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House of Commons

Friday 4 March 1994

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- -- in the Chair ]


Dioxin, Staveley

9.34 am

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : I present a petition from Vicki Lang and 2,000 other citizens of Staveley in Derbyshire, which seeks a full investigation into environmental problems in the area, drawing together expertise from a wide range of statutory and voluntary agencies. It reads :

To the Honourable, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of Staveley, Chesterfield, Sheweth that your petitioners demand that a public inquiry should be undertaken following the discovery of Dioxin in the area.

We further demand that the Department of Health undertake an extensive medical survey of local residents.

Wherefore your petitioners pray that your Honourable House will take measures to ensure that such pollution should not occur again. That the required inquiry and health survey are undertaken. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray etc.

To lie upon the Table

Point of Order

9.35 am

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. A fundamental axiom of the British constitution has been that no Parliament should bind a future Parliament. In the light of the ruling by the Law Lords yesterday, has any Minister sought your leave to make a statement about the Government's inability to deliver their employment policy because of decisions by previous Parliaments, which are apparently binding on this Parliament ?

Madam Speaker : As yet, I have not been informed that any Minister wants to make a statement today.

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Orders of the Day

Road Traffic Regulation (Special Events) Bill Order for Second Reading read.

9.36 am

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham) : I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

As you will appreciate, Madam Speaker, I am something of a novice in the matter of private Members' Bills and that will doubtless become apparent during the morning. When I was lucky enough to draw a low number in the ballot, I was surprised at the onslaught by a posse of single-issue pressure groups and lobbyists, who pursued me for at least three weeks to persuade me to legislate against all sorts of things. The taste for legislation has obviously not diminished, which, in many respects, is a pity.

The most ambitious of them was an elderly gentleman who has borne a grudge against the Chancellor of the Exchequer for many years, since the introduction of independent taxation. He suggested that I should introduce an alternative Finance Bill. Procedurally, it might have been rather difficult, but we might have had some fun with our own version of such a Bill and, if nothing else, we could have knocked a couple of pence off the price of a bottle of claret.

On a more serious note, all the Bills urged on me were aimed at stopping people doing something or regulating them, which I found depressing. This Bill, despite its title, does not stop people doing things, although it will require a small amount of regulation. I do not know whether it is a regulating deregulatory Bill or vice versa ; that is something for hon. Members to consider.

I am grateful for the support from both sides of the House for the Bill because, without it, several major sporting and cultural events that take place on the highways could be threatened.

The Bill has a dull-sounding name and has become known privately as the Tour de France Bill, which is useful shorthand, but its scope is vastly wider.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire) : Given one of the reasons for it, perhaps it would be appropriate to call it the Tour d'Angleterre Bill.

Mr. Atkinson : I agree. In view of comments coming from across the channel recently, that would be a good idea, provided that we get the French right.

The Bill has two main objectives. One is to allow those large events to take place without challenge, and the other is to allow those events to take place only after proper consultation, and the decision has been taken by an accountable and elected authority, which is different from the situation today.

I shall explain to the House how the Bill arose. The tour de France is coming to this country for two days in July this summer, as part of the celebrations to mark the opening of the channel tunnel. It is due to spend two days in different parts of the south-east of England. It is a matter of regret for me that it did will take place in the north country, because there we have plenty of open space.

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Mr. Peter Butler (Milton Keynes, North-East) : I appreciate that we will hear at, I suspect, considerable length from various hon. Members today where the tour de France will go and the merits of each town and village through which it will pass, but how will it get here ? Will the participants cycle through the tunnel or will they come by train ? If they will come by train, it seems rather to defeat the object.

Mr. Atkinson : Yes ; that very question occurred to me, because I thought initially, in my innocence, that the participants would cycle through the tunnel, which would be a rather grand gesture. Unfortunately, apparently that is not possible because of security arrangements. They would probably get electrocuted on the way so, unfortunately, they are going on Le Shuttle and will arrive and decamp at Dover on an appropriate day.

Mr. Richard Spring (Bury St. Edmunds) : Will my hon. Friend deny or confirm the rumour that they will be serenaded by Luciano Pavarotti ?

