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Mr. Quentin Davies : Does my hon. Friend agree that a demonstration by Greenham Common women would probably be very entertaining ?
Perhaps I might now deal with the Bill in more detail. I am attending this morning, not just through natural enthusiasm and at the suggestion of a senior colleague, but because it seems to me that the Bill appears to offer the opportunity for motor sport to be authorised on closed roads. Indeed, specifically in the Bill, new section 16A (3)(b) envisages that motor events other than road racing or,
"A race or trial of speed"
to use the words of the 1988 Act, could be permitted under regulation. Therefore, the whole question of the use of roads for motorised sporting events is relevant to the debate.
In Britain, we live with an archaic system of obtaining road closure orders, which is why I welcome the Bill. The system is archaic in that it is inefficient and largely ineffectual in comparison with those of all our European Community partners, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, which have different regulations. To obtain a road closure for motor sport entails the suspension of the Road Traffic Act. That is the important part of Bill. What is important is not the closing of the road for the purpose of public order, or any other purpose, but the subsequent suspension of the effect of the Road Traffic Acts. Very few motorised road races would be much use if they were subject to a speed limit of 30 mph.
Currently, to suspend the Road Traffic Act requires a separate Bill on each occasion. I believe that my hon. Friend's Bill provides an opportunity for us to come into line with legislation that will have more than adequate local control and safeguards, which was the subject of comments from my hon. Friends. It will substantially reduce the cost of applying for such events and put the decision making where it should be, with local authorities and the local police, particularly after the changes in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill on the control of police and the effectiveness of a local plan for the police go through.
Mr. Fabricant : Does my hon. Friend share my disappointment that, under clause 1(3)(a) motor racing on public ways is specifically excluded from the Bill ? Will he--as I will if I have the privilege of serving on the Committee that will consider the Bill--aim to have that subsection deleted so that the formula 3000 road race in Birmingham could more easily be possible under the terms of the Bill ?
Mr. Butler : I share many of my hon. Friend's disappointments in life. That is one of them. I shall not address myself too strongly to that point, because I am eager that it be picked up along the way. I am grateful, and I am sure that the authorities will be, for my hon. Friend's offer to serve on that Committee. I wish that I were not already serving on another Committee.
I shall make the case, if I may, for motor sport events being held on closed roads in Britain. The present situation is that local authorities and the police working together enjoy the right to close roads for fetes, parades, road works and other entertainments when they feel it appropriate. Those closure orders, however, do not necessitate suspending the Road Traffic Act, which, as I have said, is the crux of the matter. To allow a motor sport event to take place on closed roads in Britain, private Members' Bills sometimes come before the House on a case-by-case basis.
I shall give some examples of that--regrettably, briefly. The Birmingham super prix required the Birmingham City Council Act 1985, which was fought and dragged screaming through this place against great resistance just to enable Birmingham to do what Monaco does most successfully every year at great benefit to that city, its local traders and the local economy. Before this speech, I had not been invited there--I might now be.
Strathclyde regional council had to secure authority in November 1988 for the tour of Mull rally. The Borders regional council--I think that they are both in Scotland--had to obtain approval in November 1993 for the Jim Clark memorial rally. Hon. Members will recall that he was the greatest British racing driver that we have produced so far. Sadly, he is dead. I can find no detail on the Hull city kart race of 1990, but it is a well-established rumour. The north-eastern consortium race is under consideration.
Bringing those applications before Parliament one by one imposes a huge burden of costs on the instigators of such events--usually local authorities backed by local business people. Exceptionally, however, there are no restrictions on the Isle of Man, and in Northern Ireland, 10 road closure orders per year are allowed for motor sports events. None is allowed in Wales, Scotland and, worst of all, England. That is a most peculiar quirk of our law.
Under the terms of those closures, the Road Traffic Act is suspended. In Northern Ireland, on 10 events per year, one can secure an order to achieve precisely for motor race events what the Bill suggests should be allowed for the tour en Angleterre. Additionally in Northern Ireland, unlimited road closures are available, with the Road Traffic Act suspension attached, for kart racing. As it is in Northern Ireland, I should be more specific. The definition of a kart in Northern Ireland--my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire, who has a Lotus Elan, might like to consider this--for the purpose of those closure orders is a vehicle of less than 4 ft 6 in. wheel base and less than 5 cwt
Column 1216in total weight. I own an Austin 7 trials car which comes within that definition, and I am tempted to take it to Northern Ireland to try it.
