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Standing Committee A
Thursday 5 February 2004
[Miss Anne Begg in the Chair]
Contraventions subject to civil enforcement
Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 136, in
page 41, leave out line 23.—[Mr. Chope.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following amendments:
No. 137, in
page 41, leave out line 24.
No. 138, in
page 41, leave out line 25.
No. 151, in
No. 139, in
schedule 7, page 71, leave out lines 8 to 22.
No. 140, in
schedule 7, page 71, leave out lines 23 to 29.
No. 141, in
schedule 7, page 71, leave out from line 30 to end of line 25 on page 73.
Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (LD): The clause identifies four categories of road traffic contraventions that are to be subjected to civil enforcement. The four that are listed do not seem to include cycling. There is a brief mention in schedule 7, which we will possibly discuss in more detail later. Paragraphs 3(2)(g) and 4(2)(h) both refer to section 21 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 in relation to cycle tracks.
The CTC, the national cyclists' organisation, wants to know whether the definition of cycle tracks includes things such as cycle lanes and cyclists' advance stop-line facilities. I am sure that the Committee knows that they are the coloured bits on the road in front of traffic lights. I want to see proper protection for all cyclists, in the same way that we offer protection to other road users. Sometimes cyclists seem to be the Cinderella users of the public transport network. They appear to come bottom of the pile for investment. If we are trying to reduce traffic congestion, cyclists are incredibly environmentally friendly. The more cyclists we have, the greater will be the reduction in both congestion and pollution.
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Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Would the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a duty on all cyclists to obey the law and that where cyclists start riding on footpaths without due care and attention, they should be prosecuted just the same as a motorist is?
Mr. Marsden: I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. Two or three weeks ago I was out with the Shrewsbury police on an evening patrol. I was delighted when they stopped some youngsters who were riding on the pavement. That needs to be picked up. It presents many dangers to pedestrians. Cyclists need to be responsible, just like all other road users. As I said, if we want to reduce congestion we need to get as many people as possible walking and cycling. With the fragmented cycling network in most towns and cities it is a real problem. Cyclists and pedestrians face real dangers and they need protection. Why is a cycling contravention not included in the clause? Surely there can be greater definition of what cycle tracks mean. I hope that the Minister can help.
Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): I apologise to you, Miss Begg, to the Minister and to members of the Committee that I will have to leave early to attend my daughter's school parents evening. I sincerely hope that this will be a short debate and that I will be here long enough to hear the Minister's response. I find myself in the deeply embarrassing position of having to agree with what the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Marsden) said about cyclists. I fully support civil enforcement of both parking and moving traffic offences in bus lanes and pedestrian areas. It will mean that those areas will be used as intended. I am sorry that the Conservative party seeks to delete civil enforcement from the Bill. There will be less rigorous enforcement if the arrangements are not changed.
It is a good thing that there will be enforcement of both parking and moving traffic offences in bus lanes and pedestrian areas. Enforcement is less clear in relation to cycle lanes, cycle gaps and other on-road provision for cyclists. Subsection (2)(d) refers to moving traffic contraventions and they are listed in part 4 of schedule 7. Why does not the Minister also include in the Bill the civil enforcement of parking offences in cycle lanes and other cyclists' areas of roads? As someone who cycles quite a bit, I believe that it is dangerous when someone parks in a cycle lane to the side of the road, because cyclists are forced to ride out in traffic that may be travelling at a considerable speed. It impedes the traffic, leading to congestion, and deters cyclists from cycling in busy areas. If they, like me, are fortunate enough to have a car as well as bicycle, many will use the car instead. I would like to hear the Minister's response to the idea of broadening the scope of the Bill to deal with parking in cycle lanes.
On moving traffic contraventions, the Minister has kindly provided us with a multicoloured list of traffic signals that are covered by part 4 of schedule 7. In my experience, it is the first time that we have had a colour document in a Standing Committee, and I congratulate the Minister on an impressive innovation.
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The Chairman: Order. I wonder whether the use of colour is in order in such matters, but in this case we will allow it.
Hugh Bayley: I stand corrected. Miss Begg. I will refer to the document as a chromographic list.
