HL Deb 29 June 2004 vol 663 cc234-54

Cycle lane and cycle track contraventions

  1. A cycle lane contravention is a contravention of any provision of a traffic order relating to the use of an area of carriageway that is or forms part of a cycle lane.
  2. An area of carriageway is or forms part of a cycle lane if the order provides that it may be used only by pedal cycles.
  3. There is a cycle track contravention in relation to a vehicle if it is driven in circumstances in which an offence is committed under section 21 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) (offences relating to cycle tracks) of driving a vehicle wholly or partly on a cycle track.
  4. In this paragraph "traffic order" means an order under section 1, 6, 9 or 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27)."

The noble Lord said:

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 105 I should like to speak also to the other amendments in this group, including those of my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham. Before I go into detail, however, I should like to thank my noble friend very sincerely for the constructive way in which his officials have been meeting the cycling groups. That has resulted not only in the government amendments in this group but also the amendments in the group starting with Amendment No. 122. Those are very welcome. They do not provide everything that was asked for, but you do not get everything that you want. It is good to see the Government taking such a proactive role in promoting and encouraging cycling and making cyclists feel not only wanted but also safe. I trust that my noble friend will send a copy of today's Hansard to the Royal Parks Agency, but I shall not mention that body again tonight.

Amendment No. 108 standing in my name contains a mistake for which I apologise. Amendment No. 107 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham is the correct version. I shall not move Amendment No. 108. I congratulate my noble friend on the drafting of Amendment No. 107.

Amendment No. 106 refers to buses and Amendment No. 107 concerns cycling. It seems to me that, having got this lovely list of cycling signs, there needs to be a preamble about cycle lane and cycle track contraventions in Schedule 7 to match the descriptions of parking contraventions (Part 1 of the schedule), bus lane contraventions (Part 2 of the schedule) and lorry ban contraventions (Part 3 of the schedule). As we have five signs with regard to cycling, it would be useful to have a section dealing with what they mean. That is the purpose of Amendment No. 105. If my noble friend accepts the principle of that, I should welcome his producing an appropriate amendment—I am sure that he will draft a better one than I can—at Third Reading. It is clear that, if the relevant amendment is accepted, there would need to be a cross-reference in Clause 70 on page 43 to add another section to Schedule 7. In principle, I am very grateful to my noble friend for all the amendments on cycling. I offer my Amendment No. 105 as a contribution to clarity. I beg to move.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, we welcome the fact that the Government listen to the concerns highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. However, at the same time we have concerns regarding this issue that we spoke of in Committee. I may be considered biased when I say that cyclists are very important—the Minister and I are both cyclists—but I can say with authority that considerable good will is shown towards cyclists on the part of other road users. However, I feel the need to raise the flag of caution once again. By accepting these amendments we would set up another barrier between cyclists and car owners, which may not make the latter so amicable on the whole towards cyclists.

There is also the issue of privilege and responsibility. While these amendments would help to protect the privileges of cyclists on the road, there should also be a balance of responsibility; otherwise, we shall lose the good will of car drivers.

Cyclists can often be seen jumping red lights and cycling on pavements, although I have to say that I have not seen the latter activity recently. They can also be seen ignoring other road regulations that all other traffic has to comply with. Are these offences also subject to civil enforcement? What steps is the department taking to ensure that offenders are penalised just as those car owners who stray into cycle boxes or lanes will be penalised under these changes? Can the Minister give comfort to cyclists that in awarding privileges he will highlight the responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with them? What is the estimate of the costs of enforcing the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley? Who would be responsible for enforcement?

Viscount Simon

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, referred to cyclists going through red lights. If one did a survey of traffic lights, one would find that probably nine out of 10 cyclists go through red lights. I assume that the tenth one is a Member of your Lordships' House. Bearing in mind the fact that—

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I hope that the noble Viscount is not referring to the Minister or me.

Viscount Simon

Not at all, my Lords—completely the opposite. If one bears in mind the infringements, is not combining a carriageway for pedestrians and cyclists together a possible recipe for disaster? Is there any intention to separate those routes so that collisions will not occur?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Berkeley for the way in which he spoke to Amendment No. 105 and his other amendment, and I appreciate this short debate. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, that I understood my noble friend Lord Simon to be identifying that there might be nine offending cyclists out of 10, but that the 10th would be a Member of this House—so either the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, or myself. I am sure that my noble friend has carried out that statistical survey with great accuracy. The only way in which I succeed in protecting myself against traffic-light infringements is by making sure that I spend most of my time on the towpath, where there are not too many traffic lights. I understand what the noble Lord said, however.

