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"Canterbury Tales", written more than 500 years ago, that pilgrimages were made as much for the pleasure of the journey as for the spiritual benefits of achieving the goal. One might even view them as early outward-bound courses, especially if one had to read them at school, as I did--albeit in translation, which the purists might think a weak and wimpish thing to do.

For many years, social events have been held on highways. My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham mentioned a good example--the Lewes bonfire party, where each year thousands of people celebrate Guy Fawkes' failure to blow up this House. Originally, it was a small local occasion, but as individual mobility has increased so has the number of people attending. Nowadays, there are approximately 80,000 spectators. The large volume of cars means that extensive traffic management measures need to be taken to minimise the danger and inconvenience that would otherwise result. Other long-standing events could also benefit from the proposed provisions. Many of them are a long way from London and the south-east, which may reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Southport.

One cannot, however, ignore the London to Brighton veteran car run or the many road races and marathons which are held throughout the country. At present, they do not cause too many difficulties, but if the number of participants or spectators increased, as it has done for some other events, considerable disruption would result. The Bill ensures that those events can continue.

World-famous events such as the London marathon depend on the good will of the various authorities and the tolerance of the people of London. The marathon is a good example of the fact that one must provide not merely for the participants, but for the support teams and spectators.

As long ago as 1839, the House recognised that special measures were needed when it gave the Metropolitan police Commissioner powers to help control events in London. In 1956, it was agreed that events such as cycle races need to be controlled and in the Road Traffic Act 1956, cycle racing was made illegal unless held in accordance with regulations. That Act also gave chief constables powers to close roads for authorised cycle races. Those powers were perfectly adequate then and remain adequate for the overwhelming majority of cycle races, but they are not sufficient for the really big events, such as the tour de France or the Kellogg's tour of Britain. Those and other events need powers that will make it possible to control the huge number of spectators, so as to minimise the disruption to local communities.

The razzmatazz of the supporting cavalcades is integral to many of those spectacles. If we are to allow events of that scale--I am sure that we all want to--some people will inevitably be inconvenienced. For example, parking may have to be banned in some residential streets, vehicular access to some properties will not be possible, some footpaths may be severed for the duration of the event and, in the case of very large events, considerable disruption to traffic can be expected.

That inconvenience to some people for a short time must be measured against the great pleasure that such events give to so many millions of people and against the economic benefits that they bring. Regulations will impose requirements that adequate notice is given to people and businesses who might be affected so that they can make plans to minimise the effects. I shall return to that subject.

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The present powers are old and in some cases are given to the police. They, understandably, would prefer the decisions to be taken by democratically elected councils, who will consider the benefits to their constituents and the costs.

I should like to put on the record my thanks to the police forces, the county constabularies, who have worked so hard on the tour de France, and to the Association of Chief Police Officers, which has been so supportive and helpful to us and to my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham.

I should also like to put on record my admiration for the Gendarmerie Nationale. I have never known them to be anything but courteous and efficient whenever I have travelled in France, and the speed and effectiveness with which they unclog traffic is exemplary. We look forward to seeing them here and I am sure that they will be an important part of the tour de France en Angleterre and that they will be welcome.

Several powers exist to control road traffic on special occasions, but none is quite suitable for large-scale events on the highway. Some were made many years ago--most before the invention of the motor car or even the pedal cycless. When they came into force, no one could have envisaged the type of events that take place today. Especially, it could not be foreseen that huge numbers of spectators would be able to attend the events or that they would be travelling by motor car.

In general, the existing powers allow only a limited closure and do not provide for associated traffic management. For example, it may be necessary to introduce temporary one-way systems or to allow traffic movements, such as right turns, that are normally banned. The oldest power that is still in use is, as has been mentioned, section 52 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, which allows the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to

"make regulations for the route to be observed by all Carts, Carriages, Horses and persons, and for preventing the obstruction of the streets and thoroughfares . . . in all times of public processions, public rejoicings or illuminations . . . "

It is doubtful whether that power can override existing traffic regulation orders--for example, to allow an event to go the wrong way down a one-way street or to allow an event involving vehicles to pass through a pedestrianised area. It is that doubt which my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham seeks to remove.