The Road Traffic Act 1991 allows for temporary venues such as supermarket car parks, which would otherwise be a public place, although not a highway, to be used for motor sport by being designated public places under regulations for the purpose. Such events must then be authorised by one of a limited list of bodies maintained by the Department of Transport.
That authorisation is allowed under the Motor Vehicles (Off Road Events) Regulations 1992, which came into force on 1 July 1992. They say :
"The following bodies are authorising bodies under these Regulations".
The list then given is of interest not just in the present situation but because we are told that regulations will need to be made under the Bill once it has gone through. That list includes the Amateur Motor Cycle Association, something quaintly called the Association of Rover Clubs Ltd., which I assume will shortly have to change its name, the Auto-Club Union, British Schoolboy Motorcycle Association, the International Organisation of Professional Drivers Ltd., the National Autograss Sport Association Ltd., NORA 92 Ltd., the National Traction Engine Trust, the Royal Automobile Club --naturally--the Scottish Auto Cycle Union Ltd. and the Youth Motorcycle Sport Association Ltd. Even when we have inserted a new section 13A in the Road Traffic Act of 1988, under which the regulations will be made, only a restricted and limited number of bodies has any power or authority whatever. We are not seeking here, nor is the Bill, so far as it goes-- which is just off the start line of what is needed--to achieve an open house.
Cycle racing traditionally enjoys a special freedom to use closed roads. Notwithstanding the fact that the accompanying entourage of support vehicles and, we are told today, the French desserts that will be following --I hope that in replying to the debate the Minister will reassure us that the traditional chocolate sauce will not be poured over the top of the profiteroles before they travel along Brighton seafront or wherever it was- -are often required to be driven in a manner that would be considered in contravention of the Road Traffic Act. I have never watched a cycle race, but the glimpses that I see on television before the excellent Anglia local news comes on suggest that they have vans following within a matter of a few inches--I suppose that they would say a few centimetres--of the back of the racing bikes. One sees motor cycle outriders, presumably gendarmerie, weaving in and out around traffic bollards and so on.
Mr. Peter Atkinson : Will my hon. Friend give way ?
Mr. Butler : I should be pleased to give way.
Mr. Atkinson : I understand my hon. Friend's concerns about road racing--I thought that I explained this earlier. I ask my hon. Friend not to continue with this sort of chauvinistic attack on the French. By coming here and allowing us two days of the tour de France, the French are doing this country a considerable favour and sniping about profiteroles and the gendarmes is totally out of place.
Mr. Butler : I have changed my mind ; I said that I was pleased to give way. That is an outrageous attack. I have never sniped at a profiterole, I have never insulted one and I have never even stamped on one.
Mr. Quentin Davies : Has my hon. Friend eaten one ?
Mr. Butler : Unlike the Minister, who may express a different view, I rarely eat profiteroles. I resent the use of the word "chauvinist", especially in this context because it suggests a dislike of the French. The reason that I particularly object to it is that it is a French word. Indeed, it is named after Nicolas Chauvin who was a Napoleonic veteran. Professionally, he was used to losing battles with the British and was celebrated by the freres Cogniard. I hope that you will forgive me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if my French accent is not as good as yours. Therefore I especially resent the suggestion that I dislike the French who, given any opportunity, I would embrace whole-heartedly. I especially resent having a French word used to insult me in that context.
I know why the tour de France is coming here next year. Every year for many years, the Vintage Sports Car Club has taken a bicycle rally to Boulogne. Several hundred people go over by ferry with their bicycles. They have no other transport. They are not required to take fish and chips or anything like that, or vehicles dressed up as such. They take over several hundred bicycles and cycle on one of two routes. They cycle either around the old Boulogne motor race circuit or as far as the first French inn, depending on their enthusiasm and the comfort of their bicycles. I believe that the French intend to come here this year in retaliation for that.
Closed road motor sport events, by agreement with local authorities and the police--that is built into the Bill--are permitted in the following European countries : France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Eire, the Netherlands, Denmark and Luxembourg. My memory of geography suggests that only the United Kingdom in the European Community, or the European Union as it is quaintly termed, remains the odd man out.