A side issue—a balancing issue, I suppose—has emerged about what we will do about cyclists who do not behave themselves. Such cyclists are a menace, first, to themselves. It is risky under any circumstances to jump a red light, and it is certainly risky when one has the limited protection of a cycle. They are of course a danger to other people. When they carry out the other offence to which the noble Lord referred—cycling on the pavement—there are people even more vulnerable to injury than the cyclists, and it is right that we pay due regard to making sure that all road users comply with the law. In circumstances in which we are making increasing provision of cycle lanes and proper provision for cyclists, we ought to be intolerant of those who use the pavement.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, under the Government's proposals, would civil enforcement officers have the power to stop cyclists cycling on the pavement, or is that something with which only the police can deal?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, we are extremely wary of the officers being involved in any moving traffic, for obvious reasons. They are merely pedestrians, and although a cyclist is a jolly sight easier to arrest than a car driver I can think of some circumstances where that might not necessarily be so. The issue is certainly not straightforward. I stand by my earlier point—we do not regard the officers as being engaged as police officers in summary charge against people who misbehave. Frankly, such matters are for the police; they are the enforcing agency, as the noble Viscount will acknowledge. It is right that that be so, as everyone recognises the particular and exceptional powers of the police in respect of such offences.

I shall turn to the main amendment, as I seem to have been sidetracked by the other elements that cropped up in the debate. There is no need to add to Schedule 7 a definition of a contravention of a cycle lane or cycle track, as proposed by my noble friend in Amendment No. 105. That is because government Amendment No. 107 will enable enforcement of driving in a mandatory cycle lane or on a cycle track as moving contraventions under part 4 of Schedule 7. The provisions of part 1 of Schedule 7 already cover civil enforcement of parking in cycle lanes or on cycle tracks. So my noble friend was generous enough to recognise that the Government's Amendment No. 107 covers such issues.

Amendments Nos. 106 and 107 add six additional signs to the table at paragraph 9 of Schedule 7. This will enable a moving contravention of these signs to be subject to civil enforcement. The addition of the "buses prohibited" sign 952 is being made in response to a request from Westminster City Council. They have a particular problem with enforcing coach bans on residential roads around Victoria Coach Station. The inclusion of this sign will also be helpful for the enforcement of coach bans elsewhere, but that is the problem that Amendment No. 106 addresses.

The five signs added by Amendment No. 107 will enable the civil enforcement of the prohibition against driving in mandatory cycle lanes or on cycle tracks. We undertook in Committee to consider adding signs to Schedule 7 that would enable civil enforcement of driving in a mandatory cycle lane. Since then we have also had discussions with representatives of the London Cycling Campaign and the National Cycling Strategy Board—my noble friend Lord Berkeley indicated that he was aware of those discussions. This led us to conclude that we should add the five cycling related signs included in Amendment No. 107. We do not need to add to Schedule 7 the sign 960 for a contra-flow bus lane as bus lane contraventions are already covered in part 2 of the schedule.

I acknowledge the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, in Committee that he would be worried if car drivers were persecuted in a draconian way that set them against cyclists. He has reflected on that again this evening. We are aware of the fact that a crucial aspect of road safety is mutual respect between different forms of traffic and anything that causes significant irritation and leads to bad relationships between different forms of traffic affect road safety adversely. This is a matter that we can address in guidance, but it is important to ensure that there are appropriate powers to increase the safety of cyclists using dedicated cycle lanes and routes. Regarding driving on cycle tracks the main culprits are, I understand, not motor cars but motor scooters. That is another dimension to the difficulty with the segregation of traffic.

The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, asked me for some estimates of the cost of cycle lane measures and who would be responsible for their enforcement. That would rest with local authorities. In terms of other contraventions in Schedule 7, we have not made any estimates of costs at this stage.

Noble Lords would recognise that cycling on a footway and cycling through a red light are offences which should be deplored. I know the self-justification that cyclists use from time to time is—I am not referring to any noble Lords first, that the pavement is the only safe place because the roadway is so frighteningly dangerous and, secondly, that jumping the red light gives cyclists a head start on the rest of the traffic which avoids that traffic doing dangerous things, particularly if it is turning left and the cyclist is seeking to go straight ahead. All that I can say is that seeking to re-interpret the law in those terms when everyone else is obeying the law and following the red light practice is extremely dangerous. Cyclists would be putting themselves in jeopardy and would not improve matters. On that basis, I hope that my noble friend will think that the Government have responded, both to today's debate and in Committee, and he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, not only for his explanation, but, as I have said before, for the work that he has undertaken with the cycling groups. In Grand Committee I tried to include another sign, the advanced stop line for cyclists, but I received a long and interesting explanation about why that was not possible. I accept that.

Noble Lords opposite commented on cyclists going through red lights. During the past week, I witnessed two cases—one in Oxford and one in London—of police stopping cyclists doing that. It is to be welcomed, and let us hope that they do more of that. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 106 and 107: Page 76, line 8, at end insert—

Buses prohibited 952"
Page 76, line 10, at end insert—
"Route for use by pedal cycles only 955
Route for use by pedal cycles and pedestrians only 956
Route comprising two ways, for use by pedal cycles only and by pedestrians only 957
With-flow cycle lane 959.1
Contra-flow cycle lane 960/"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 108 not moved.]

Schedule 8 [Civil enforcement areas and enforcement authorities]:

[Amendments Nos. 109 and 110 not moved.]

Clause 76 [Immobilisation of vehicle where penalty charge payable]:

[Amendments Nos. 111 to 113 not moved]:

Viscount Astor

moved Amendment No. 114: Page 46, line 43, at end insert— "(iv) not more than 15 minutes have elapsed since the issue of a parking ticket or notification of a penalty charge; and

The noble Viscount said:

My Lords, the Minister has caught me by surprise. I assumed that he would move his Amendment No. 111 concerning clamping and the 15-minute interval we discussed in Committee. Indeed, the Minister and I discussed it when he kindly arranged a meeting with his officials. I am not sure why he did not move the amendment, but perhaps I may speak briefly to mine.