The list includes sign No. 953, which designates a route
''for use by buses and pedal cycles only''
but does not include the sign for a route for use by cycles only. I ask the Minister whether the omission is deliberate and whether it could be put right. I do not believe that the criminal law enforcement authorities—the police—have the time or should properly be using it to enforce moving or parking offences in cycle lanes. If the enforcement were civil, there would be more rigorous enforcement of infringements. That would be good for cyclists and the free flow of traffic, because more people would cycle and fewer cyclists would stray out into fast-moving traffic.
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con): I shall speak about part 4 of schedule 7 and the splendid little aide-mémoire that the Minister gave us.
I raise my first point because I started life as a printer. I draw the Minister's attention to the references to ''Motor vehicles prohibited'', which have a diagram reference of 619, and
''Motor vehicles except solo motor cycles prohibited'',
which have a diagram reference of 619.1. I was brought up as a printer to understand that there was a significance in colours being different. One sign has a pale red circle, which I do not recognise, and if the diagrams are being presented as definitive parts of legislation, and will be printed in colour, that colour should be correct. It strikes me that it is not.
My more substantial point refers to ''Box junction markings'', which has a diagram reference of 1043, 1044. The point was made in an earlier debate about using cameras to prove that someone is in a box junction. That is correct up to a point, but brings us back to the issue of reasonable excuse, which we discussed this morning so I will not repeat it. In essence, the issue is similar to one in which I was involved about variable speed limits on the M25. I dealt with the part of the M25 that was in my constituency. Drivers were passing under a gantry where the sign showed that the variable speed limit was 50 mph, but when they came out the other side and activated the cameras, the speed limit had changed to 40 mph. Technically, they were therefore speeding without having known that the speed limit had changed. It took some ingenuity on behalf of the then Government to find a way round the problem, but a solution was found.
The point made this morning about box junctions is that a photograph of somebody in one does not necessarily prove that the driver was at fault. There could have been a sensible space ahead when they moved into the box junction, but somebody or something could have conspired to ensure that the space was then blocked before they got out the other side. A single photograph could not demonstrate that. I am sure that the Minister would not want fixed
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penalties, prosecutions or anything else in cases in which the only evidence was a single photograph that proved that what appeared at that moment to be an offence was being committed.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the Committee Room this morning when I said that the difference is that speed cameras take a pair of fixed pictures, whereas this would be a moving camera image.
Mr. Wilshire: I am grateful for that. I should have said at the outset that when the Committee was discussing this morning when we might sit or not sit and when you might catch your aeroplane this evening, Miss Begg, I was not in the Room, so if that were covered, I apologise. I am grateful for that assurance: otherwise, there is a genuine issue there, like the issue of variable speed cameras.
John Mann (Bassetlaw): I have a question about paragraph 3(2)(d) of schedule 7, using reference 619 as an example. Can I clarify that this could be used with a single fixed camera as a way of curtailing rat-running in an area?
Mr. Jamieson: It is a pleasure to see you back in the Chair this afternoon, Miss Begg. Amendments Nos. 136 to 141 would take bus lane, lorry ban and moving traffic contraventions out of the scope of civil enforcement. Those powers all exist in previous Acts of Parliament: in the London Local Authorities Act 1996, the Transport Act 2000 and the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003. These amendments would not delete those powers, but would preserve a situation in which certain powers were available to authorities in London but not elsewhere, despite the fact that authorities throughout the country face many of the same problems in managing road and street networks.
My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White) tabled amendment No. 151, which would prevent a traffic contravention that would be
''likely to cause or contribute to''
a road crash from being subject to civil enforcement. He would agree with me that failure to comply with almost any traffic regulation has the potential to cause a crash or infringe road safety. If the intention of the amendment is that such offences be effectively enforced, I believe it is somewhat misguided. The provisions of the Bill are set against a background, of which he is probably aware, of police forces focusing more sharply on tackling other street crimes. That means that they are focusing less on minor traffic offences. However, our aim is to promote road safety and reduce disruption, so it is important that the provisions are effectively enforced. I know that hon. Members have had time to examine the signs with which we wish to improve enforcement, and I am glad that the full technicolour diagrams assisted the Committee, although we shall rap the printers' knuckles for some of them being redder than others—a bit like Labour Members—and we shall get that sorted for future production.
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