Mr. Atkinson : I know that Mr. Pavarotti is involved in the shenanigans to mark the opening of the channel tunnel, but I do not think that he will be involved in the tour de France. The convoy that comes through the tunnel will be enormous because the tour de France is not simply a cycle race. It involves about 200 riders and 1,500 other vehicles. They are the vehicles of sponsors, who design their vehicles in the most peculiar ways--appearing like profiteroles in one case, I am told--and support vehicles. A vast cavalcade of vehicles will emerge from that train.

Perhaps it would be worth while to dwell on that. The tour de France will be one of the biggest sporting occasions to be held in Britain since the world cup. I have no great knowledge of cycle racing, and I had not realised how much its popularity has increased in recent years. The television audience for the tour de France amounts to nearly 1 billion people worldwide. It is an incredible operation, therefore, and involves an incredible amount of money in television rights and organisation. It is a valuable and major event.

Mr. Butler : The number of people who watch on television has nothing to do with the way in which the tour de France takes place. It is not necessary for it to come to England for that to happen. Will my hon. Friend tell us how many people will turn up to watch it ?

Mr. Atkinson : I detect a touch of chauvinism creeping into the debate at an early stage--possibly jealousy.

Many thousands of people in the south-east of England will watch the tour de France while it is over here, before it returns to France by ship and aeroplane.

The responses that I have had from local authorities and people involved in the south-east of England--there may be Members present who represent seats in the south-east--show that they are delighted that the tour de France is coming here, because it will give a great promotion to the region and help tourism and industrial development.

Mr. Butler : I dispute any suggestion of chauvinism. I was merely trying to get to the figures. Bearing in mind that the effect of this pernicious little Bill, which I have come here to support today, is that a few or many thousand people will be able to watch the tour de France, is my hon. Friend aware that the RAC rally--which will not in the least be facilitated by this--has 2 million spectators and is

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the largest sporting event in this country ? Even the London to Brighton run is attended by up to 1 million people each November. Yet my hon. Friend is talking about a few thousand people. Why is he going to bar the Bill from enabling that type of event to take place ?

Mr. Atkinson : My hon. Friend makes two important points. One is the factual accuracy of the number of people who will watch the tour de France. I do not know, because the tour has never come to this country. I expect that tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands, will watch it. I will return to the reasons why it does not allow for motor sport on roads.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) : On the subject of chauvinism, given the recent performance of British sporting teams, does my hon. Friend agree that in that field of sporting endeavour, if there is to be a British team--I know not whether there is--and if we are to seek its success, it is an essential precondition for that success that the team does not have a manager ?

Mr. Atkinson : I sympathise with my hon. Friend on that. It is probably more a disadvantage than an advantage to have managers these days. There will be British competitors, but I am afraid that my knowledge of cycle racing does not extend to whether they will operate as a team or are managed.

I shall now describe the route of the tour de France. It will spend two days in this country. The first day will be spent in parts of Sussex on a 128-mile course, I think, and it will end on what one might call our equivalent of a mountain course, which is Wilson avenue, Brighton. I do not know whether anyone

Mr. Fabricant : Will my hon. Friend give way ?

Mr. Atkinson : My hon. Friend may know.

Mr. Fabricant : My hon. Friend knows that I am the Member for Mid- Staffordshire, but perhaps he does not know that I was born in Rottingdean, four miles to the east of Brighton, and that in my school I used to play football just by the rubbish dump, which is to the east of Wilson avenue. The participants in the tour de France will have a tremendous view of the Sheepcoate Valley rubbish dump to the right and a rather--I had better not say what I was about to say--interesting housing estate to the left.

Mr. Atkinson : I am grateful for that help with the geography, because I was rather surprised that the hill climb section will be Wilson avenue. It does not quite ring as well as the section in the Alps, but I am sure that it will be as testing as any alpine class. The second day of the tour de France will be in Hampshire--including the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Malone)--and will end at Portsmouth.

The tour will be a major sporting event. Considerable planning is necessary. The problem is that when the lawyers in East Sussex county council considered the necessary road closures to allow the tour de France to take place--roads have to be closed for a considerable period--they examined the legislation and discovered that it was flawed. That flawed legislation would affect not only the tour de France, but some of the well- known major events in this country, such as the London marathon, the Notting Hill carnival and the great north run.