The difference between us is that the Minister is seeking to resolve an anomaly that has been drawn to his attention by the chief parking adjudicator for London. When someone does not display a ticket and is clamped, he is able to write to the adjudicator and say, "Actually, I bought one and here is the evidence. It fell down the dashboard and was not displayed". I understand the logic behind that.

However, we differ in that increasingly in London the pay-and-display machines do not work. Occasionally they gobble up your money and give you a ticket and occasionally they gobble up your money and do not give you a ticket. You are then forced to walk around and find another one. If this happens to you while you are parked in a London square and are seeking to obey the law and to pay, a parking warden can come along and give you a ticket. You can then write to the local authority and say, "I was attempting to buy a ticket and I want to appeal". In 99 per cent of such cases, it is successful.

However, under the Bill, after the traffic warden has issued the ticket he can use his radio or mobile phone to inform those in the clamping van, who are driving around the square desperately seeking to earn their money by clamping more and more offenders, "Quick, get over here and clamp this car". In those circumstances, the driver is the innocent party.

If the driver merely gets a ticket, he can write in and appeal against that and he will not have to pay. However, if he is on the other side of the square trying to find a machine that works, he will return and find that his car is clamped. That is a severe inconvenience—it happens to mothers collecting children from school—and the drivers appear to be guilty until proven innocent. They must first pay and then go through the difficult and somewhat tedious process of trying to get their money back.

I stress that in tabling the amendment we want to produce a policy that is fair and does not allow people to park illegally. We therefore propose a 15-minute interval. Therefore, a car cannot be clamped for 15 minutes after a traffic warden has issued a ticket. That seems to be reasonable. Wardens and dampers communicate with each other, and a warden can say, "I have just issued a ticket and if the vehicle is still here in 15 minutes you can come and clamp it".

I admit to your Lordships that this situation is made more difficult because of the appeal system, which does not work. We shall come to that when we reach a later amendment. It is of concern to those who appeal, as it is to the adjudicators. That is the issue. I stress again that I am not seeking to allow those who break the law an excuse to get away with it. I am seeking to protect those who, through no fault of their own, have not been able to buy a ticket and who are then seriously inconvenienced and put in a difficult situation. That is the difference between the Government's proposal and mine.

We have had some discussions on this matter. I am very grateful to the Minister for listening to the concerns at the meetings that we have had and for listening with an open mind. I am sure that we shall be able to continue debating the issue to see whether we can find a solution. I apologise to your Lordships for going on at length, but it is important to set the amendment in context so that noble Lords understand the process. This may be an opportunity for the Minister to say what considerations he has given to the matter and whether he is able to give me some comfort with regard to how the Government intend to deal with this issue. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for the way in which he moved his amendment. I am sorry if I wrong-footed him by not moving the government amendments immediately preceding this one. It is my first effort at retaliation: Ministers are frequently put in that position when the Opposition do not move their amendments. Therefore, I sympathise entirely with the noble Viscount in finding that the progress of business has suddenly accelerated.

However, I must say to him that we have not reached a definitive position on this issue. That is why the government amendments were not moved and why I shall give him both a positive and, as he would expect, a guarded reply—that is, I cannot give very clear undertakings about the eventual position. But, as I am sure he will have recognised, I am certainly seeking to reflect the fact that the discussions that we have had on this issue have caused us to reconsider the position. We are looking at the matter carefully and, I hope, constructively.

I believe that the noble Viscount and I both recognise that offenders should not get away with offences, and clamping is an effective deterrent. It is an important weapon in the armoury of central London boroughs, in particular, as part of their decriminalised parking enforcement operations.

Charges and time limits on parking are designed to ensure a turnover of spaces. It is important to ensure that these controls are enforced in order to give drivers a reasonable chance of finding a space. Immobilisation is an additional measure, over and above a penalty charge, to deter overstaying. The question is: after what period of overstaying should immobilisation be permissible? That is the issue that we have been seeking to resolve in our discussions and, as I indicated, we are not entirely definitive about it yet.

As drafted, Clause 76 enables a penalty charge notice to be issued immediately the period of parking that has been paid for has expired. However, the vehicle may not be immobilised until 15 minutes have elapsed following the period of parking paid for. That means that there is a grace period of 15 minutes, and that reflects the current position in Section 70 of the Road Traffic Act.

The noble Viscount's amendment proposes that at least 15 minutes should elapse between the issue of the penalty charge and a vehicle being clamped. The effect is variable rather than a fixed 15-minute grace period. If the penalty charge notice is issued exactly at the end of the period of parking paid for, the vehicle could be clamped after 15 minutes of overstay. But if the notice is not issued until two hours after the period of parking paid for has expired, clamping is postponed in that case for two and a quarter hours. In other words, people would be subject to an arbitrary variable possibility.

9.45 p.m.