Section 21 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 grants similar powers outside London to "the commisioners"--nowadays their successors, the district councils. That power has the same difficulties as the Metropolitan Police Act. The Town Police Clauses Act :

"among other things prohibits one from wantonly disturbing any inhabitant by pulling or ringing on a doorbell"

as my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham pointed out, and "Beating or shaking any carpet rug or mat in the street (except doormats beaten or shaken before the hour of eight in the morning) ; and keeping any swine in or near any street so as to be a common nuisance".

Section 31 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, first introduced in the Road Traffic Act 1956, gives chief constables powers to close roads to allow an authorised cycle race to take place. Cycle races are authorised under the Cycle Racing on the Highways Regulations 1960. The regulations impose conditions as to the number of participants, the length of any race through a built-up area and the length of route that must be covered before a race repasses a point. That power may be adequate to deal with

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the tour de France itself. However, it suffers the same defects as the Metropolitan Police Act and the Town Police Clauses Act in respect of existing traffic regulation orders, and will almost certainly not cover the advertising caravan of about 1,500 vehicles that precedes the race.

When the legislation was passed in 1956, there was considerable cross-party concern that it gave the Government far too much power and was a precursor to banning cycle racing altogether. It was, according to Mr. Charles Pannell, the Member for Leeds, West, a "vicious form of Clause designed to strike against the handsomest vehicle on the road".--[ Official Report , 30 July 1956 ; Vol. 557, c. 1039.]

Mr. W.R. Rees-Davies, the Member for the Isle of Wight, said "The fact of the matter is that one day we might reach the horror of the Labour Party being returned to power. If that terrible day comes . . . what a situation we should find then as regards cycle racing on the roads."--[ Official Report , 30 July 1956 ; Vol. 557, c. 1040-41.]

I am delighted that we have all-party support for the Bill now, even if it was feared that we did not then. The fears of both the hon. Members that I have quoted have proved unfounded. I have a great deal more sympathy with the comments of Sir Frank Medlicott, the Member for Norfolk, Central, who said that

"the tour de France is a wonderful event, and we should be proud if we should achieve something like it in this country."--[ Official Report , 30 July 1956 ; Vol. 557, c. 1037.]

The most modern legislation is section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, amended in 1991, which allows a traffic authority--a county, a metropolitan district or the Secretary of State to make an order restricting or prohibiting the use of a road in certain circumstances. Those powers were designed to be used where, for example, maintenance is to take place or where there is an immediate danger--such as a bridge falling down. Those are circumstances in which an authority has little choice but to close a road if the road network is to be restored to good condition. Closures for sporting or social events are different. No authority is obliged to close a road or redirect traffic to allow an event to happen. There is some doubt, therefore, about whether this power is appropriate.

For all those reasons, new primary legislation is needed to allow proper traffic regulation for such events and thus ensure that people's rights to enjoy the highway are not jeopardised. I was, therefore, delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham approached the Government when he won his position in the ballot and that we had that measure available. I am grateful to him for carrying it forward.

There is a long-standing right to use highways for pleasure. The Highways Act 1980 refers to the duty of a highway authority to "assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway for which they are the highway authority". That can be traced back in previous legislation to the Highways Act 1835, but there is considerable evidence that the right is much older than that. Legislation such as the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, which this Bill is seeks to amend, aims to ensure that lawful use of the highway does not create an unsafe environment and that nuisance is minimised. A balance must be drawn between the conflicting interests of different road users.

Mr. Fabricant : I have listened with great interest to the long catalogue of Acts that apply, some of which contain

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sections that are wildly out of date. Once the Bill becomes law, will it not be high time to introduce a consolidating Bill to take account of all the Acts that apply to road traffic and at the same time to knife the many sections that are irrelevant in this day and age ?

Mr. Key : What an excellent idea. I shall consider that, although it will not be for me but for the Government as a whole. I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

I am second to none in my admiration for British motor sport and I therefore listened with great attention to my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East. He and I know that not one decent formula 1 car in the world is not British. What may not be appreciated more widely is the fact that the technological research and development that go into sports cars have a direct spin-off to the sort of cars that we drive, although my hon. Friend seems to have rather more exotic taste. He is right to draw attention to road racing and I shall seek to deal with it. I have not been to the rallye des ramparts in Angoule me, but my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) is a great lover of that city and probably has been, so perhaps I should ask him about it.