Of the French closed road events, the Le Mans 24-hour event is the predominant one. No one suggests that the Le Mans race should be cancelled because it substantially uses public roads. Indeed, many of us have driven the public road section of the race. In doing so in a vintage Bentley a few years ago, I managed to try the catch area with the loose gravel, and it took seven very amused Frenchmen to lift me out of it afterwards.
The Le Mans race is a closed road race. No one objects to it. There is no public order dissatisfaction in France because of it. There are no deaths because of it. People do not storm off after it in their cars, crash into each other or kill each other, as has been suggested might be the case. No such problems occur. That race takes place every year. We should be inordinately grateful to Le Mans because it was there that the great W.O. Bentley cars came to their pre-eminent position in the history of motor racing on the road--exactly the sort of event that the Bill would permit.
It was not only Bentley motor cars. The Austin 7 also has a valuable history at Le Mans. Indeed, I am fortunate enough to own the one which finished 27th in 1935.
Mr. Fabricant : Was my hon. Friend in it ?
Mr. Butler : Certainly not. I shall give way to my hon. Friend after reminding him that the first Lotus was built by Colin Chapman. It was an Austin 7 special.
Mr. Fabricant : Was my hon. Friend driving this car at the time ?
Mr. Butler : It was not just an Austin 7 special--it was considerably better structured than my hon. Friend's motor car. We are talking about not only the first Lotus but the first BMW--perhaps that is ironic in view of recent events regarding what used to be called Austin Rover--and the first Datsun, but we will not go into that.
For many years, motor racing on the road has taken place in other parts of the world and, indeed, in our partner nations. It is a great pity that it does not take place in this country. The first competition on public roads was held in Wisconsin in July 1878 with six entries from various steam- propelled vehicles, of which only two started, and was won at 6 mph for a prize of $5,000.
The first road competition held in Europe, again apparently without any problems, was in 1887. It was sponsored by Velocipede and organised by the editor. It was held over a short course near Paris. To great surprise, it received only one entry--of a steam quadracycle driven by the Comte de Dion. Not surprisingly, he won. Shortly after that, road events were held in this country. Indeed, they are still held in this country.
Reference has been made to the possibility of a few dozen people watching this race. I hope that many thousands of people will watch it. I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham that the number of people who watch existing events is enormous. Indeed, compared to the number of people who watch minor interest sports such as football, it is staggering. The RAC rally attracts 2 million spectators each year--I do not mean sitting at home and watching on television, I mean present. Up to 1 million people attend to watch the London to Brighton run. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Minister has had the good fortune to do so. I hope that he is there regularly and has, as most of us have, a treasured copy of the film "Genevieve" featuring prominently the mother of one of his ministerial colleagues.
The case for bringing Great Britain into line--we seek no more than that-- with other countries is that, first, motor sport has been governed by the Royal Automobile Club since 1897. Under the Bill, closed road events would remain subject to the tight controls and associated safety standards of that body. This is not about authority to go racing past people's front doors but about allowing controlled use where infrastructure routes exist. Frequently, that is industrial areas or unpopulated locations.
Secondly, motor clubs throughout Britain continue to report a loss of venues in traditional areas as a result of the introduction of sites of special scientific interest and more managed recreational access to forest national parks and other traditional venues. Motor racing is a vast sport. It is not the hobby of a few people at the weekend. Many thousands of people compete every weekend. Thirdly, as host to a round of the world rally championship, the RAC is under pressure to produce routes that compare in competition terms with our European partners, as well as non- European world rally nations such as Australia, Argentina and New Zealand where closed road events are permitted.
Fourthly, the proposed legislation change envisages authorisation of events by local authorities with the agreement of the police. All events would be under the auspices of responsible governing bodies such as the RAC and the question of how those decisions should be made has already been raised by my hon. Friends.
Column 1219Fifthly, Britain is currently the world leader in the motor sport industry. We are at the forefront of any motor sport that one can name. The industry provides 50,000 full-time jobs and 75 per cent. of the world's rally teams are based in Britain. If we are to retain that position, it is vital that we retain our breadth and depth of experience in motor sport--we cannot do so without access to venues and there will no access to suitable venues without the Bill and some amendment to it.