A more serious drawback is that the proposed amendment would apply not just to overstaying in a paying parking bay, which is the area about which we are concerned in order to maximise the use of certain bays; it would prevent immobilisation for 15 minutes following the issue of a charge notice for other parking contraventions such as parking on yellow lines. The Government take the view that people who knowingly park unlawfully in the first place should not be given a period of grace against having their vehicle immobilised, particularly as in some circumstances the vehicle could present a very real danger and prompt action would be necessary. Enforcement against unlawful parking needs to be effective.

I very much appreciate the discussion that the noble Viscount and I had the other day. I have been able to listen carefully to the concerns he expressed then and on which he has reflected again this evening about the use of clamping. We are, therefore, prepared to consider amending Clause 76 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 requirement would replace the existing provision in Clause 76 that prevents the immobilisation of a vehicle until 15 minutes has elapsed since the end of the period of parking paid. While that approach may give rise to variable and longer grace periods for overstaying, that can be counteracted by more frequent patrolling by parking attendants.

However, I want to make clear that the amendment would relate only to paid for parking bays. It would not cover other parking contraventions such as parking on yellow lines. In those cases it would still be possible to immobilise a vehicle immediately after a penalty charge notice is issued. On that understanding I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that I have gone as far as I can at this stage to meet his reasonable concerns. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. Indeed, I believe he has gone as far as he can and as far as I would ask him to go in dealing with this issue. I shall study carefully what he said and if I have any questions I hope that he will allow me to discuss them with his department between now and the next stage. I fully accept that as regards his amendment and mine we have a no score draw. My amendment did not entirely do what I wanted it to and I think that by not moving his we achieved the same effect. I hope that we have come to an understanding on what we both agree is a sensible way forward. I am extremely grateful to the Minister and, indeed, his officials, for the helpful and constructive way in which they have dealt with this issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 115 and 116 not moved.]

Clause 77 [Representations and appeals]:

Viscount Astor

moved Amendment No. 117 Page 47, line 33, at end insert— "( ) enabling an adjudicator to make any decision made on, or in the course of an appeal taking into account mitigating circumstances.

The noble Viscount said

My Lords, this amendment concerns adjudication. The Minister will recognise that this has been brought to his and my attention not only by those who have had difficulty achieving what they regard as the desired result from the adjudicators but, indeed, by the adjudicators themselves, who have felt restricted by the circumstances in which they find themselves operating and the rules. It is a concern which has been expressed on both sides. For the system to work it must be fair, reasonable and respected by both sides, as we have always tried to emphasise.

The difficulty is simple to explain. I start with an example that we used in Grand Committee and which took place in the spring of this year. Traffic wardens placed notices on cars that were abandoned because of snow. The police said the road was blocked. The local authority had not cleared the road. The next morning, before people had a chance to move their cars, the traffic wardens ticketed the whole lot. Clearly, that was not terribly fair and no doubt the traffic wardens received a huge bonus from being able to issue so many tickets in such a short period of time. Having done so in extremely cold circumstances, it enabled them to go off for the rest of the day and have a nice cup of coffee, thinking that they had reached their quota.

One would have thought that those poor unfortunates to whom this happened would be able to appeal to the adjudicator. They did. The adjudicator was extremely sympathetic but he had a problem. Because of technical points he was not able to say that the behaviour was unreasonable as he was not allowed to take into account those circumstances. That is the issue.

I say to the noble Lord that I am not sure whether my amendment is right. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, who is nearly in his place, quite rightly gave me a frightful ticking off in Grand Committee for putting the amendment in the wrong place, which I fully accept. I apologise to your Lordships' House for doing so. I hope that I have got it in a slightly better place now. However, I hope that the Minister will take my point and set out the Government's view and how they consider they can deal with the issue. It is an important issue because a system has to work for it to have respect.

As I said at the beginning, this issue has been drawn to my attention both by those who adjudicate and those who have been adjudicated on. It is not one side against the other; it is both. So it would be extremely helpful—I have to say that the Minister has been enormously constructive throughout the passage of the Bill—to your Lordships' House if he could say what the Government can do to take into account the genuine concerns which have been raised. There are many examples. I just happen to have given one. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I fear that I shall clash with the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, over this issue because I think that there is a significant difference of principle and interpretation between us on this point. Therefore, I shall not be able to move very far down the road in following his argument.

I hear what the noble Viscount says about mitigating circumstances. We all know that the quality of mercy is not strained and that it helps therefore if people can take into account circumstances affecting offending behaviour. I am afraid that that is for a law court and a judge or a magistrate; it is not for an adjudicator. The adjudicator is not in that position. He is in the position of being a tribunal of fact and law. His or her role in considering an appeal is to determine the facts of the case and to resolve any questions of law should they arise. It is not to make judgment on the nature of the offence and whether there are any mitigating circumstances.