Motor races and trials of speed may not be held on public ways unless specifically allowed for in private legislation. In principle, I agree with that policy. One example of the latter is the Birmingham super prix, which is permitted under the Birmingham City Council Act of 1985. I well remember the debates that we had when that legislation was going through. It is good to see the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms Short) here this morning. I am sure that she remembers it well.

The organisation of such a race may be appropriate in these limited and closely specified circumstances, but few hon. Members would wish to see widespread racing on the roads with the attendant danger that it will lead to imitative behaviour, such as has been referred to on the Isle of Man.

Ms Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood) : For the information of the House, the Birmingham super prix was unprofitable and wasted money. It was enormously unpopular with my constituents who lived in houses that were being whizzed around. And it is no more.

Mr. Key : But did they want it at the time and did not the House respond and give it to them ? Should another city seek to hold such an event, it would approach the House, and we would debate the matter and perhaps pass the necessary legislation.

Imitative behaviour is a problem and a danger to passengers or innocent bystanders. Nothing in the Bill permits motor racing and new section 16A(3)(c) specifically excludes the possibility.

An entirely different issue is that of navigational rallies and treasure hunts on the public highway, which are legal if they are authorised under the Motor Vehicles (Competitions and Trials) Regulations 1969. Those regulations require that any such event involving more than 12 vehicles must be authorised. The RAC Motor Sports Association issues those authorisations and endeavours to ensure that inconvenience and noise are minimised. Participants must abide by road traffic law at all times. The Act provides that no traffic regulation orders may be made to facilitate the holding of such an event unless it has been properly organised.

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Cycle races or time trials on the public highway are illegal unless they have been authorised by the Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations 1960, as amended. I propose to consult on an amendment to those regulations which would make the tour de France an authorised event. The tour de France is the largest sporting event in the world in terms of spectators. It will attract considerable public support in Britain. The organisers consider that there will be up to 1 million spectators over the two days in England and the television pictures of the event will be transmitted to about 1 billion people throughout the world. It will be a major opportunity for international publicity for the United Kingdom and should provide a massive boost to tourism. It is strongly supported by the local authorities concerned. It is particularly apposite that the tour de France will come to England this year. It will be run within a few weeks of the official opening of the channel tunnel and close to the 50th anniversary of D-day. It will go through many of the areas where the troops who took part in that assault were encamped in the run-up to the landings. The participants will come through the tunnel, by train of course, to start the event below Dover castle. I am sure that we shall all be grateful to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who, as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, is also governor of Dover castle. I think that Her Majesty will find the event not only great fun but highly symbolic. Frenchmen are always finding new ways of exploring Britain and this peaceful invasion is in stark contrast to previous attempts by certain others in the second world war.

The cavalcade will ride through Kent, Sussex and Hampshire on 6 and 7 July 1994 to end on the seafront at Portsmouth, having passed Nelson's flagship HMS Victory en route. On the first day, the tour will cover 128 miles from Dover, through Folkestone to Canterbury and thence to Ashford. From there, it will cross the Weald of Kent to Tunbridge Wells and through East Sussex to Brighton. For that day's race it will be necessary for the A20 trunk road in Folkestone to be closed temporarily. Under the Bill, that will be possible with the consent of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is the highway authority for trunk roads.

The participants will travel from Brighton to Portsmouth overnight for the start of day 2. The race will go from the seafront at Southsea, to Winchester, Andover and Basingstoke before returning to the finish at Portsmouth via Petersfield. That day, the race will cover 113 miles.

The tour is a unique international sporting event with 200 competitors, an entourage of 3,500 people and 1,500 vehicles. A huge advertising cavalcade precedes the race by an hour or so. Indeed, we are looking into the possibility of taking the opportunity to promote safer cycling. This will be only the second visit of the tour to Britain. As several hon. Members pointed out, there was a short visit by the tour in 1974 to celebrate the opening of the new ferry route between Plymouth and Brittany, but it was on nothing like the scale of this year's visit.

Some of the main benefits of allowing events such as the tour will be for tourism. Tourism already contributes a great deal to our national prosperity and employs 1.5 million people. "Le Tour" will make a considerable contribution to our tourism revenue. I know that many people are working hard to encourage our European

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neighbours to visit Britain for the race. For example, half a million leaflets called "Channel 94" are being issued abroad giving details of the route.

Ms Walley : The Minister seems more sure of the route for the tour de France than the Secretary of State is of the route from the channel tunnel to London.

Mr. Key : Very droll, I am sure.

