Draft Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002 and Special Grant Report (No. 94) (HC 885) on Funding for Enforcement of Vehicle Emission Standards 2002

[back to previous text]

Mr. Foster: I have been mulling over something. The Minister said that a local authority that did not apply for funding through the scheme would still be able to carry out roadside tests in the manner prescribed. Am I right in thinking that, for the trials, the 1997 regulations had to be brought in specifically for those local authorities that carried them out? Therefore, the regulations refer only to local authorities that make an application. The hon. Gentleman implied that, if they do not make an application, they can still carry out the tests. I am not sure that he is correct. Perhaps he can put me right on the matter.

Mr. Jamieson: The regulation gives local authorities the power to carry out the stopping and the testing. Whether they apply for funding is a matter for them. I anticipate that the two acts would follow together. I cannot imagine circumstances in which local authorities would want to carry out such action, without applying for the funding. It would be extraordinary if they did not make such an application.

I was about to refer to the number of drivers with no MOT. Some 4 to 6 per cent. of motorists fail to pay vehicle excise duty. That gives us a fairly good idea of those who are unlikely to have a current MOT test. The purpose of the regulation is not only to increase MOT compliance, but to make motorists more aware of pollution and environmental issues, and to improve local air quality.

Column Number: 11

The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire asked what would happen if someone failed to stop. That would be the same if someone failed to stop on the instruction of a police officer in other circumstances. The hon. Member for Bath asked in an intervention whether the trials had been successful. In a small number of trials, it is always difficult to reach a statistically valid conclusion. However, in all the trials, the number of non-complying vehicles fell in number. I agree that many comments were made at the time of the trials. The reason why we have made changes is fairly obvious. Comments had been made, which is why we held the trials. The whole point of such an exercise was to see what was working and what was not. We are grateful to local authorities for giving us such comprehensive feedback. It has allowed us to move on to the next stage of rolling out the tests throughout the country.

The hon. Member for Bath also asked why only local authorities in AQMAs were involved. The simple answer is because they are the priority areas in which we have to tackle the air quality with the greatest urgency. Furthermore, if motorists are to be inconvenienced by being stopped at the roadside, there must be a good and valid reason for that to happen. It is good to notify motorists when they are about to enter an area of particular air quality difficulties. If they were stopped in an area that had no problem, they would have some difficulty in accepting such action. It is important that we take the public and the motorist with us in such matters. The majority of them will be behind us because not only people who walk in the streets, but car drivers too, suffer a lot of air pollution.

Mr. Foster: The Minister has made a powerful and persuasive case. If he so convinced that he is right and that the provision should apply only when there is clear evidence of a real problem that needs to be addressed, why does the testing of vehicle emissions legislation apply only in specified areas, but the proposals in relation to idling of vehicles applies across the board? If his argument works for one, why does it not work for the other? It is inconsistent.

Mr. Jamieson: Yes. There may be general air quality problems that continue throughout the year, but in an area that does not normally have a problem—for example, outside a village school—there may be many cars with the engines running on a winter morning. That could cause problems, particularly for young children with asthma and other conditions. The provision gives the authority the opportunity of tackling such a situation when there is not a general problem but there may be a specific problem at certain times.

It is for local authorities to use their discretion as to how the provision is used—[Interruption]. I am sure the hon. Member for Bath can think of situations in his constituency. The hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) probably does not have a general problem in his constituency, but in specific areas at certain times there may be a difficulty. I am

Column Number: 12

trying to think of areas where his constituency borders mine and where there could be a difficulty, but I cannot at the moment. He probably got there before I did.

We shall provide local authorities with guidance on publicity and we want them to maximise the publicity they give to this legislation. We hope that they will use all possible means to do so—for example, local radio, advertising and so on—and we will support them in their advertising efforts in every way we can.

Mr. Moss: Does that mean that a local authority can use some of the grant money for publicity and advertising rather than just to employ people to operate the system?

Mr. Jamieson: Yes, and we hope that they will use other means. Many local authorities have their own magazine that goes to every household or they might send out leaflets. That might provide an opportunity to show what they are doing to improve air quality.

The hon. Member for Bath asked whether the trial schemes were successful. There were some problems and he rightly pointed them out, but we expected that. That is why we held the trials. We had very good feedback from authorities and we are grateful to them for that.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the cost of the police. Local authorities may have to pay for police support and the cost is built into the total cost for the whole scheme. In many areas there are local arrangements and local protocol, and local authorities must talk to their local police authority about how best to arrange that.