I shall outline briefly what type of events would be run on closed roads. Some sections of stage rallies would be run on them and, in that context, I should like to mention that Milton Keynes was going to hold a stages rally in October last year. The RAC Motor Sports Association, the local police, the local authority and the local highway authority all approved and wished the rally to proceed. It would have been held in a part of central Milton Keynes called Campbell park where the roads have been laid out and dedicated as public highways but around which nothing has yet been built. I hasten to reassure the House that it is only a small section of Milton Keynes. It has superb quality roads and would have been eminently suitable for the rally, but we could not go ahead because of the archaic laws, which put us out of step with our European partners and which should be changed by the Bill.
Secondly, a limited number of motor races would be held on closed roads, generally in city centres, such as happened in Birmingham. There would not be a large demand for such races, but there are some suitable sites.
The third type of event would be hill climbs and sprints, which require a very limited amount of road. A closed road possibility would allow Britain to participate in the European hill climb championship which, astonishingly, we are not able to do at present because of the limitation of private venues. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds spoke of leisure, sport and recreation. An enormous proportion of such activities is done by and with motor vehicles, including vintage vehicles. I am thinking specially of the little French town of Angoule me and its annual rallye des ramparts. It is a splendid event for which the roads--indeed, almost the whole town centre--are closed. People race around wildly in old motor cars ; no one is killed or injured and they all have a tremendous time and the local economy is boosted by tourists. It is an extremely important event for the town and is enjoyed by many British people who, unfortunately, cannot enjoy such events in England.
The question of safety is sometimes raised in the context of motor sport because people consider motor cars to be dangerous. The Office of Population Censuses and Surveys fatality statistics for 1992 show that in the league table of dangerous sports--I am not sure how they are rated, but the most dangerous rating is 26--cycling is rated as being more dangerous than motor racing. I think that I have that the right way round. They are very close together, but cycling is more dangerous than motor racing. Analysis of RAC Motor Sports Association organised events for the past 32 years reveal a death toll of nil in rallying for the past five years and an average of less than 0.5 per year overall. The figure for racing is slightly higher at 1.5 per year. In other words, we are not talking about wildly dangerous events.
I shall now deal with some of the regulations that may be made under the Bill, and especially to the Motor Vehicles (Competition and Trials) Regulations 1969 made
Column 1220under section 260(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1960. Those regulations give a taste of the control that is imposed, and would be imposed under the Bill, on closed road events. Some have a political ring in the context of present difficulties. For example, a "'performance test' means a test in which merit is attached to a competitor's skill in manoeuvring or controlling the vehicle" -- we now come to the political point
"including maintaining the forward motion of the vehicle in adverse conditions".
In this Parliament, we have what might be described as a "problem-solving event", which is
"an event in which the competitors are required by the rules of the event to travel the route by a fixed time"
the next election
"and are given before that time the task of setting and solving a number of set problems."
I am pleased to say that we are approaching what could be described as a "rest halt" which is
"a place specified in the rules of the event as a place where competitors are required to stop during the course of the event" or debate
"or may stop . . . without incurring a penalty".
Also in a political context, I found a definition of "night event" which means
"an event part or whole of which is intended to take place between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m."
A brief glimpse at one of the many statutory instruments shows, conclusively I hope, that the regulation of motor events on closed roads to produce safe, enjoyable and economically productive activity is possible. I welcome the Bill and subsection (3)(b) of the proposed section 16A and look forward to new regulations. I see the Bill as being enabling rather than preventive legislation, in the spirit of this Government. I look forward to it enabling trials, driving tests and other such events.
I invite my hon. Friend the Minister to consider, either today or on a subsequent occasion during the passage of the Bill, whether the wording of subsection (3)(a) might not be amended to add the words, "unless the motor race is authorised by or under regulations under that section", which would bring it into line with subsections (3)(b) and (3)(c). On that point, with the greatest possible relief, I conclude my comments.
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), who is not in his place at the moment ; I am sure that he has some business to attend to. Getting a private Member's Bill through is one of the few really important things that any hon. Member can do. Bearing that in mind, it is unfortunate that we had some filibustering earlier in the debate--[ Hon. Members :-- "No we did not."] I think that we did
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris) : Order. The hon. Lady will know that if there had been filibustering, Mr. Deputy Speaker would have immediately brought the House to order. There may have been some extensive speeches, but they were not filibustering.