The English tourist board has contributed £100,000 to the east Kent tourism development action plan, which focuses on sport, including the tour de France. The rewards could be high. It is estimated that there could be up to a 10 per cent. increase in short breaks alone. That means a great deal to me as a former Minister with responsibility for tourism, but for those who do not know what the phrase means, short breaks are weekends or a few days, as opposed to a long holiday.

Many British sports fans will also make a significant contribution to tourist revenues. If the organisers are correct in their estimate that up to 1 million people will watch the race over the two days, the tourism industry in the affected counties will receive a considerable boost.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire referred to local radio and restricted service radio and pointed out that 241 such licences were issued in 1992. As a former Minister in the Department for National Heritage with responsibility for broadcasting I, too, am enthusiastic about this and, as digital broadcasting becomes a reality in future years, I am sure that the service that he is requesting will expand dramatically, as will my Department's provisions for local radio information for drivers. It is already quite a sophisticated service provided at specific and local events, but no doubt it will grow. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will ensure that local radio and restricted service radio plays its full part in the tour de France.

I am also interested in the future of sport in this country. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds who pointed out that we had not done too well in some sporting events, but lately we have done brilliantly in many others, and cycling is one. In 1992, I had the honour to be Minister with responsibility for tourism, the year of the Olympics in Barcelona. The excitement when Chris Boardman won gold for Britain was tremendous. It did an enormous amount to boost the popularity of cycling in this country. In the Manchester 2000 Olympic bid, it played a central part. That is why the Government have provided the money for the velodrome, which is now--as I know from a visit only this week--taking shape in Manchester. It will become the national cycling centre. Cycling is the fastest growing sport in this country. Not only are sales of bicycles made in this country going up, but exports of bicycles are going up fast, and more and more people are taking to their cycles. One has only to look at one's own constituency--I am sure that we can all give glowing accounts of what our constituencies are up to, and my constituency of Salisbury is no exception- -with racing events, leisurely holidays, cycle routes and so on.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southport reminded me that we should think of events outside the south-east. Manchester will be hosting the world cycle championship later this year. Each of the host towns that the tour passes through will have an opportunity to promote cycling, both as a participatory and a spectator event. To help them in that, the British Cycling Federation is arranging "come and

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try" sessions in conjunction with towns on the route. I hope that that will encourage people to take up cycling so that we return to the health of the nation and the importance of cycling in that. Cycling is a sport for all ages. It is also a sport which can be properly described as an amateur as well as a professional sport. That is important, too. I know from the 16 years that I spent as a teacher-- umpiring, refereeing and coaching--that sport is of crucial importance to the development of the balanced individual in our community : mens sana in corpore sano, even if it grows a little in girth with middle age.

The event will act as a tremendous catalyst for further development of the sport, involving the full range of cycling organisations and individuals. I hope that the growth of top-quality cycling events will cultivate greater awareness of cycling and cyclists. Cycling is also--this is music to the ears of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North--a useful means of public transport. I am committed to improving the safety and convenience of cycling, to create confidence in that mode of transport. It is a versatile activity, providing gentle relaxing recreation for some ; for others, it is a way of keeping fit. It is a clean, quiet and inexpensive means of travel, or a vigorous competitive sport. There is huge scope therefore for increasing cycling in this country. If people rode bikes on short journeys instead of driving their cars, it would help to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

A quiet revolution has been going on. People have been rediscovering the bike. In York, as I saw for myself last year, up to 30 per cent. daily of people going to work do so on a bicycle. Substantial amounts of taxpayers' money are involved in York--some £400,000--in making that possible, because the Government believe in cycling. We believe that it is a basic and legitimate form of transport which cannot be ignored, and should be encouraged. I said that at the Velo City conference in Nottingham last autumn. I hope shortly to be able to announce that the Government have a new, if modest, cycling policy. The response of the Government and local authorities to a real demand from the electors is represented by this sea change in our attitude. We are also convinced by our constituents.

Ninety-six per cent. of cycling takes place on local roads. The provision of special facilities is the responsibility of the relevant local highway authority. My Department provides authorities with advice on the design and construction of cycle lanes on highway and cycle tracks, and altering junctions to enhance cycle safety. Employers also have a responsibility to provide proper changing facilities and safe and secure places to park bikes.