The noble Viscount has quite rightly identified a hard luck case. I cannot think of a harder luck case than the one he illustrated where one gets blocked on the road and gets ticketed the next day before one can remove one's car. I certainly think a local authority might look somewhat sympathetically on that situation. It is for the local authority to make up its mind whether it prosecutes at that stage; it is not for an adjudicator. To enable adjudicators to take into account mitigating circumstances and to make policy decisions about enforcement would alter the whole nature of the process. They would be asked to make decisions about reasons, motives and circumstances that fall short of a defence as currently understood. Taking into account mitigating circumstances is the role of the local authority undertaking civil enforcement of any traffic contraventions. There is no compulsion on an authority to enforce penalty charges. It has the discretion to cancel a penalty charge if it believes that there were mitigating circumstances.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, cited an occasion where a local authority's sympathetic interpretation of a car-owner's problems might have been entirely appropriate, but I am not in full possession of the facts, as the noble Viscount will appreciate. It is for local authorities to take such a decision. After all, the situation is analogous on a more significant scale to the Crown Prosecution Service's deciding whether it is in the public interest to pursue a prosecution even if an offence was clearly committed. It is for the authority to decide that. The real need is to get enforcing authorities properly to consider mitigating circumstances in the first place. Existing guidance on decriminalised parking enforcement contained in local authority circular 1/95 suggests circumstances in which local authorities may feel it appropriate to cancel penalty charges.

In publishing guidance under Clause 84, we will certainly look to reinforce the message that authorities should consider mitigating circumstances in dealing with representations from recipients of penalty charge notices. There will be a new statutory duty on authorities to have regard to that guidance, including when they decide whether to pursue penalty charges when mitigating circumstances are put forward.

As it stands, Clause 77 is a wide-ranging power to make regulations in connection with representations and appeals. I assure the noble Viscount that in drafting those regulations we will consult the chief adjudicators of the National Parking Adjudication Service and the London Parking and Traffic Appeals Service to see how we can address what are perceived to be constraints on their roles in deciding appeals. But regulations made under Clause 77 will in any case be subject to the affirmative procedure as recommended by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform.

I hope that that fact, coupled with the assurance that I have given on strengthening guidance to the authorities, which take the prime responsibility for prosecution and the enforcement of a parking penalty, will be taken into consideration. It is the authorities that must consider mitigating issues; it is not the responsibility of adjudicators, who have a different role. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Viscount will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I am disappointed by that reply for a number of reasons. First, it is not only respondents who are complaining; adjudicators, including the chief adjudicator, have said that the system is not working satisfactorily. It will become even more important, because under the powers in the Bill we will extend the role of civil enforcement officers. As a result, there will be more situations, they will be more complex and the issues will be more difficult. It will become even more important that adjudicators can look at all the circumstances.

The Minister rests his case on the argument that it is for local authorities to look at mitigating circumstances and that there will be guidance and perhaps regulations made under the affirmative procedure. I accept that point, but my point is that the Bill should contain a clause that says that the adjudicator may take into account mitigating circumstances. Guidance could then dictate what those circumstances may be, but there must be provision in the Bill.

I cannot accept the Minister's reply. I think that he is wrong. This is an important issue that will become more difficult and more prevalent. Bigger issues will arise in the future. I am disappointed by the Government. I do not intend to divide the House on this issue this evening; but I will come back to it at the next stage. In the mean time, I hope the Minister will consider the representations that have been made to him on all sides and that we might see whether there is some way forward. If there is not, I assure the Minister that we will take this issue very seriously at Third Reading. It is particularly important because of the extension of powers of civil enforcement officers that are in the rest of the Bill. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10 p.m.

Clause 82 [Prohibition of double parking etc.]: [Amendment No. 118 not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 119: Page 51, line 7, leave out "road" and insert "carriageway

The noble Lord said

My Lords, Amendment No. 119 is a technical amendment to substitute "carriageway" for "road" in Clause 82(2). The carriageway is that part of a road over which there is a right of way for passage of vehicles. Together the carriageway and the footway form a highway. The amendment ensures consistent terminology as between subsections (1) and (2) of the clause. I beg to move.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, will the Minister clarify, for those noble Lords who do not have a copy of the Highways Act 1980 to hand, the definition of "carriageway", and how it differs from the use of "road" for the purpose of these Acts?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, as I thought I made clear, the pedestrian part of the footway added to the carriageway make the highway. The carriageway is that part of the road over which there is a right of passage of vehicles. In technical terms, the road is for vehicles—this is a reflection of the vernacular—but we are with precision here identifying the combination of footway and carriageway—the one for pedestrians, the other for vehicles, which together form the highway.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 120 and 121 not moved.]

Clause 83 [Prohibition of parking at dropped footways]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 122: Page 52, line 2, leave out "in Greater London

The noble Lord said

In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to the other amendments in this group. Clause 83 would re-enact Section 14 of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 prohibiting parking at dropped footways in London. My noble friend Lord Berkeley proposed in Grand Committee that this clause should apply nationwide. He also suggested how it could be improved in other ways. After further consideration of the matter, we have decided that the prohibition in Clause 83 should apply to special enforcement areas outside London. Before we commence the provision of the clause in areas outside London, we would first want to have some experience of the effect in London of the corresponding provision found in the 2003 Act. In particular, we would want to be assured that use of the powers had positive benefits and has proved workable in practice.