Ms Walley : In view of the comments that we have heard from the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant), including his comments about various aspects of radio licences, I wonder whether he was speaking with a constituency interest or with interests from other parts of the country.
I am sure that the Minister will be enormously grateful to his hon. Friend the Member for Hexham for the Bill
Column 1221because the tour de France will arrive in this country just as the channel tunnel and the services through the tunnel are intended to arrive. We may not have the services, legislation or regulations in place to enable a smooth handover, so it is important that the Bill gets on to the statute book. I should have thought that the Government would not want any wasteful interventions which could prejudice the Bill.
We have already heard a lot about the importance of the Bill. Let us consider why we need it. The tour de France took place in this country some years ago to publicise the new Plymouth-Roscoff ferry service. The event was badly received in 1974 because it had to be staged on one piece of road. It did not have the impact on tourism that the Bill intends to have and, as a result--and not least because of the rain--it was not a success.
The organisers hope that the much-heralded channel tunnel will be an opportunity to bring the tour de France back to this country. The promoters and everyone else involved, not least hon. Members who have a constituency interest in the route that the race will take, want to ensure that the event will be successful. The Bill is, therefore, required. I hope that the endless delays in the opening of the channel tunnel will not jeopardise the event as it was jeopardised in 1974 when it was intended to promote the Plymouth-Roscoff ferry service.
The Opposition are concerned that transport proposals are repeatedly being introduced through private Members' Bills. Although we welcome the Bill, it is not a substitute for the transport policy that we want. We want a policy that would give all hon. Members who have spoken about the importance of cycling, for example, an opportunity to integrate cycling into transport policy.
Such a policy would provide an opportunity to deal with British Rail's transport arrangements, which are unsatisfactory and will lead to a ludicrous spectacle when many people come to this country to take part in cycle races. Let us suppose that they want to travel further afield than Dover or Portsmouth to visit tourist regions in the rest of the country. How will they reach them with their bicycles ? What sort of an obstacle race will they face if the policies of British Rail and regional railways make it impossible for them to take their bikes to places as far afield as Aberdeen, Edinburgh or anywhere else in the British Isles ? How will they find out whether the service will allow them to take their cycles by train ? How will they find out, following the privatisation of British Rail, whether they will be able to use the through-ticketing procedure whereby bikes can be taken to wherever people wish ? I see that the Minister is becoming slightly irritated, but it is high time that cycling was at the heart of transport policy.
The promotion of the health interests that will arise from such a cycling event should be extended to the local level as well as to towns on the route of the event.
It is interesting that we are debating the Bill because of the inadequacy of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 and the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, which have been mentioned by hon. Members. They were passed at a time when cars, let alone parking arrangements, had not been thought of and were not on our streets. That archaic legislation is supposed to deal with the organised events.
The legislation is no more archaic than our rail infrastructure, which will transport cyclists who arrive
Column 1222from France. The highly technical railway channel tunnel service from Lille has already been built and is up and ready to run. We have heard so many times in this place what will happen when trains reach the United Kingdom. They will limp along at perhaps 49 or 53 mph. Our railway service has the same Victorian infrastructure as the legislation that the Bill seeks to update.
Our transport policy is driven not by the Secretary of State for Transport and other transport Ministers and not even by people responsible for tourism, but by the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry.
The Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill is being considered in Committee. It has been introduced not to help our transport infrastructure but because the President of the Board of Trade and the Department of Trade and Industry wish to repeal regulations in order to save industry money. It lifts the lorry ban in London, and deregulates provisions on heavy goods vehicle operator licences and public service vehicle operator licences. There are a whole four pages in the DTI working party review that promise all kinds of other deregulation of which we have not yet dreamt. That has nothing to do with transport policy.
If only the Government and the Secretary of State for Transport could take a leaf out of this private Member's Bill. If only the Minister could give an undertaking to the House that he would be prepared to promote an integrated transport system which we are all crying out for and that, at the same time, he could recognise that the right sort of balance is one between central Government and local authorities. Perhaps he could use more discretion and take the opportunities presented in the Bill to hand over some powers from the police to local authorities better to enable the assessment of local situations and to deal with traffic measures accordingly. If only we had had that kind of Bill and the Government had used the opportunity to give an off-the-peg Bill to someone fortunate who finished high in the ballot for a private Member's Bill, we could have brought forward a much more coherent transport Bill which we would have been happier to support.
