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House of Lords

Monday, 26th June 1995.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Lincoln.

The Lord Chancellor: Leave of Absence

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): My Lords, before the commencement of business, I take the opportunity to inform the House that with the approval of Her Majesty The Queen I am to visit Strasbourg between the dates of Wednesday 28th and Friday 30th June 1995. Here I will be representing the Foreign Secretary at the opening ceremony of the new Human Rights Building. Accordingly, I trust that the House will agree to grant me leave of absence on Thursday 29th June 1995.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

2.35 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have rejected the findings of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration that the Department of Transport was guilty of maladministration concerning a number of claims for compensation for blight caused by the Channel Tunnel rail link, and whether they will review this decision.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, the Government's position is set out in detail in the letter written by the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Transport which responded to the commissioner's draft report and was published with it. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the Permanent Secretary have both given evidence to the PCA Select Committee. We are now awaiting the outcome of the committee's deliberations.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, may I ask the Minister how, against the finding of unquestionable maladministration—because that was the finding of the Parliamentary Commissioner—he would feel if he were one of those householders whose homes have been blighted for a period between 1990 and 1994, when the Government resist the conclusions that are independently reached, and in an almost unprecedented way? How would he feel if he were in the position of such a householder denied any remedy?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the fact is that we do not accept the findings of the Parliamentary Commissioner in regard to maladministration. We gave evidence fully to the Select Committee. The Select Committee has been through the report and has taken evidence on it. I certainly would not want to pre-empt the response of the Select Committee or the Government's response to that committee.

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Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, if Ministers are going to deny redress recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner simply on the ground that they would have found differently about their own administration, what is the point of having a Parliamentary Commissioner?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, there is a clear point of having a Parliamentary Commissioner and that is to investigate these matters fully. Nonetheless, it remains the case that we maintain our line. We reject the finding of maladministration for the clear reasons laid out in our response to the commissioner's report, which are too long for me to rehearse in full detail at the Dispatch Box this afternoon. Nonetheless, they are clearly laid out in terms of our response to the accusation of maladministration in the areas concerning, for example, generalised blight. The Select Committee has taken evidence from the Government and we await its report.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, the noble Lord in his first reply to the Question referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner's draft report. Is that the precise status of the document? Is it Her Majesty's Government's practice to refer to a report by an ombudsman which they do not like as a draft report?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, at that stage it was a draft report. I believe that with the inclusion of the Permanent Secretary's letter it became a final report.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does the Minister realise that he has not really answered my question, which was to put himself into the position of one of these householders? Does he accept that there must be a considerable measure of resentment, not only on their part but on the part of their Members of Parliament, who have expressed decided views about the matter? Does he accept that there must be that resentment?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I could not possibly follow the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, down that line and put myself in that position. This was a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner, which we take extremely seriously. We have been through it in the greatest possible detail. The charges relate to maladministration concerning generalised blight and the redress for that. We have given our full response, and that response has been examined by the Select Committee. When the Select Committee comes forward with its response, we shall consider that carefully.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, what happens if the Select Committee disagrees with the Government's excuses?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we shall have to read carefully what the Select Committee says.

Parking: Local Authority Enforcement

2.41 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support those local authorities which are trying to prevent the parking of cars on pavements in streets where this is unnecessary or inappropriate.

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Viscount Goschen: Yes, my Lords. The introduction of decriminalised parking enforcement in London has greatly assisted the London authorities in their efforts in this respect, and the publication last month of the guidance enabling authorities elsewhere to apply for similar powers has opened the way for them to tackle this problem effectively.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. I applaud action to reduce parking in unsuitable places. Can he confirm that private persons have not committed an offence when they have bounced cars off the pavement causing no damage and apparently they have done so with the subsequent approval of a transport Minister?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, this is a complex area of the law and I am sure that the courts would want to take a full view if such a case ever came before them. The important thing is that parking on the pavement is dangerous. We think that the decriminalisation of the parking regime has provided local authorities with a better framework for enforcing solutions to the problems faced by pedestrians. As regards my noble friend's remarks about what was said by my honourable friend, I believe that my honourable friend was reinforcing the message that the dangers to pedestrians of illegally parked cars are severe.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, will the noble Viscount consider and help to resolve a serious situation in Greenford in Ealing, where motor cars not only park on the pavement but drive on the pavement? Drivers seem to be tempted to drive on the pavement to avoid stopping on the yellow line. That has confused Ealing Council, which has brought in a private firm to deal with the issue. The council has told the police that it does not want the police to interfere. The result is that the traffic situation in that part of Greenford in Ealing is dangerous and lawless. Can the noble Viscount have the situation examined and some common sense brought to the problem, and a solution implemented? We should not have to wait until some woman with a child in a pram is killed, as nearly happened last week, or something similar happens before either the council or the Government act.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, if people are driving on the pavement that is very dangerous and very serious. There is a specific offence that covers driving on the pavement. It is up to the police to enforce the law. I am sure that the police will take careful note of the points raised by the noble Lord.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that the police often say that they will not bother with prosecutions because this matter is not considered a priority? Is he also aware that on occasions they produce the excuse that parking on the pavement allows the emergency services to get through? Is that not entirely unacceptable?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, that is why we introduced measures to decriminalise parking in order to allow local authorities to enforce this measure. It was clear that the police were having great difficulties in enforcing the pavement parking rules. It is equally clear

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that under the new regime local authorities are in a much better position to enforce the regulations regarding illegal parking on pavements.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, what about cyclists who ride down the pavements? Is that illegal?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, that is indeed illegal. It is a specific offence under Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835, as amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, in view of the Government's experience of giving assistance in these matters at the highest possible level, and in the light of their national experience, will they advise local authorities to use stalking horses to help them in this matter?

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