Subject to the proviso about its commencement outside London, the amendment will apply Clause 83 to special enforcement areas in England and Wales generally. Amendments Nos. 128, 132 and 133 are consequential on the application of Clause 83 being extended to England and Wales generally. We have also had discussions with representatives of the London Cycling Campaign, and the National Cycling Strategy Board to try to improve Clause 83. We are persuaded that there is merit in extending Clause 83 to prohibit parking where the kerb has been lowered to assist cyclists using a cycle track to enter or leave the carriageway, or to assist cyclists as well as pedestrians to cross the carriageway. This is the motivation and thinking behind Amendments Nos. 123 and 125.

We also agree that parking should equally be prohibited at locations where the carriageway has been raised to meet the level of the footway to assist pedestrians and cyclists to cross. This is the purpose of Amendment No. 127.

Amendment No. 124 is a minor technical amendment substituting "carriageway" for "road" in subsection (1), while Amendment No. 131 serves to define "cycle track".

With these amendments we are making improvements to Clause 83, as we undertook to do in Grand Committee, as well as extending its application to special enforcement areas outside London. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 123 to 128: Page 52,1ine 3, leave out "part of the footway or verge that" and insert "footway, cycle track or verge where— (a) the footway, cycle track or verge Page 52, line 5, leave out "road" and insert "carriageway Page 52, line 5, at end insert— ( ) assisting cyclists entering or leaving the carriageway, Page 52, line 6, leave out from "vehicles" to end and insert "entering or leaving the carriageway across the footway, cycle track or verge; Page 52, line 6, at end insert "or (b) the carriageway has, for a purpose within paragraph (a)(i) to (iii), been raised to meet the level of the footway, cycle track or verge. Page 52, line 8, leave out from "parked" to end of line 14 and insert "wholly within a designated parking place or any other part of the carriageway where parking is specifically authorised. A "designated parking place" means a parking place designated by order under section 6, 9, 32(1)(b) or 45 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27).

On Question, amendments agreed to. [Amendments Nos. 129 and 130 not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 131 to 133: Page 52, line 43, leave out "has the meaning" and insert ", "cycle track" and "footway" have the meanings Page 53, line 5, after "imposed" insert "— (a) in Greater London, Page 53, line 6, at end insert— "(b) elsewhere in England and Wales, by an order under section 1 of that Act.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 134 not moved.]

Schedule 11 [Repeals]: [Amendments Nos. 135 and 136 not moved.]

Lord Rotherwick

moved Amendment No. 137: Before Clause 91, insert the following new clause—

"MOTORWAYS: MAXIMUM SPEED 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, the intention is simple. We seek a clear, straightforward and safe system of speed limits that retain the confidence of the motorist. This amendment would introduce the concept of variable speed limits due to weather conditions on motorways. Raising the maximum speed limit to 80 miles per hour would ensure the most expeditious, effective and efficient use of our motorway network.

We all believe that low speed limits need to be imposed where pedestrians are concentrated, such as around schools, in densely residential areas and near the homes of the elderly. These are important speed limits that should be stringently enforced—and quite right too.

Speed limits are not enforced on our motorways. It is quite usual to witness drivers overtaking one in the far lane at 85 miles per hour. Drivers do not consider themselves to be criminals for doing so, and the police use their discretion by choosing not to prosecute thousands of motorists. This, as my noble friend Lord Goschen pointed out in Grand Committee, demonstrates a seeming de facto agreement between the police and motorists that in good weather the speed limit is actually around 85 miles per hour.

This is deeply unsatisfactory. Most motorists and the public at large need to know what the law is, have confidence in it and believe that it will be enforced. Edmund King, the executive director of the RAC Foundation, has argued that there should be a review of speed limits. Driving at 80 miles per hour in a modern car on a good road surface at the correct distance from the car in front is perfectly safe. The safety features, braking, steering and suspension systems in modern cars are radically different from those that prevailed in the days when the 70 miles per hour limit was introduced. At that time, 70 miles per hour represented the peak of a car's performance. Indeed, I believe that it was introduced as a temporary measure due to the oil crisis of the time. This is no longer the case and we need to recognise that.

It is also the case that in a number of European countries the motorway speed limit is considerably higher. Has the Minister been lucky enough to have driven along a French or even an Italian motorway? He will have noticed that while driving at 112 kilometres per hour, which is 85 miles per hour, cars speed past him quite safely in the outer lane. Surely when the Government are keen to import so much else from Europe, it is odd to refuse to look at established practices in countries that have operated motorway systems effectively for far longer than us.

As the noble Lord, Lord Davies, pointed out in Grand Committee, the last government review of motorway speed limits concluded that increasing the speed of cars on motorways would lead to higher levels of air pollution. We need to bear in mind that traffic contributes to only one quarter of airborne pollution, the majority of which is produced by the large diesel engines of buses and heavy goods vehicles. We are told that the pollution from buses is 120 to 150 times worse than that from cars.

Lord Bradshaw

My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, will acknowledge that modern buses, with proper injection systems and the addition of urea, contribute very little pollution indeed. In fact, there is no nitrogen oxide pollution at all. Most pollution comes from diesel-powered lorries and it is quite wrong to associate the bus industry with pollution.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I wish it were so but, as a bicyclist, I can tell him absolutely that it is not. Being stuck behind a bus with an exhaust pipe blowing into your face is a most unpleasant state of affairs. Indeed, I wonder why most diesel buses do not have diesel particulate filters fitted. It would be a positive advance if they were to be fitted, but that does not seem to be happening at the moment.