It is important to comment on the regulations. Local authorities across the country, not only in the areas where we have heard that the tour de France will be staged, welcome the Bill, want to see it on the statute book and, as we have heard, have made widespread representations.
I heard what was said about the Ramblers Association and I hope that the Minister will give those comments due consideration, because, contrary to what was said earlier, my experience has always been that the Ramblers Association always speaks with genuine concern for its members. I hope that the Minister will give attention in his winding-up speech to the safeguards and assurances that it seeks. The Bill is a wasted opportunity because it could go much further in bringing up to date the two pieces of legislation of 1847 and 1839 to which I referred earlier. Although there is much to be said for arrangements for special events, such as Remembrance day services, which we know take place annually, we should take account of what local authorities say and consider the many requests that they receive about which they wish to be able to use discretion. Local authorities and the police feel that it is often not a matter for the police to decide whether a particular local event should go ahead, but that local authorities, in consultation with the police, should decide whether to allow closure of roads for events such as carnivals, street parties and perhaps filming.
Column 1223The Bill covers only special events ; the same powers are not given to deal with more local events. That issue should be addressed by the Minister in the regulations, which I understand will be issued hand in hand with the Bill, assuming that it passes all its stages. The Bill concerns other issues in relation to the role of local authorities. As I always expect, we heard a lot of abuse of local authorities from Conservative Members. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Conservative party controls so few county councils, highways authorities and people with responsibility for transport and it is still shellshocked by what happened at the last local council county elections. Local authorities have paid officers, they have the advice and they know what is needed locally. Repeatedly, local authorities ask why a whole stream of other issues that relate to traffic regulations cannot be handed to them in the way in which we are handing over responsibility in the Bill.
There are many issues relating, for example, to approval for traffic- calming schemes. I do not know about the postbags of Conservative Members, but I am always inundated with requests from constituents for more money to be spent on such schemes. However, it is a question not just of money but of local authorities having the discretion within a national regulatory framework to know what kind of traffic-calming schemes are needed.
It is also of concern that there is a requirement to seek Department of Transport approval for 20 mph zones. I do not see why we could not legislate or introduce regulations that would make it easier for local authorities to take that kind of decision. The Minister shakes his head, but these issues relate to road safety, and local authorities request more discretion over them. An example is a requirement under section 23 of the Road Traffic Act 1984 to inform the Secretary of State of an authority's proposal for pedestrian crossings. The Minister may say that that has nothing to do with the Bill, but if there were a coherent approach to transport policy we would not treat one aspect of transport in isolation from another. We would have a Government Bill and would not need to rely on a private Member's Bill to bring up to date this archaic legislation which local authorities and the police currently have to use to deal with all the requests that come to them. These are important issues.
We wish the Bill good progress. Sunday is International Women s Day and an important debate will follow this one. I hope that it will help to balance the chauvinism and all the comments to which we have had to listen in this debate. We support the Bill and ask the Minister to pay particular attention to the matters relating to regulations which he could introduce and which could extend the principle of the Bill to major events and more localised events, if the Government chose to do so.
The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Key) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) on his Bill, which the Government support. It seeks to clarify the circumstances in which highways can be closed to allow sporting and social events and other entertainments. It meets a need that has developed over recent years and is particularly timely in the light of the proposed visit by the tour de France to Kent, Sussex and Hampshire in July.
Column 1224About this time last year while I had the honour to serve in the Department of National Heritage, I hosted the launch in Trafalgar square of the tour de France en Angleterre. I was always enthusiastic about it, but, within a few weeks, I had been shuffled and was Minister for Roads and Traffic. Already, we had decided that we would need to ensure that there were appropriate and adequate powers to enable the tour and similar events to take place around the country. The Bill has all- party support. It is significant that hon. Members supporting it come not only from all parties but from the length and breadth of the land. The Bill was presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham and is supported by, among others, my hon. Friends the Members for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) and for Falmouth and Cambourne (Mr. Coe). The Cornish, as ever, know a good thing when they see it.We are grateful to the Societe de tour de France and to the British company Sport for Television which has been co-ordinating the event in this country.
