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Mr. Don Foster: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, when roadworks such as he describes are carried out, not only is it important to carry out later inspection, but, as the initial covering of a hole or filling in of a trench will drop after a while, it is important that the contractors return to finish the job? That may be some time afterwards; that is why it is so important to carry out such checks.

Mr. Drew: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful intervention. The matter relates to time; I entirely agree. I was considering the longer term, when the whole road surface decays because the trench has been dug

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inappropriately for the surface. It is important that there is a mechanism to check the state of the trenches months and years later, so as to ensure that the appropriate sums are spent. Then, we shall have a decent road surface on which we can ride our bikes.

Mr. Brake: This is real pavement politics--or at least roadway politics. The businesses in Beddington lane will be overjoyed at the Minister's news.

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North): My hon. Friend the Minister is no stranger to the graceful, sweeping boulevards of Northolt, but those broad avenues that he last saw framed and shaded by noble London planes-- and other strange suburban growths--have suffered grievously of late: the same section of road has been dug up not once, not twice, but thrice, in the name of cable television--whatever that may be.

I know not whether cable television is a utility, or whether it comes under telecommunications legislation, but, in order that I may transmit the information to my constituents--not, in the manner of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake), in the form of a million "Focus" leaflets, but in a more intimate focus group, perhaps in licensed premises--could my hon. Friend, who has many admirers in the Northolt area and is known as a great friend of the suburban street scene, let me know whether there is any hope for those of us who have seen our roads thrice dug up in the name of cable?

Mr. Hill: Given the reputation of my Streatham constituency, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) should not tempt me on the matter of the street scene in our constituencies.

It is rather a relief that the House is so thinly attended this evening, as clearly we all have our stories about street works. Had more Members been present, this part of the debate would have continued for much longer. The issue evokes enormous passions and interest. I am delighted that we are beginning to take action on the matter.

Mr. Don Foster: Will the Minister help me? I cannot recall whether I mentioned the problems in the London road in Bath.

Mr. Hill: The hon. Gentleman did not mention them, but he has done so now. I am willing to take further constituency references before I continue my remarks.

Several important issues have been raised in this brief but lively debate. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) referred to co-ordination. Co-ordination has two aspects: co-operation between the utilities and the co-ordination of traffic movements when street works are being carried out.

Regrettably, it seems that in practice the latter is more achievable than the former. It certainly seems to be achievable to ensure that, where street works occur, traffic is not prevented from taking easy diversions around that route. Here in the centre of London, the so-called Central London Partnership, which brings together the central London boroughs and several utilities, has devised such a programme for next year, which will come into

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effect from the beginning of January. Obviously, traffic movement will be considerably eased as a result of such traffic co-ordination.

A more intractable problem is the issue--oh so obvious but oh so difficult to resolve--of utilities co-operating. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North mentioned cable television companies. I am told that competition between cable companies is so intense that when local authorities, with the best will in the world, broach with the utilities the issue of co-operation, they are met with sneers of derision at the thought that commercial secrets could be divulged in that fashion.

We, as Members of Parliament, are very fortunately placed. Hon. Members will recall that, a few months ago, Parliament square was subject to considerable disruption as a result of street works, and there one did have an example of several utilities working together, actually carrying out work at the same time. I suspect that in that case there were special considerations because of the location. We were--although we should not have been--very privileged.

I reassure the House that in various ways we are bearing down on this issue, and that we shall be looking for a more effective effort at co-ordination by utilities.

Mr. Syms: Perhaps when the pricing regime is considered, there might be a beneficial pricing regime for utilities that co-operate. That might be a positive way of encouraging co-ordination. I am not sure whether it could be done, but the option should be investigated. If utilities did co-operate, there might be a financial benefit for them in doing so, or even an award of best practice so that we could all know which people were the best at co-operating.

Mr. Hill: I welcome those two suggestions, which are now on the Hansard record. I hope very much that when we carry out our consultation on these matters, the hon. Gentleman will respond. We shall then carefully consider what I dare say will be his more detailed proposals on these matters.

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) asked for my current estimate of the implementation of the lane rental regulations. We have emphasised that we do not expect the immediate implementation of lane rental. Indeed, we have clearly said that we are taking reserve powers with regard to lane rental, and obviously we shall be working and consulting on regulations.

However, let me issue a fairly clear warning to the utilities: as from now, the writing is on the wall. We certainly propose to implement, at an early opportunity, the section 74 penalties for overstaying conditions. We will review the effect of those powers and the use of those powers by local authorities, but if it remains the case that they are unsatisfactory, we will certainly consider, very seriously, moving rapidly to the introduction of lane rental.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) paid tribute to the other place for having brought in this measure. I am actually willing to go further and pay particular tribute to Lord Peyton. In the same breath, I should pay tribute to Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, who responded so positively to Lord Peyton's proposals. My hon. Friend mentioned three problems. He spoke about the issue of the retrospective application by utilities for

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street works. I agree that that is a scandal. We hope that the effective development of software to ensure better co-ordination of notification will enable local authorities to be more insistent that they get proper notification on these matters.

9.45 pm

My hon. Friend asked about compensation for those discommoded by street works. I can make no offers on that subject, but we need to think about it in a broader context. He also referred to the phenomenon of the inadequate repair of previous trenches, and I remind the House that a two-year liability was established by a recent court case.

I very much hope that the writing on the wall that we have provided in the reserve powers for lane rental and our activation in the near future of the overstaying provisions in section 74 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 will stimulate local authorities to be more proactive on the issue of street works. I think that there has been a certain amount of demoralisation historically, but we want local authorities to be proactive and to provide resources at a local level, so that they can scrutinise developments more carefully.

It is worth bearing in mind the fact that the returns from the penalties will be able to go to local authorities. Central Government have taken several positive moves and we are looking for a constructive, positive and effective response from local authorities.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 113 agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 114 to 120 agreed to.

After clause 244

Lords amendment: No. 121, to insert the following new clause--Quiet lanes and home zones--

.--(1) A local traffic authority may designate any road for which they are the traffic authority as a quiet lane or a home zone.
(2) The appropriate national authority may make regulations authorising local traffic authorities who have designated roads as quiet lanes or home zones to make use orders and speed orders of such descriptions as are prescribed by the regulations in relation to any roads designated by them as quiet lanes or home zones.
(3) A use order is an order permitting the use of a road for purposes other than passage.
(4) But a use order may not permit any person--
(a) wilfully to obstruct the lawful use of a road by others, or
(b) to use a road in a way which would deny reasonable access to premises situated on or adjacent to the road.
(5) A speed order is an order authorising the local traffic authority by whom it is made to take measures with a view to reducing the speed of motor vehicles or cycles (or both) on a road to below that specified in the order.
(6) The appropriate national authority may make regulations specifying procedures for the making, variation and revocation of--
(a) designations, and
(b) use orders and speed orders,
including procedures for confirmation (whether by the appropriate national authority or any other body).
(7) The appropriate national authority may give guidance to local traffic authorities about matters to which they must have regard in determining whether or not to designate a road as a quiet lane or home zone.

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(8) In this section--
"the appropriate national authority" means--
(a) the Secretary of State as respects England, and
(b) the National Assembly for Wales as respects Wales,
"cycle" has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Act 1988,
"local traffic authority" has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984,
"motor vehicle" means a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads, and
"road" has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.
(9) Regulations under this section shall be made by statutory instrument and may make different provision for different cases or areas.
(10) A statutory instrument containing regulations made by the Secretary of State under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.")

Mr. Hill: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

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