Cars are at their most polluting when they are jammed bumper-to-bumper in city centres. Getting cars moving expeditiously on the motorways would improve matters. Indeed, the Association of British Drivers has shown that an increase in the motorway speed limit to 80 miles an hour would save approximately 11 million vehicle hours per year for cars and 1.5 million vehicle hours for light goods vehicles.

There was much debate in Grand Committee over the issue of speed and safety. I am grateful to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents for providing me with some of its briefing material. We need to be wary about any straightforward causal link between speed change and accidents. Indeed, the Government's three-year review, Tomorrow's Roads: Safer for Everyone, found that there was a broad reduction of casualties from the baseline of the 1994–98 averages, while motorways remain some of our safest roads. When presented with studies that seem to claim a direct relationship between an increase in speed and an increase in accidents, one finds that different studies often relate to very different measurements. For example, some refer to fatalities and others to injury numbers. Highly specific studies often contradict the general trend observed by the whole motoring population. Injury accident rates fell by 30 per cent in the UK during the 1980s while road speeds increased.

Average speeds are unhelpful when measuring accident rates; injury accidents happen only once for every 1.8 million kilometres driven in the UK. An accident arises usually from an exceptional combination of circumstances. Certain demographic groups, locations and conditions dramatically affect accident rates.

As noble Lords are well aware, a vast number of motorway users already travel above 70 miles per hour in good weather. We heard a variety of testimonials to that effect in Grand Committee, most notably from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, who observed that he himself travelled at a fairly sedate 71 or 72 miles an hour on the M40 and was still passed by vehicles.

Under these circumstances, why should we expect an increase in accidents after we sanction responsible motorists for already travelling safely at this speed? As my noble friend Lord Goschen pointed out in Grand Committee, effectively enforcing a higher speed limit is preferable to the authorities "looking the other way" when thousands of motorists daily break the law because they have no confidence in it, do not believe that it will make them safer and know that it will not be enforced.

The question must be one of achieving balance. The law must be enforceable and it must enjoy public support. The amendment will allow us to stop criminalising drivers who travel on our motorways at safe speeds. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, is expecting a debate on speed management this evening, I suspect that he will be disappointed, although I imagine that other Members of your Lordships' House will be rather pleased. That is partly because of the lateness of the hour, but also because I do not believe that this Bill is the right place for it. However, I have a lot of sympathy with the noble Lord's motives in bringing the amendment forward, because we clearly need a systematic review of speed limit policy in this country. That can partly be seen in the kind of headlines that we see in the tabloid newspapers, but the issue goes back much further than that. Certainly, when I arrived in your Lordships' House in 2000, I successfully moved an amendment to the Transport Act which called for a review of speeds on rural roads. All this time later, we are still waiting for the review to take place. Therefore, I hope that Minister will at least go away and consider how the Government might bring forward a more coherent debate and possible legislation on the wider question of speed limits, rather than addressing the issue of motorway speed limits in isolation.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, but I took solace from the fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, indicated that she does not think that this is the appropriate Bill to which an amendment should be tabled in these terms. I largely agree with that and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, having given the issue an airing even at this late hour, will be content with having done so and will not press his amendment.

As the noble Lord will have surmised, the Government are not persuaded of the need for such a change to maximum speeds. I acknowledge what the noble Lord said about the safety of cars travelling at 80 mph and the behaviour of road traffic at present. He should ask himself if the limit were raised to 80 mph, would not people expect a level of tolerance beyond that? Would they not be absolutely astounded if they were pulled in for doing 81 or 82 mph and would it not be just a matter of months before we saw a regular pattern of speeds that were 10 mph in excess of that limit, on the grounds that the technological development of cars is such that all that is safe?

We also know that speed has a dramatic effect on fatalities. Recent evidence from the United States has shown an increase of up to 38 per cent in the fatal accident rate following an increase in speed limits on its motorways, so we should approach the issue with some care.

The Government believe that raising speed limits could jeopardise a good record in this country and could cost lives. In 2002, there were 224 fatalities on our motorways, which represented 6.5 per cent of the total number of deaths on our roads. We would of course prefer no deaths, but that figure is low in comparison with roads in built-up areas and rural roads. That is why the Government are committed in their road safety strategy to improving rural road safety through better speed management and driver information on rural roads, where by far the worst accident rate occurs. We have also provided guidance to local highway authorities on introducing vehicle-activated warning signs and 30 mph speed limits in villages.

The motorway speed limit has been the subject of frequent reviews, most recently in 2001. That review concluded that to raise the motorway speed limit would run too great a risk of increasing accidents and casualties. In addition —it is not a negligible factor—a higher speed limit would also result in higher emissions of carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen. It would also lead to more noise pollution.

The Secretary of State already has a power to bring regulations before Parliament to change the speed limits on our roads. This power is contained in Section 86 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Should any future review recommend that the speed limit were raised, primary legislation would not be necessary. However, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, that it would not be in the framework of the Bill to make such changes.

Sections 17 and 84 of that Act also provide for orders to be made so that speed limit changes can be made and indicated in circumstances detailed in such orders. To date, the power to introduce variable speed limits has been used on only one road—the M25—although we intend to use the power in connection with a new active traffic management scheme on the M42.