One of the reasons why people do not take up cycling is that they are concerned about their safety. I am committed to publicity campaigns that will help to make cycling safer. Over recent years, they have been run on such themes as "think bike", wear a helmet, use lights and "be seen, be safe". If cycling is widely seen to be a safe, reliable, healthy and inexpensive means of transport, I am sure that many people will take it up.

I turn now to the details of the Bill. The main purpose is to confer new powers on traffic authorities to make orders imposing temporary restrictions on traffic to allow the holding of sporting and social events and entertainments on a road. The powers are intended to deal with major events which will inevitably cause substantial disruption to traffic and, therefore, specific provision is made to limit the duration and frequency of orders made

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under the new powers. It follows that existing powers will continue to be used for smaller events that are unlikely to cause large traffic control problems. Therefore, the Bill will not repeal any existing provisions.

The Bill consists of three clauses and a schedule. Clause 1 inserts three new sections into the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984--sections 16A, 16B and 16C.

Section 16A(1) defines the expression "relevant event" as any sporting event, social event or entertainment which is held on a road. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East was concerned about what is meant by a road. The word "road" is defined in the 1984 Act as

"any length of highway or of any other road to which the public has access, and includes bridges over which a road passes".

Section 16A(2) enables a traffic authority to make orders restricting or prohibiting the use of a road or any part of it by vehicles of any class or pedestrians to the extent that they consider necessary or expedient. The power to make orders arises only when authorities are satisfied that traffic should be restricted or prohibited for three specific purposes-- facilitating the holding of a relevant event, enabling the public to watch a relevant event or reducing the disruption to traffic that is likely to be caused by a relevant event.

Section 16A(3) prevents the making of orders to allow motor races on the highway, which are illegal under section 12 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. It also requires that other motoring events and cycle races are authorised in accordance with the 1988 Act. If they are not authorised, they are also illegal.

Section 16A(4) allows orders to be made both for the road on which the event is to take place and for any other road. This is the problem of associated traffic management.

Sections 16A(5) and (6) are designed to simplify the making of orders that affect two or more traffic authorities, for example, where an event crosses a county boundary. In such cases, one authority may make all the orders for an event with the consent of the other affected authorities. These provisions mean that a local authority can also make an order affecting a trunk road if the Secretary of State consents.

Section 16A(7) requires authorities to have regard to whether there are suitable alternative routes for traffic that is affected by such orders. Clearly, it is desirable that disruption to traffic be kept to a minimum while these events are taking place. I hope that that will satisfy my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire. Section 16A(8) lists the type of restrictions that can be imposed, which are essentially the same as in other parts of the Act--for example, the power to close roads, make streets one way, ban parking and impose speed limits. In addition, it adds powers to restrict the riding of horses and the leading or driving of animals on roads. That is particularly important for an event such as a cycle race on rural roads where one does not want the competitors to come face to face with a herd of cows or, indeed, a flock of sheep. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester drew my attention to the importance that his shopkeepers attach to this measure. The subsection also prohibits the making of any order preventing pedestrian access at any time to premises situated on or adjacent to a road affected by an order or to premises which are accessible only to pedestrians from an affected road.

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Sections 16A(9) and (10) enable orders to suspend existing orders so, for example, it will be possible to allow an event go the wrong way down a one-way street or to go through a pedestrianised area. New section 16B limits the frequency with which traffic regulation orders can be made and the length of time that they may be in effect. They may not last more than three days, and they can affect a stretch of road only once in any calendar year, thus striving to reach the balance that my hon. Friend the Mid-Staffordshire sought. There are provisions allowing these restrictions to be overridden with the consent of the Secretary of State. For example, the Secretary of State can extend an order for more than three days but only at the request of the local authority. That might be necessary if, owing to an unexpected event such as freak weather conditions, an event does not finish when originally planned.

New section 16C contains supplementary provisions dealing with contraventions of orders made under section 16A and the making of regulations. Subsection (1) makes it an offence to contravene an order, with a maximum penalty set at level 3 on the standard scale--currently £1,000. Subsection (2) empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations covering the procedures for making orders. I shall deal with matters to be considered under regulations shortly.

Clause 2 is the standard financial clause which is present in this case for largely technical reasons. Although the Bill is unlikely to result in any overall increase in public expenditure, it will result in local authorities incurring charges that were in the past incurred by the police. Clause 3 covers the consequential amendments arising from the Bill in a schedule, the short title, and the extent of the Bill, which will apply to England, Wales and Scotland. As there is no provision to the contrary, the Act will come into force immediately on the Royal Assent being given, so that the provisions may be available for the tour de France in July.

