§ Mr. Gordon Prentice
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will take powers to require utility telecoms companies and local authorities to co-ordinate their work programmes so that disruptive excavations of the highway are minimised; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Hill
Street works undertakers are required under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 to co-operate with highway authorities and one another, and the authorities for their part are required to co-ordinate works in their streets. Section 66 of the 1991 Act provides that undertakers must carry on and complete works with all reasonable dispatch, and a street authority can require an undertaker obstructing the street more extensively or for longer than is reasonable necessary to comply with a restraining notice. Where there is a risk of serious traffic disruption from street works, section 56 enables the street authority to direct the undertaker to carry out work only at certain times, if the disruption can be avoided or reduced by this means.
In a further development, the 1998 Integrated Transport White Paper made a commitment to consult on options for an incentive system, with penalties, to minimise disruption to road users, and to encourage improved co-ordination of street works. A consultation was launched last October and my Department is considering the responses to the consultation in order to decide on the best way forward.
Finally, Regulations have been made under powers in the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, and came into effect last year, to facilitate and encourage the electronic transfer of information about street works and other works in the highway between utilities such as telecoms companies and highway authorities. This will ensure greater consistency and speed in transferring and registering the information, which in turn will help authorities in their co-ordination role.