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Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hill: It is highly premature, but how can I resist the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Bercow: I am always enticed by the Minister's words, as he should know by now. I simply wanted to ask him whether the regulations that he is helpfully describing will be subject to the negative or the affirmative procedure.

Mr. Hill: It often seems as if the hon. Gentleman is positively obsessed by me. I am delighted to tell him that the regulations will be subject to the negative procedure.

Both the amendments to which the resolution relates were welcomed by all parties in another place, and I commend them to the House.

4.2 pm

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole): I do not believe that this matter should detain us too long because there is broad agreement on it. Clearly, utility organisations cause disruption to traffic, and the motoring public will believe that giving them an incentive to get on with the work is good.

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There is a slight difference between setting a small charge to incentivise and another stealth tax. Perhaps the Minister could reassure us about the levels of charging and confirm that the utilities will not ultimately have to turn to the hard-pressed public and add substantial amounts to bills for water and electricity. As the matter must be tackled through statutory instrument, perhaps the Minister can tell us the likely timetable for its implementation.

4.3 pm

Mr. Hill: On the hon. Gentleman's last point, we have always said that we regard the powers as residual. Our first move will be to introduce provisions under section 74 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 to set out penalties for overstaying in street works.

On the question about charges, it is too early to say. If we decide to proceed with lane rental, we shall want to discuss an appropriate level with highway authorities and undertakers. On the usual question about stealth taxes, I point out that each utility is subject to a regulator to prevent abuse by any monopoly power.

Let me make a minor correction: lest I be accused of misleading the House, the regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure.

Question put and agreed to.

Transport Bill (Supplemental Programme)

4.4 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill): I beg to move,

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The motion has been agreed through the usual channels. Its aim is to ensure consideration of the amendments made to the Bill in the other place in a logical manner, and in a way that provides time for debate on the issues that are most likely to be of concern to hon. Members. Thus we begin with part I, and especially with the two groups of amendments--Nos. 27 to 29 and No. 31--that will doubtless excite most attention. The proportion of time allocated to debate those groups reflects their significance.

However, time is also allocated to debate the other amendments that were introduced in the other place and there will be an opportunity to consider them, too. Although the vast bulk of the amendments are, as usual, of a technical, minor and consequential nature, the most important deal with, for example, the extension of concessionary fares to the disabled, bus lane enforcement, street works and quiet lanes, and relate to latter parts of the Bill. They were either introduced by the Opposition and accepted by the Government or are the subject of an all-party agreement.

The overall total of six and a quarter hours to consider the amendments and the Ways and Means resolution is appropriate and reasonable and will allow proper consideration by the House.

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