is proper enforcement in London and because by and large in central London the bus lanes operate 24 hours, seven days a week. If one shares the view expressed by the noble Lord, there would be different times of enforcement in different boroughs, which would lead to obvious confusion. There would be a temptation for motorists to say, "It was five to seven,"—or whatever time—"there was nothing around and so I thought I would use the bus lane".

I am sure that I speak for other noble Lords in saying that there is nothing quite so annoying as sitting in a lane of traffic watching someone driving improperly up the adjacent bus lane. Whether it is white van man or black Jaguar man—it is usually a male of the species who behaves in such a way—it annoys those of us who believe that bus lanes have been enormously successful, particularly in this city. Comparatively recently I have taken to using buses again in London, largely because of their efficiency. I took the bus this morning from Paddington to Euston at seven o'clock. It was quicker than the Underground, largely because of the bus lanes on Marylebone Road. They are seven days a week bus lanes. Those who criticise their provision say that much of the time they are empty. Of course the same people would criticise them if they were choked with buses. The reason they are empty is because they are successful and the reason they are successful is because they are reserved 24 hours a day in this city and motorists know that they should avoid them.

I hope that for those reasons, if the amendment is pressed to a Division, your Lordships will oppose it.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, we have a busy city. One of the Bill's main points, especially for London traffic, is to have the most efficient road network. If bus lanes are not being used during the day, surely it is only correct that we make the most efficient use of them.

I understood the noble Lord, Lord Snape, to say that it would be confusing for motorists if we could use bus lanes outside the rush hour when they are not being used. I do not believe that that is the case, because if one drives beside a bus lane one sees blue and white signs stating clearly when it is active. It does not take much to understand whether it can or cannot be used outside those times, so this would not be difficult.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I support the principle of my noble friend's amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Snape, did not give the whole picture about bus lanes in London. He said that on some of the busiest routes they operate for 24 hours. That is not the case; for example, on the road from Victoria station to Hyde Park Corner, which I would have thought was a major London route, the bus lanes operate from seven to 10 in the morning and four to seven in the evening.

I accept that some bus lanes operate for 24 hours but I have always failed to understand why some of them do not have similar hours. Central government should not be over-prescriptive. We should allow sensible local decisions to be made. There are signs that say what the restrictions are, which are easy to see.

There are bus lanes in Oxford Street permanently clogged with buses. One could probably walk along Oxford Street from bus to bus. There are certain times of day when they do not seem to work at all, which is another problem. There are also contraflow bus lanes. I accept that it would be almost impossible for cars to use those, but some thought should be given to instances where we should be more flexible. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a positive response to my noble friend's proposals.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I am certainly able to give some elements of a positive response to the noble Viscount because I agree that we need flexibility in the hours of enforcement of bus lanes, which the legislation covering the operational hours of bus lanes is designed to provide. The relevant authority, whether it is a borough or TfL, can decide what times are most appropriate in each situation. They can take into account all the relevant local factors such as the need to service properties alongside bus lanes and many other factors in reaching such decisions.

I approach the issue of bus lanes with a slight degree of caution. In my former life I had the dubious privilege of introducing the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which brought bus lanes to London. I would glory in that, but at the time we were not sure how to deal with taxis' use of bus lanes and whether they could stop in them. I was persuaded that we had the legislation a mite wrong only when 300 black cabs invaded my constituency, parked outside my constituency surgery on a Saturday and created the greatest congestion one could imagine in the London Borough of Enfield at that time.

I am a little cautious about discussing bus lane legislation, but I am confident on this matter. The noble Lord's proposed new clause does not hit the target that he seeks. It refers to, deciding and setting the times for bus lane enforcement". Enforcement is the key word. It means the pursuance of contraventions of the bus lane during its operation hours by the London borough on whose roads it has been installed. Where the borough rather than the police carries out the enforcement, that is done under the London Local Authorities Act 1996.

