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Bob Spink accordingly presented a Bill to prohibit the anti-social use of motor vehicles; to make provision for the seizure of motor vehicles used in an anti-social manner; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on 20 January, and to be printed [Bill 54].
It is a pleasure to be able to return to this Bill so soon after the summer recess. Given what the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) has just said about off-road vehicles, it is especially appropriate that we should begin with this new clause, which would give the national park authorities powers to make traffic regulation orders in respect of unsealed roads. The new clause follows points made in Standing Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) and by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams).
Some national park authorities already carry out limited highway authority functions in respect of rights of way, which are delegated to them by agreement with their local highway authority under section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972. However, it is unclear whether those agreements are able to cover the making of traffic regulation orders.
Therefore, national park authorities must rely on negotiations with the local authority when they want to impose a TRO. That process can be time consuming and resource intensive, and the outcome is often uncertain. As I said in Committee in response to the points made by the hon. Members to whom I have referred, I believe that the national park authorities should have the necessary tools to manage traffic effectively on recreational routes in the national parks.
Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater) (Con): The Minister is absolutely right; Exmoor national park has exactly that problem. But would he differentiate between recreational users and people who have legitimate reason to have their vehicles up there? There are areas where people use their vehicles for farming and so on, and if the national park has measures that are too draconian it could be a problem. Would the Minister be able to arbitrate in a dispute between landowners?
Jim Knight: I am not sure that I personally would want to arbitrate in all those matters. The expectation would be that the national park authorities would use those powers sensitively, as highways authorities currently do. We would be applying the rules that currently apply to highways authorities in respect of the powers to make TROs also to national park authorities, who would use them in the same way.
The amendment will make it easier for the park authorities to protect routes that are most vulnerable to damage of the type that we heard about from the hon. Member for Castle Point when he introduced his ten-minute Bill.
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Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): I am grateful to the Minister for commencing this afternoon's proceedings with what I might call a bit of a climbdown, because he will remember that he opposed the amendment when it was tabled by the Liberal Democrats in Committee. To be fair, he said, as he has just repeated, that he wanted national parks to have the tools but he was not at that stage prepared to give them the powers. Now he is doing so and he is doing that correctly.
I also want to express my gratitude to the Minister for informing those of us who were involved with the Bill, early in the recess, that this was his plan, and for making similar comments about other things. I only hope that this presages a useful next four-and-a-half hours of proceedings and that there will be other measures on which we can agree, but clearly it is sensible that national parks authorities should have the opportunity to issue traffic regulation orders. We shall return to traffic regulation orders later this evening, but the fact that the Government are seeing fit to give national parks authorities the power to issue TROs is an important step forward, not just because of national parks but also because of the principle of using TROs to deal with some of the negative effects that mechanised vehicles can have on byways that are open to all traffic. We need not repeat at this stage all the damage that can be donemembers of the Committee and many other Members of the House are well aware of itbut it is very serious, and giving national parks authorities the opportunity to issue TROs takes us a long way forward. It still leaves the rest of the country and we shall return to that in a later group of amendments, but I appreciate the Minister's concession on this new clause and welcome it.
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