The schedule makes several consequential changes to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Paragraph 1 empowers local authorities to set up traffic signs in connection with orders made under section 16A. Paragraph 2 provides that orders made by the Secretary of State must be made by statutory instrument. Paragraph 3 applies the provisions in sections 16A to 16C to vehicles and persons in the public service of the Crown as they apply to anyone else. Paragraph 4 allows the Secretary of State to amend, by regulation, the provisions of the Act as they apply to tramcars or trolley vehicles. Paragraph 5 applies other provisions of the Road Traffic Regulation Act to these orders. They relate to the variation and modification of orders and the right of challenge to the High Court. Paragraph 6 amends the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

As I said, the Bill includes a provision that gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations on the procedure to be followed in making orders. The requirements for notification and consultation must be looked at carefully. A number of my hon. Friends said that it was extremely important that we get the consultation right. All the events that have been described today may be desirable, but they are discretionary. We must allow proper representation by those who may be adversely affected by an event. We shall, of course, consult widely on the contents of the regulations, but, as they will be of

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considerable importance in controlling the way that local authorities exercise the powers, I have already considered some of the possibilities.

The main aspect to be covered in the regulations will be indeed be consultation, which will be fairly lengthy. As we are concerned with large- scale events, which will be planned well in advance, early consultation seems appropriate.

There are a number of ways in which traffic authorities may be required to give notice of events including publication in the London Gazette ; publication in local papers ; the posting of notices, and, possibly, individual notices to affected properties. There may, however, be legal difficulties in proving that notification had been properly made if an aggrieved resident claimed not to have received a notice. I therefore need to take local authorities' views on the practicalities of the suggestion.Traffic authorities will have to consider representations and they may then wish to amend the orders or not allow the event to go ahead. It is possible that the traffic authority will be required to select an alternative route that has been suggested in

representations. However, there may be good reasons for maintaining the original choice.

The general public must be notified. Where roads are to be closed and parking suspended, notices will have to be displayed along the affected road not less than 14 days before the order comes into effect. Where vehicular access to properties will be limited, there may be a requirement to deliver notices to all such properties. As I said before, the Bill will not permit orders preventing pedestrian access to properties. In addition to warning the public that parking is to be suspended, it is important that they know that if they disobey the order, vehicles will be removed. Advance notices will be required to give clear warning of the intention to remove parked vehicles and other obstructions while events are in force, and to state where the vehicles will be removed to.

As the tour de France is due to take place this July, it is unlikely that there will be sufficient time for the local authorities to take all the formal steps that might be required in regulations. However, I assure the House that the authorities concerned are already taking measures to inform the public what will happen. Their programme of consultation and dissemination of information is well in excess of anything that might be required in regulations. In Hampshire, for example, several districts have already published leaflets that are to be delivered to all affected residents and a series of meetings have been held with the emergency services and hospital managers. All schools have been told about the event. In Portsmouth, businesses have been told about the event through the chamber of commerce seminars and through meetings with traders' associations.

It is most important that no authority will be able to make any order that stops the emergency services or statutory undertakers using any road in the event of an emergency. There are powers for the removal of vehicles and for charging for making the orders. The police, in carrying out their duties on the highway, do not charge. That is different from any action that they may take on private land.

In conclusion, we are proposing to grant local authorities the powers to take such measures as may be necessary to ensure safety and to minimise inconvenience when large events take place on the highway. The Bill does

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not permit events to take place ; it provides the traffic authority with the proper powers, after due consultation, to take the steps necessary to regulate traffic so as to minimise danger and inconvenience.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham has done the nation a service. Any hon. Member who has the good fortune to draw a high position in the ballot for private Members' Bills is inundated with good causes seeking special legislation. Cyclists everywhere, and for a very long time to come, will have good cause to be thankful for what I hope will soon become the Atkinson Act. My hon. Friend's constituents will benefit because they will be able to see live coverage on television of the tour de France this summer. I hope that we may see a tour de Tyne Valley or a Hadrian's wall challenge as a result of the boost to cycling given by this popular Bill. I thank my hon. Friend and I commend his Bill to the House.