The times at which enforcement is carried out are in the hands of the borough concerned. Of course roads may become strategic roads after being designated under the powers in Part 5. The provisions amend the existing powers in the Highways Act 1980 and Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Similar powers are already provided in the case of GLA roads. That means that Transport for London is, in certain circumstances, able to object to the exercise of any power under those Acts by the borough in any way where it would affect, or would be likely to affect, a strategic road.

The powers in Part 5 do not extend to other legislation, so Transport for London cannot decide on the enforcement on borough roads, which is what the clause relates to. Therefore the clause as drafted does not have the desired effect, if the reference to enforcement was intentional. That said, we would certainly expect there to be close co-operation between Transport for London and the boroughs on enforcement of bus lanes on strategic roads as many of those roads could be significant bus routes, important both locally and strategically. Of course, the network management duty would also play a key part here given the need for authorities to work together to consider the network as a whole.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, was perhaps really trying to address the decisions about the hours of operation of bus lanes, rather than their enforcement. When bus lanes are installed, the works involved could be covered by the relevant powers in Part 5 in relation to strategic roads—that is, the exercise of powers to determine the times at which bus lanes operate flow from the powers in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Therefore, Transport for London could have a say in what happens on a bus lane when it affects, or is likely to affect, a strategic road, when it is put in or if the times of operation were changed.

In practice, statutory procedures for making traffic regulations orders for bus lanes require consultation between authorities; and the network management duty in Part 2 of the Bill requires co-operation between authorities to keep traffic moving, buses included. Again, we therefore expect to see boroughs and Transport for London working together in ways that both give the priority to buses that is essential to keep the services reliable and attractive and reflect local issues about use of roads.

I hope that the noble Lord will appreciate that we have constructed the Bill to guarantee that there is necessary consultation and co-operation between the relevant authorities on this crucial issue—and I do not for one moment deny the significance of the issue. However, I must insist to him that the way in which the amendment is drafted does not hit the target he intends to hit. I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Hanningfield

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that reply, which was very helpful indeed. I was pleased to see him nodding, too, when my noble friend Lord Rotherwick said that we needed to make the most efficient use of roads as possible. Roads cost a lot of money to build and we want to maximise their use. A noble Lord opposite referred under a previous amendment to the United States, where lanes can change and one can go one way down a road one hour and a different way another hour. With modern technology, we can make certain that roads are effectively signed.

I thank the Minister because, although we did not get the wording of our amendment right, he understood that the principle behind it was to maximise the use of our roads. He also suggested that he agreed with my amendment, rather than with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Snape—that we need to make the maximum use of our roads in London to ensure that the traffic flows are as best as they can be.

The Minister's answer was very helpful. We shall consider it in detail, but the provisions would enable the boroughs, the Mayor and Transport for London to work together to make certain that they maximise the use of our roads in London. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3 [Schedule 4B to the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 23 and 24: Page 61, line 25, leave out "section" and insert "paragraph Page 61, line 25, leave out "served with" and insert "given

On Question, amendments agreed to. Schedule 4 [Schedule 3A to the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 25 and 26: Page 64, leave out lines 8 to 18 and insert— () A direction to an undertaker under this paragraph is a direction as to the date on which he may begin to execute the works proposed by him. Page 65, line 6, leave out "to whom it sent the notice under" and insert "specified in

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Schedule 22B to the Highways Act 1980]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 27 and 28: Page 68, line 17, leave out "section" and insert "paragraph Page 68, line 17, leave out "served with" and insert "given

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships. However, I must thank the Minister for the helpful way in which he has conducted the Bill, with the assistance of the noble Lord, Lord Evans. Together with the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, we have agreed on more issues than we have disagreed. I thank him for his help as regards meeting his officials, which has allowed us to come up with sensible compromises that will benefit all those involved in traffic management.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, for those kind words. We have sought to be constructive about a Bill that has had its intricacies. We have benefited from some intensive discussion in Committee, at Report and on Third Reading. I thank both Front Benches for their constructive approach to the Bill. I also thank my officials for the support that they have given in troubled times. I place on record my enormous thanks to my noble friend Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, who took the Bill through Committee unaided during a period when I had had a small traffic accident—although that was on a bicycle.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.