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The various pieces of legislation that apply to road closures and empower the police and other people to close roads are very archaic and appear to be deeply flawed. The organisers of the tour de France made it clear that they could not afford the capital investment in setting up the tour, with all the television coverage and all the support vehicles, unless they could be certain that a resident of, for example, Wilson avenue, who might feel aggrieved at the inconvenience of having the tour de France going up the road, was not able to go to the court and challenge the right to close the roads. The view of the lawyers was that if someone did challenge it, there was a chance that the challenge could succeed. So, although we are taking the Bill with some levity this morning, it is extremely important for the future of those major sporting events.

The difficulty is that we have let the genie out of the bottle. Having brought the subject to public notice, which we are doing today, we are alerting people who may feel that, for example, the Notting Hill carnival is something not of their taste, who would then challenge it. It is important that we enable the Bill to get a Second Reading today.

Mr. Matthew Banks (Southport) : I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would tell the House what his Bill will do, bearing in mind the fact that he mentioned Kent and Sussex earlier. Kent and Sussex's inclusion in the route raises the prospect of retired colonels fulminating at great length, quite incapable of getting to their golf clubs for hours on end. What will the Bill do for them ?

Mr. Atkinson : I will deal with that matter later.

The purpose of the Bill is to give new powers to close roads and to regulate the traffic that is disturbed by those road closures. The police currently have some powers to close a road. However, they do not have power to divert traffic up one-way streets the other way and that type of thing, which means that it becomes difficult to manage an event such as the tour de France.

I shall briefly review the existing rules that apply, currently, which can be used to close roads. Although section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 allows roads to be closed for cycle races, they are not the same kind of cycle races as the tour de France. They simply power through an area quickly and there is a rolling programme of road closures. Because of the vast number of spectators that we expect at the tour de France, the roads will have to be closed for much longer and that Act will not apply.

Mr. Butler : My hon. Friend seems to be saying that the power to close roads for cycle races already exists. Is he now proposing to close the roads for profiteroles ?

Mr. Atkinson : I would not necessarily agree with my hon. Friend's phraseology, but I agree that those are two different things. A cycle race that passes swiftly through an area where there are no spectators or vehicles dressed up as profiteroles is different from the tour de France, when the roads will be closed, huge crowds will gather and there will be much razzmatazz.

Mr. Fabricant : It may help my hon. Friend if I remind him that the milk race, which is a well-known cycle race, also starts in Brighton and attracts more than 100,000 spectators. Moreover, it brings in many millions of pounds worth of tourism to Brighton, so it is valuable and easily comparable with the RAC rally.

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Mr. Atkinson : I totally agree. Interestingly, there was uncertainty about whether roads could be closed for the milk race, but, because it disappears through places quickly, it is probably covered by the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

Mr. Butler : My hon. Friend may be interested to know that the milk race has now disappeared completely and will not take place this year. That is a great pity, because it came through Milton Keynes last year and roads were closed successfully for the purpose under existing law.

Mr. Atkinson : I am grateful for that information.

The major legislation that allows the police to close roads for such events goes back a long way. There are two such Acts. The first covers London and the City of London and events such as the marathon and the Notting Hill carnival, and is based on the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 and the City of London Police Act 1840, which was introduced by Sir Robert Peel to establish a police force in this country. It is still used in London today to close roads to allow events such as the London marathon to take place. One can see the problem with Acts of Parliament that predate the invention of the motor car.

For most of the rest of the country, the other Act that comes into play is section 21 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, which is also an arcane, ancient Act. I have done some interesting research into that Act and discovered that it would knock the current criminal justice legislation into a cocked hat. The Town Police Clauses Act stops people doing all sorts of weird and curious things in the street and gives the police an inordinate amount of power. For instance, it makes a penalty for

"Every person who exposes for show, hire, or sale (except in a market . . . ) any horse or other animal, or exhibits in a caravan or otherwise any show or public entertainment, or shoes, bleeds, or farries any horse or animal . . . or cleans, dresses, exercises, trains, or breaks, or turns loose any horse".

It goes on to deal with rabid dogs and says that it is an offence to have a dog suspected of canine madness. People were not allowed to slaughter animals, dress them in the streets or put plant pots on their window sills in case they fell off and dropped on people's heads. An abundance of people around the countryside today could be prosecuted under that weird and wonderful Act. It is also makes it an offence to knock on people's doors and run away. In their youth, one or two hon. Members may have done something similar from time to time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse) : Mr. Hendry.