Mr. Foster: The Minister will confirm that the final decision on whether a vehicle will be stopped will be for the police and that it will not be possible for the local authority to instruct the police to stop certain vehicles for tests to be carried out.

Mr. Jamieson: The police and local authority, or designated persons, will work together and a police officer will stop the vehicle.

I hope that I have covered the all the points raised. I have been through my list and ticked them all off. I know that the hon. Member for Bath always ticks his list.

Mr. Foster: I apologise for detaining the Committee. The Minister said in response to my intervention that a local authority that had not applied for designation would be able to carry out roadside emissions tests. He then said that it would almost certainly then apply for grant and that he expected the two to go together. I draw his attention to 3(1) states:

    ''Where any part of the area of a local authority is for the time being designated as an air quality management area in accordance with section 83, that authority may apply to the Secretary of State to be a designated local authority.''

The regulations detail how to go about designation and the powers of the Secretary of State to remove designation.

Regulation 6(1) states:

    ''A designated local authority may, subject to paragraph (2), authorise any officer of the authority, or any other person, on production of evidence of his authorisation—

Column Number: 13

    (a) to carry out, in accordance with regulation 9, tests on vehicles which are in, or which are about to pass through, or which have passed through, an area designated by the authority as an air quality management area''.

It is clear that, regardless of whether they apply for a grant, only those authorities that have sought authorisation to be designated as a relevant authority can carry out the tests. That is the total opposite of what the Minister told the Committee a few minutes ago.

Mr. Jamieson: If my explanation was incomplete, I apologise. If what I said led the hon. Gentleman to think that something different will happen, perhaps I could have a go again.

I agree that what the hon. Gentleman read out is correct. [Interruption.] It is a good job that it is correct, is it not? A local authority can apply, under the environment legislation, to be an AQMA. Only then, under the regulations, can it carry out the tests.

The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire asked about funding, rather than designation. I was trying to say that it would be possible for an authority that had an AQMA to carry out the tests without any funding. It would be a matter of choice for local authorities. It would be unusual for them not to apply for the funding, but there is nothing in the law to prevent local authorities from going ahead without the funding.

I should like to make it absolutely clear, so that there is no confusion, that part 1 gives powers only to those local authorities that are AQMAs.

Mr. Foster: I apologise to the Committee, but may I ask the Minister to be absolutely clear on the meaning of part 2 in relation to designation? For what are areas being designated? The Minister says that the intention is to designate local authorities as air quality management areas. That is simply not so. Part 2 relates to those local authorities that already have an air quality management area within the authority area seeking designation under the powers obtaining in the regulations. If I am wrong, I am wrong and I am

Column Number: 14

prepared to accept that. However, the Minister must say that it is clear that designation applies for the purpose of carrying out those tests.

Mr. Jamieson: I will give that matter a go.

Three issues arise: AQMAs, designation and funding. AQMAs are made under the Environment Act 1995. If a local authority has achieved that status, it can apply for designation to carry out testing under the legislation. If it so wishes, it could then—we would expect all to do so—apply for financing.

I hope that that is absolutely clear—[Interruption.] Clearly, it is not.

Mr. Breed: I asked about exemptions for refrigerated lorries.

Mr. Jamieson: I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon; I was carried away with the comments of the hon. Member for Bath.

There will be exemptions. Most refrigerated vehicles have an auxiliary engine for the purposes of refrigeration. The regulations will apply in relation to the engine driving the vehicle. That engine would have to be turned off, partly to avoid theft and danger. That is part of ordinary road traffic legislation. Other exemptions may apply to certain vehicles that have to have a motor running in certain circumstances.

This has been a helpful and enlightening debate.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002.



    That the Committee has consider the Local Government Finance (England) Special Grant Report (No. 94) (HC885) on Funding for Enforcement of Vehicle Emission Standards 2002.—[Mr. Jamieson.]

        Committee rose at fourteen minutes past Five o'clock.

Column Number: 15

The following Members attended the Committee:
Atkinson, Mr. Peter (Chairman)
Breed, Mr.
Burden, Richard
Cohen, Harry
Foster, Mr. Don
Francis, Dr.

Column Number: 16

Jamieson, Mr.
Moss, Mr.
Perham, Linda
Ryan, Joan
Wareing, Mr.
Watts, Mr.

Previous Contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 June 2002