The issue was raised of a reduction in speed limit during bad weather. That has some attractions. However, there are a number of issues that would need to be resolved before serious consideration could be given to taking that forward. Defining bad weather and determining the appropriate speed limit needs more serious consideration, and there may not be a simple solution. For example, what lower limit would be appropriate for which conditions?

The noble Lord probably thought that I would not be enormously sympathetic to his amendment at this late stage in the proceedings. However, I reassure him that we are keeping the matter under review. As I said, the last review was in 2001, and it expressed negative approaches to the issue. However, we do not consider the amendment appropriate at this time. Having given this significant debate a further airing, I hope that he feels free to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, suggested, there will be a review of speed limits in the future? That will save me dividing the House.

Lord Davies of Oldham

Certainly, my Lords. As I said, we have provision for regular reviews. The last one was only in 2001. We are aware of the fact, as the noble Lord is, that traffic moves at a speed in excess of the speed limit quite frequently on our major motorways. It does not do so, in my experience, on the M25 during about eight living hours of the day, because it cannot. But I am aware of the noble Lord's point about the motorway when it is relatively free of heavy traffic.

The issue is not settled for all time. Far from it—we are mindful of the fact that we need to consider the situation from time to time. I give him that assurance.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the issue a little further. I shall think of his words as I drive back to Oxfordshire tonight—naturally, keeping to 70 miles per hour on the motorway, like all noble Lords who have long distances to travel tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Clause 92 [Application of surplus income from parking places]: [Amendment No. 138 not moved.]

Viscount Astor

moved Amendment No. 139: After Clause 92, insert the following new clause— PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON THE LONDON CONGESTION CHARGE (1) The Greater London Authority Act 1999 (c. 29) shall be amended as follows. (2) After section 295(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—
  3. (a) a local referendum conducted by the borough concerned under section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003 (c. 26) (local polls); and
  4. (b) where at least 50 per cent of the residents of the borough concerned have voted in that referendum.
  5. (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—
  6. (a) whether it is reasonable to continue to operate an existing scheme concerned; or
  7. (b) whether the existing scheme shall be modified.
  8. (3) In Schedule 23 to that Act (road user charging) after paragraph 3 insert—
  9. 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 (c. 26).

The noble Viscount said

My Lords, this is a simple little amendment on which I hope that the Government will look favourably. As we know, the Government believe in local accountability, referendums, local people being consulted, regional assemblies and all such things. The amendment refers to the congestion charge which, as the Minister will know, has been the subject of some controversy in London and during the mayoral election.

Whatever one feels about the current congestion charge, the issue is—now that Ken Livingstone has returned to the fold or the bosom of the Labour Party—whether the congestion charge zone should be extended. I have no particular view on that, as I believe that it should be a subject for those who will suffer the consequences if it is extended. My modest amendment would allow those who might find themselves in a new extended zone a right to say in a democratic way whether they approve of the extension. I should have thought that the Government would think that that is a very commendable way for any government to behave and, indeed, for the Mayor to behave.

It seems to me that, before this controversial proposal goes ahead, the very least that the Mayor could do is to ensure that those who are affected have some say about whether they want to be in the congestion charge zone. This is a matter of allowing local people to have a local say. It is a London issue but if the amendment is accepted by your Lordships' House, it is something that could be used for other towns and cities that may have plans to introduce congestion charges of their own. We believe in giving people the right to chose whether they want it. I hope that the Minister will look favourably on my modest amendment because I am sure that he believes in local accountability. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, if the Opposition had any courage at all they would be proposing a referendum on the abolition of the congestion charge. But they would be up against the small matter that the election was won by the present Mayor with that issue very much up-front. It was not only up-front but was also canvassed very strongly by the candidate who represented the noble Viscount's party, who was intent on its abolition. We all know the result of that election.

Of course, the noble Viscount is right. We are in favour of consultation. The Greater London Authority Act makes absolutely clear how that consultation should be carried out and who is responsible for ensuring that it is carried out; namely, the Mayor of London. It is quite clear that we have in place under that Act the checks and powers that are necessary to govern the way in which he arrives at such a decision. He is charged with taking account of the impact of the congestion charge on residents, businesses, visitors and tourists and he is uniquely placed to do so. As everyone will recognise, he has a duty to provide and implement a transport strategy for London. The congestion charge is a part of that.

I also note that the noble Viscount introduced into his amendment a uniquely high hurdle that would have to be leapt in order for any extension to be considered. I recognise the fact that it is a misfortune for the Opposition that this part of the Bill was not before the House immediately prior to the recent election so that they could have articulated their arguments with the force and charm of the noble Viscount this evening. But I predict that the result would have been exactly the same.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, the Minister seems to have put the case that Ken Livingstone won the election for Mayor of London solely on the basis of the congestion charge. Looking at some of his other policies on the Tube and similar matters, that may be the case. Bearing in mind the lateness of the hour and that some of us will have to walk home, some will bicycle and some will be able to get into the ministerial limo—I am not mentioning names, of course—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 12 [Repeals]: [Amendment No. 140 not moved.]

House adjourned at half past ten o'clock.

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