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Lord Chorley: I too spoke at Second Reading. I do not want to say any more than was said by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon. The amendments are not particularly pernicious though I would have thought guidance was sufficient in these circumstances.
The Earl of Courtown: Perhaps I can begin by making it clear that I fully understand the concerns that lie behind my noble friend's amendment. The Government agree that local traffic authorities will need to consult widely when undertaking reviews of existing and forecast traffic levels in their area and in taking a decision as to whether it would be appropriate to set targets for reducing those levels or rates of growth.
However, we go further than my noble friend in identifying those bodies with which we expect local authorities to consult. We are clear that in addition to principal councils and the Highways Agency, as envisaged by his amendment, we would also expect other tiers of government such as district councils, as well as local residents and businesses to be consulted. Equally, we would expect local authorities to ensure that any targets they set, together with the measures they envisage implementing to achieve them, were compatible with the relevant structure and local plans for their areas.
However, we believe that it would be more appropriate to deal with these matters in subsequent guidance for local authorities to be issued by the Secretary of State rather than on the face of the Bill. As my honourable friend the Minister for Railways, Roads and Local Transport made clear in another place at an earlier stage in this Bill's parliamentary progress, the crucial advantage of dealing with these matters in guidance is that it allows time for us to consider with the Local Authority Associations and other relevant bodies the detailed mechanics of how all this might work. The Government's view is that it would be a mistake to be too prescriptive on the face of the Bill only to discover subsequently that the drafting was defective and that we needed further primary legislation to implement its provision. Having said that, we believe that these matters are best dealt with in guidance.
Our legal advice is that there are several technical deficiencies in the drafting of the amendments. For example, the first amendment refers to the Highways Agency when in fact this agency has no legal existence or identity separate from the Secretary of State for Transport. Neither is it made clear what is meant by "neighbouring principal councils". Reference is also made in the third amendment to "other land use plans" when such plans have not previously been mentioned or defined in the Bill. Finally, the first two amendments, which specify the bodies with which principal councils must consult before preparing their reports, would introduce an unwelcome duplication in so far as subsection (6) of Clause 2 enables the Secretary of State to issue guidance to principal councils in regard to who should be consulted in connection with the preparation of reports.
My noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara referred to the letter I wrote to him--I shall make it available to other noble Lords--concerning the points he raised at Second Reading. The Government agree that such consultation should be undertaken. Any targets and associated measures to achieve them, if not based on the widest possible consultation and broad local consensus, are unlikely to be implemented successfully. Indeed we would go further still and would expect local authorities to consult also with other tiers of local government, including district councils, as well as with local residents and businesses. That will be made absolutely clear in the guidance to be issued to local authorities in due course by the Secretary of State.
As I made clear at Second Reading, the Government believe that this is a worthwhile Bill whose principles we support strongly. In turn, the guidance we intend issuing will ensure that local authorities take the views of relevant interested parties and local circumstances fully into account in drawing up their reports and, where appropriate, setting targets. However, we believe that the technical deficiencies which I have identified in the amendments would put the laudable aims behind the Bill, and indeed the Bill itself, at risk. With the greatest respect to my noble friend, I ask him to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: The amendments seek to provide for full consultation and to provide that the reports of local councils relate to land use plans. These are important matters. I very much agree with the substance of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. It is because I do so that I want to see these provisions in guidance. They will be in guidance, as we have heard this evening, assuming that the Bill reaches the statute book.
I said at Second Reading that I would not be supportive of guidance which did not include those points. The guidance has a place in the Bill in that Clause 2(6) allows for guidance and councils must have regard to that guidance.
With regard to consultation, your Lordships have heard the assurances given this evening. They echo assurances given by the Minister at the Committee stage in another place. At Second Reading I likened the consultation process to that of Local Agenda 21s where local authorities are successfully working with the bodies identified by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in drawing up those plans. That process should be replicated in connection with these traffic reports.
On consultation with neighbouring authorities, the point is well made that no traffic management can work if it merely shunts a problem across a boundary, whether it is to the next street, to the next ward, to the next borough or to the next county. I know that locally from my own experience extremely well. On consultation with the Highways Agency--in other words, the Department of Transport--one must of course relate to roads which are within departmental control. In London, for instance, the traffic director has to be consulted on certain matters. Wherever the roads are in the hierarchy, they are part of the same network. On consultation with local businesses--for instance, chambers of commerce--I have experience
The consultation that has been identified by the noble Lord seems to be part of the growing process of working in partnership, which so many sectors of society are now taking forward very successfully. "Partnership" has become something of a buzzword over the past few years, but partnerships are working well and are growing. I take no issue with the substance of the amendments because the points raised are necessary for the reporting process to work. The organisations and bodies referred to will often have similar aims, although they will sometimes have different priorities. Local business is likely to be concerned with the local economy, local employment and so on. Local councils and businesses are working together to increase regeneration in areas where that is required. They must be consulted, and, as I see it, they will be.
There is also the issue of land use planning. Planning is not about restricting development for the sake of restricting development. There are sometimes arguments about whether a proposed development is appropriate. Those are not necessarily--in fact, not that often--on traffic grounds. There are all kinds of reasons for traffic issues coming into the equation. Local land use plans, to be good plans, refer to environmental considerations, as do transport policies and programmes. Both are part of the responsibility of the same local authority, not of separate departments--again, a holistic approach, if I may put it that way. That is why the reports envisaged must relate to land use plans.
However, as has been said, it is not necessary to put these matters on the face of the Bill. They will be in guidance. If the list of consultees identified in the amendments is to be restricted to those proposed, it will be incomplete, as we have already heard. For instance, there is no reference to local residents or to other tiers of local authority. We have heard about drafting difficulties. I think it is a little tough for the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, to have been bowled that one at this late stage. However, it is an issue which we must take seriously.
Reference has been made to the letter from Friends of the Earth. I have not seen the letter. The noble Lord said it is a letter to his advisers; a letter from what I would describe as one campaigning organisation to--I do not know who the noble Lord's advisers are--possibly another campaigning organisation. Friends of the Earth is a campaigning organisation. I do not share that point with it. But that is not to say that I would in any way deny the valuable work it has done on the substance of this issue. If apology is required I hope the noble Lord will take from me that I mean quite straightforwardly that the amendments put forward and the value of the Bill are for your Lordships to assess. We shall do so.
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