Mr. Matthew Banks : In my maiden speech to the House some time ago, I pointed out that I had a problem putting my constituency on the map. With the greatest respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps I should have put myself on the map first. I am still trying to do so. My hon. Friend referred to the 1847 Act. I do not recall whether he referred to the Metropolitan Police Act 1839. Will he spare a moment to share my concern that our elders and betters in those days did not have the foresight to empower the police to close down parking bays and pay-and-display systems ? The police, therefore, do not have the appropriate power to do that now, yet they have been doing it for some time.

Mr. Atkinson : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is exactly the problem. They can close the roads, but they

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cannot close the parking bays, remove left and right turns, reverse somebody down a one-way street, or put an event through a town centre's pedestrian-only area.

The cyclists in the tour de France go considerably faster than 30 mph. While that is not an offence because no speed limit applies to cyclists, speed limits do apply to their motor cycle escorts, who happen to be a contingent of the Gendarmerie Nationale. Although they do not act as policemen when in this country, it would be embarrassing for Anglo-French relations if the Gendarmerie Nationale were nicked by the British police force while escorting the tour de France. So I take my hon. Friend's point about the difficulty with such an old, but nevertheless illustrious, Act.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill) : The hon. Gentleman will agree that this small Bill attracts widespread support throughout the House. Has anyone told him of his or her intention to oppose the Bill ? Is it, therefore, necessary to take the large number of interventions that the hon. Member has already taken within the first half an hour of this debate to try to explore every detail of the Bill ? Would not some of those points be better made in Committee ?

Mr. Atkinson : I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. We should debate the Bill fully because some people outside have raised objections to it and I am still not clear whether my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler) will object to it. He feels that it is inadequate for his interest, which is racing vintage Bentleys up the M1. He wants the Bill to include a power to hold a special vintage rally up the M1. So we are not all in harmony about the Bill, although I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support.

Mr. Spring : I was disturbed by my hon. Friend's remark that the French police would be here. Will they operate under the supervision of our police force ? Residents of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire might be concerned about that. I understand that French police carry arms. I hope that they will not be permitted to do so in this country. I am sure that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton ) would wish to have that clarified.

Mr. Atkinson : I am pleased to do so. The Gendarmerie Nationale, which is the traditional escort that surrounds the tour de France wherever it goes, will have the rank of officer constable and will not be able to carry guns because they will be exactly the same as us, except dressed in a funnier uniform. I assure my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) that that matter will not cause a problem.

May I use this short debate to put in a plug for the great north run, which could be threatened if the Bill does not go through ? It is a substantial half marathon which is run in the north-east ; many of my constituents take part. It is Europe's largest road race, with more than 30,000 competitors, and is an amazing occasion which requires a substantial number of road closures to deal with the large number of runners and the crowds. This year, it is sponsored by BUPA and my local paper, the Newcastle Journal . It would be greatly missed if it were affected by an objection to the Bill.

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To get on to the meat of the Bill--I am sure that the hon. Member for Mossley Hill is waiting for the facts--the purpose of the Bill is to put beyond doubt the powers to close roads. I should also stress that the powers that now reside with the police will be given to what has been deemed a local traffic authority. In many cases, that will be the local authority or the county council, or its successor. For trunk roads, the position will be slightly different because the Secretary of State will have powers. However, as a matter of practice, he will devolve the powers to the local traffic authority. That means that in order to implement a road closure of the scale referred to in the Bill, a large consultation process will be necessary to convince the local traffic authority that it should agree to close the road. One of the conditions in the Bill is that the road can be closed for only three days every year. The events normally happen only once a year ; to hold an event twice in a calendar year would require the permission of the Secretary of State.

We seek to balance the perfectly justifiable need to run such events, which many people enjoy, with the interests of local residents, who are obviously disturbed by them. One of the clauses of the Bill makes it clear that the closure of roads must not prevent pedestrian access to any premises. In other words, no one should be shut out of their home because of such an event.

I regret, for the sake of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East, that the Bill disallows closure of roads for motor races and non-authorised cycle races. That was a matter of concern to us. We considered it hard. The difficulty is that motor racing on public highways is a much more complicated business. My hon. Friend will be aware of the race in Birmingham, which is established by its own Act of Parliament. I believe that it involves only formula 3000 cars and drivers. The difficulty with road racing is that many road races involve saloon cars.