A number of my hon. Friends have made supportive and helpful speeches and probed in some depth--perhaps to an unusual depth for a Second Reading--the intentions of my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Spring) was right to speak about the importance of cycling to the health of the nation. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Malone) spoke about the importance of emergency vehicles having access even when roads are closed to normal use, and he also spoke about the importance to retailers of any restrictions. I shall seek to answer those points.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) stressed the importance of balance, and my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) was right to draw attention to the fact that London is but a region of the United Kingdom, as is the south east, and that much goes on elsewhere. He mentioned his local air show and flower show, and the importance of tourism to Southport. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler) made a telling contribution, and I shall reply to many of his points later. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) made a forthright speech, in which she addressed a number of issues that she would prefer us to be debating instead of the Bill. That will prolong my response, as I must pay her the courtesy of answering. I welcome the hon. Lady's constructive approach and I am glad that she and her hon. Friends will support the Bill today.
The hon. Lady was right to draw attention to the importance of an integrated transport policy, which we seek to achieve. It is true that the Department of Transport is not the Ministry for Roads--which is why, although 90 per cent. of journeys are by road, 40 per cent. of the money goes on public transport subsidy. And quite right, too. The development of the package approach gives local authorities the discretion that they seek to spend money on pedestrianisation and cycling projects, as well as on road schemes and subsidising public transport.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) would have something to say about bicycles, through tickets and trains. In fact, he is often heard saying it. The hon. Lady will have to wait a little while to see what emerges, but I have no doubt that privatisation of the rail network will prove a boon in encouraging the public to use trains. That is the whole purpose. It is odd for the Labour
Column 1225party to argue that because a service is bad at present, it will get worse if one changes the system. It will not-- it will get better. I am sure of that.
I hope that the trains in service at the French end of the channel tunnel whose virtues the hon. Lady trumpeted so loudly will not continue to come off the rails as frequently as they appear to do now. I am sure that they will not. When those trains come to this country, and despite the fact that they will have to wend their way slowly and carefully through the suburbs of London, the journey from the tunnel to central London will be achieved at an average 80 mph, which is not too bad.
The Department of Trade and Industry has an extremely important part to play in ensuring an adequate transport policy. A prime motive for a road and rail system is to support the prosperity of British industry. If the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North had her way, industry would be inconvenienced and disadvantaged vis-a -vis industry throughout the rest of Europe. The deregulation initiative is excellent. It is not about saving money but stopping money being wasted on bureaucracy and paper being shuffled about. That is something that Labour will never learn.
The regulations mentioned by the hon. Lady, such as traffic calming, exist to ensure that local and highway authorities have discretion. Many regulations are laid for an experimental period, and when it ends and if it proved a success, the requirement to return the scheme to the Department of Transport is waived. That happens regularly, as with the majority of traffic-calming schemes--which were relaxed last August. I am sure that the 20 mph zone experiment has been a huge success. There have been masses of applications, and I hope that that scheme, too, can be relaxed.
Although the hon. Lady's remarks about the film industry were a little wide of the mark, I am happy to respond because I was the Minister with responsibility for that industry last year. She is right to stress the need to give film companies access to our roads. The problems created for the industry in this country prompted a number of film makers to go abroad--for example, to Paris. It is comparatively easy to shut off large areas of central Paris, whereas London takes a different view. However, great progress has been made with the London Film Commission and in many other cities throughout the country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage is untiring in his desire to ensure that the film industry remains as good as it is and becomes better.
Conservative Members often mention local authorities because they have intimate knowledge of them, as I do. I maintain direct and regular contact with a wide range of other local authorities because of my ministerial responsibilities, including Manchester and Salford and, because of my city challenge responsibilities, with Wigan, Blackburn and Bolton. Scarcely a week goes by without my talking to local authorities and political parties of all shapes, sizes and persuasions.
Although highways are primarily used to get from one place to another, there are long-standing rights to use them for pleasure. It is difficult to know how those rights arose or where to start, but I suspect that they can be traced back to Chaucer's time. I shall not entertain the House with a travelogue or a Chaucer's tale, but we know from the