1.37 pm

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) : I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate. Despite its modest-sounding title, this is a welcome and extremely important Bill, which has been introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson). I add my congratulations to those that have already been given to him. My hon. Friend is now back in his seat, but he may not be aware that he was congratulated fulsomely by our hon. Friend the Minister, who has been in the Chamber for most of the debate. I add my congratulations to his.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham deserves congratulations on three grounds. First, he has introduced a Bill which has many worthy objectives ; we have touched on many of those this morning. Secondly, he has introduced a Bill which is enabling rather than regulatory. I sometimes wonder whether hon. Members do not go a little too far in introducing legislation that reflects their personal views, beliefs or even prejudices and does not sufficiently permit our fellow citizens to do what they want to do. I am pleased that my hon. Friend has introduced a Bill which is in the spirit of enabling legislation. Thirdly, I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing the Bill so cogently and comprehensively.

We have had a debate which has gone down a number of roads. I should like to take the House briefly down a few more that are of particular interest to my constituents. I have many constituents who are interested in cycling. The debate went down one or two roads that I did not entirely foresee when it began which are of great interest to my constituents. One of those was the complaint about the lack of an integrated transport policy made by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley). That would come as a great surprise to many of my constituents who have seen a considerable improvement in the integrated transport system over the past 15 years. That includes improvements to the Thameslink line, the major line running through my constituency which has replaced the notorious bedpan line and has improved commuting into London. The great northern line and three motorway routes run through my constituency : the A1M, the M25 and the M1.

I did not expect the debate to address the film industry. That subject is of particular interest to my constituents in Elstree and Borehamwood, who are concerned about the future of the famous Elstree studios. The present owners say that the studios do not have a viable future in British

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film making. One of them said that Elstree suffers from the lack of an integrated transport policy. That is palpable nonsense in view of the many great advantages that the transport structure which I have described offers Elstree.

I join hon. Members in unreservedly welcoming the objectives of the Bill. Those objectives are more wide ranging than one would have thought from listening to the debate, much of which has dealt with cycling. As my hon. Friend the Minister rightly said, the Bill deals not only with cycling ; it covers a wide range of relevant social, entertainment and sporting events.

Cycling, however, has taken centre stage in the debate. I join other hon. Members in welcoming the admission of the tour de France to this country and the fact that the Bill will play a major part in facilitating that event.

The Bill is necessary because it improves current legislation. I do not want to repeat the cogent analysis of the Minister, but it is doubtful whether the existing regulatory framework would cover an event on the scale and of the nature of the tour de France. That is another reason why my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham should be congratulated on introducing the Bill. Hon. Members' comments about the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 were correct. That legislation is too old. It has played an important role in, and has had many desirable consequences for, transport, not least in its regulation of taxis. Section 21 of the Act, which is based on the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, is out of date, as is the Road Traffic Act 1988. The Bill is necessary. I welcome it, as do many of my constituents who are interested in cycling and the promotion of tourism, sport, good health and other worthy objectives.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House. [Mr. Peter Atkinson.]

Committee on Friday 11 March.

Women into Parliament Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

1.43 pm

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay) : I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

It is a lovely surprise that we have time to debate the Bill. As they did not know that I would be so fortunate, many of my women colleagues, who would have liked to be here today, have engagements that they were unable to break in their constituencies. That does not mean that they do not welcome the opportunity for a debate on this subject.

It is fortuitous that we have this opportunity today because Sunday, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) said, is International Women's Day for the status and advancement of women. I am sure that no hon. Member will suggest that that is a slightly ridiculous concept, but we should remind ourselves that the great majority of women around the world are still treated as chattel, and in some cases as slaves, without human rights.

Whatever we say in the House about the advancement of women in our Parliament has to be seen, to some extent, against that background. We have made great strides in Britain, partly as a result of the battles of previous women

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who fought to get the vote and have the right to stand for Parliament. The debate is largely about how we can improve and build on their work. The status accorded to women is surely a mark of the degree of civilisation of any society, which is why my Bill is so important.

The Bill would amend the Representation of the People Act 1989 to make it easier for women to enter Parliament. I have chosen that route because it is non-party political. There are two pieces of legislation that largely concern the election of people to Parliament, and I have dealt on two previous occasions with the parliamentary boundaries legislation. We should change the boundaries so that each constituency elects both a man and a woman, which would remove all the party political anguish. However, I am not dealing with that today.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute) rose

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