One of the lessons that we have sadly learnt in Britain, particularly from the motor cycle race in the Isle of Man, is that although races involve professional or semi-professional drivers in saloon car or on motor bikes, after the race, amateurs will race each other around the circuit when it is open to traffic again. They may try to emulate the speeds achieved by the professional racers. Last year at the Isle of Man TT races, six people were killed in accidents after hours. We reluctantly decided that we would have to exclude motor racing from the Bill.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding) : My hon. Friend has obviously made a great study of the matter. Has he established an example from abroad where motor races are held over public highways ? One thinks of the Monte Carlo rally. The result is an increase in road traffic deaths on those highways in the days following the race. My hon. Friend has clearly made an important exclusion in his Bill. The House should be told the statistical basis on which he has decided not to allow road closures for such events in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Atkinson : I cannot give the statistical basis for the aftermath of the Monte Carlo rally or other such events. All I can say is that Britain's experience from the Isle of Man is that such accidents happen. The Bill is a private Member's Bill. Like all such Bills, it is a delicate flower. It seeks to put right something that could cause enormous damage to some well-respected, well-liked institutions such as the London marathon.

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If we embarked on allowing road racing in this country, we would meet much more considerable opposition from environmental groups and so on. It is likely that a Bill of this nature would run on to the rocks as a consequence. I am afraid that a combination of funk and practicality made us take road racing out.

Mr. Quentin Davies : I think that my hon. Friend is being unduly modest. He has produced a most original and fascinating Bill. That is why there is such a large turnout this morning to consider it in some detail. Will my hon. Friend give further consideration to the analogy that I put to him of the Monte Carlo rally ? It is my impression that the towns and villages in France on the circuit of the Monte Carlo rally appreciate being part of it. They are flattered by it. It increases their tourist appeal, gives them publicity, and so on. My hon. Friend may be unduly cautious in assuming that there would be opposition to his Bill if it made it possible to hold races on public roads in the United Kingdom on the right sort of occasions.

Mr. Atkinson : I hear precisely what my hon. Friend says. He makes an extremely good point. In many respects, people might welcome road racing in the sense that towns and villages in France enjoy it. The difficulty is that in Britain it would spark controversy to establish such road races. Hon. Members on both sides of the House would object and oppose the Bill on those grounds. So, taken together, it was a wiser course to leave road races out, although I did so with some regret.

Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) : Does the hon. Gentleman agree, in view of the intervention of the hon. Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies), that the reason why there are so many Conservative Members present is that they wish to delay proceedings to such an extent that the Bill, which does not appear to be opposed, prevents a later debate about the role of women in our society in advance of International Women's Day on Sunday ?

Mr. Atkinson : The hon. Lady is accusing me of filibustering. I take great exception to that. The Bill deals with a matter of importance to thousands and thousands, and hundreds of thousands and millions of people who take part in such events. It is right that the matter should be properly explored and not simply nodded through, as the hon. Lady appears to want. It should be debated properly.

Ms Walley : I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the matter should be debated properly ; indeed, I agree with the Minister for Roads and Traffic that it should be debated properly. I was referring to the unnecessary filibustering, rather than debate on the real issues that the hon. Gentleman seeks to raise.

Mr. Atkinson : That is most unfair. My hon. Friends are here on a Friday to support the Bill

Mr. Butler : Perhaps.

Mr. Atkinson : Perhaps to support the Bill--but also to raise points that they find of interest. On a more relaxed day, which Friday is, it is right that hon. Members have a chance to intervene and an opportunity to take part in a fairly simple debate.

Mr. Clappison : There are several important issues that I want to deal with in respect of this legislation. My hon. Friend has just come to one of them. While I accept what

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my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies) said about allowing motor racing to take place, I have genuine fears about safety. I welcome what my hon. Friend said earlier and the approach that he took to safety, and the caution which was inherent in his approach. That is one of the things that I want to hear about in the debate.

Mr. Atkinson : My hon. Friend is right. One of the key factors is public safety. One of the reasons why it is necessary to close a road for an event such as the tour de France for such a length of time is that although the cavalcade may pass within an hour, the crowds gather much earlier. As the race passes through towns and built-up areas in the south- east in July, there will be many people on the roadside and crossing the road.

In those circumstances, it is essential that, from an early hour of the day, alternative traffic plans are put into effect so that spectators can stand in safety by the roadside or sit in the stands built for them, knowing that they will not become victims of a traffic accident. One of the factors at the heart of the Bill is the proper management of traffic to allow for safety.

I mentioned that there had been one objection from an outside body. The Ramblers Association considers that the Bill may be misused to prevent people from using legitimate rights of way. I can assure the Ramblers association that that is not the case. In its letter and its complaints, it has missed the point. It was worried that owners of grouse moors would use the proposed legislation to stop people using footpaths across the grouse moors. As much as some people who run grouse moors would dearly like to do that from time to time, it is completely wrong that the Bill should be used in that way. Hon. Members may recall that I said that one of the conditions in the Bill stipulates that roads could be closed on a maximum of three days of year, with the approval of the local authority. I believe that a grouse moor owner who sought to shoot on three days a year would not be wise to close a footpath and I am positive that a local traffic authority would not allow him to do that.

The Ramblers Association might bear in mind a further point ; it is, of course, illegal to discharge a firearm within 15 yards of a footpath. It is completely wrong on that matter.

Mr. Matthew Banks : Is my hon. Friend satisfied that local authorities, which will be given power to make decisions if his Bill proceeds, would be acting in a manner that was ultra vires and beyond their powers if they were to seek to prevent road traffic on grouse moors ?

Mr. Atkinson : Pass. I cannot give an honest answer to that, but I know a man who can. Perhaps later on I will be able to answer my hon. Friend. I think that they would be. Clearly we are talking about footpaths across grouse moors, but I do not know whether vehicles can use them. I have to take his point away with me for further consideration.

The Ramblers Association has no justification for its fears. It gets slightly hysterical when anybody puts any obstruction in the way of a footpath or pedestrian. No doubt, such a road closure will cause some inconvenience to a walker who, for example, is walking down to a road that has been closed, wishes to cross it and continue on a footpath up the other way. But the fact that roads are closed to traffic does not mean that they are closed to pedestrians.

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I must admit, however, that that rambler might have to wait at the roadside and watch the tour de France and the profiterole vans go past, and then cross the road. That is an inconvenience to that rambler, but one must balance that inconvenience with the enjoyment of the tens or hundreds of thousands of people watching the tour de France.

That is why, in my view, the traffic authority is a far better organisation to make that decision than the police. The police do not wish to make that decision. They do not want to have to balance the overall good of the public with the inconvenience to individuals. That is a job for an elected accountable body--in this case, a local council.

I must make the point that the police are very much in favour of the Bill. Indeed, I have received a large number of letters from Winchester city council, Hampshire county council, East Hampshire district council--all the local county council and district authorities in the area--in support of the Bill. In particular, I have received a letter from the assistant chief constable of Sussex police, who is in charge of co-ordinating the tour de France in July. Speaking on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers, he warmly welcomes the Bill and hopes that it will become law, simply for the reason that the police do not see why they should have the task of deciding whether a marathon should take place.

Mr. Quentin Davies : My hon. Friend's Bill makes provision to protect the right of individuals to walk to and from their properties and go about their business, so that pedestrians will not be interrupted. That is quite clear throughout the Bill. However, under clause 1(8), he allows the authority that is giving consent for an event to take place to restrict the riding of horses. Does that mean that an individual whose normal form of transport is to ride--who, reasonably and rightly, has abjured the motor car, which, after all, as we all know, is a dangerous and unpleasant form of transport, and prefers to use a horse to get about--and who wishes to come and go on horseback, can be prevented from doing so by the authority, in the context of the authority licensing an event within the meaning of my hon. Friend's Bill ?

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. That was a mini-speech, not an intervention.

Mr. Atkinson : My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. Curiously, a few individuals still go to and from work on horseback. Many years ago, I used to know one. He was a district reporter of a newspaper in Sussex, who used to cover his district on horseback, taking with him a large, old- fashioned, heavy, iron Imperial typewriter, which he used to keep in a special saddle bag. He was a well-known character because he had done the job for so long. He used to set up the typewriter in parish council meetings and, as the councillor or politician spoke, would type away, which drowned out what was being said. That used to make for rather interesting meetings. I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I digress.

We cannot allow horse traffic through the crowds of people who are waiting for an event, unless we can be certain that they are police horses, and of a sufficiently docile and disciplined nature not to be frightened or cause injury or damage if the crowd went out of control. I have to say that, under the Bill, the person who still goes to and

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