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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, does the noble Baroness recall her impatience with me last year when I suggested that this was a difficult issue? Does she recall dividing your Lordships' House successfully against me putting in a clause in the divorce Bill which would have implemented pension splitting almost immediately--a clause long in principle and very short in detail? Was she wrong when she said that pension splitting was a simple thing to do and that I was just dragging my feet? If she was wrong, I hope she will say that she was wrong and accept that I was right to say that it was difficult.
However, having said that it was difficult, am I right in saying that a Green Paper and a White Paper were produced by me and that we were ready to move? Is the noble Baroness telling me that we shall not have a Bill until the 1998-99 Session, and that a whole year is to
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am being advised by my noble friends to answer two of the noble Lord's questions, but that would be such a pity. I would much prefer to answer as many as possible.
The problem was created by the noble Lord when he as Minister had to be persuaded through two separate Bills--first, a Pensions Bill and, secondly, a Family Law Bill--to enshrine in legislation the commitment of this House to pension sharing. Had the Minister and the Government of the day not resisted pension sharing for as long as they did so that it took the combined efforts of the entire House to persuade and overwhelm the Minister, no doubt we would have been further forward than we are today.
On the second of the noble Lord's questions--or was it the seventh?--yes, I am as confident as I can be that we shall meet our target date of April 2000. However, given the pressure on legislative time as well as the willingness to consult, that seems to us the most practical way forward.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that many of us welcome the idea of publishing a Bill in draft? That will probably avoid the problems associated with the Child Support Agency, to take a single example.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, that is absolutely right. Too often over the past 18 years we have seen badly drafted legislation in which the Government of the day resisted all the amendments from the Opposition Benches. That has subsequently meant, as with the CSA, that we have had to have regulations every six months, and a new Bill every 12 months, in order to produce the legislation which should have been properly drafted in the first place. We do not wish to see that happening to this Bill.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, as we appear to have the time, perhaps I may ask a further question. Can the noble Baroness explain why she insisted that her amendment should be put to a Division and was won on the Bill, if the whole issue was as difficult as she suggests?
Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, the Minister said that she believes in pension splitting. Does she agree that there is another group of women who remain married but who would benefit greatly from pension splitting at the stage of their husband's retirement? Will she consider that point together with other matters?
Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I was referring to the wives who remain married but who, for fiscal reasons, would benefit if their husbands were able to share their pensions because the tax would be different. Very often those wives contributed towards their husbands' occupations.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I apologise for misunderstanding the purport of the question. The noble Baroness is right, there is always the problem that if the financial arrangements of a marriage are broken up and two people are treated as though they were single, they are in a different financial situation from the one where they are married. But against that, it must be said that married couples enjoy a whole array of financial advantages under the law--perfectly properly, in my view--which more than compensates for that.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, buses are a vital part of the transport systems in our towns and cities. Bus lanes help to keep buses moving in traffic but are often blocked by illegal use. My department is researching new ways of giving buses priority in traffic and of enforcing existing bus lanes. The recently announced review of bus policy will consider options for improving the effectiveness of bus lanes.
The Earl of Bradford: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that realistic reply. Are the Government aware that major delays are caused by delivery vehicles obstructing bus lanes throughout the day, forcing buses to pull out to get round them? That defeats the purpose of bus lanes. Will the Government consider adopting the system operating successfully in several major Continental cities, where delivery times are limited to the hours between midnight and 6 a.m.?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Earl is right to highlight the problem of delivery vehicles blocking bus lanes. The Government have considered the problem, and it concerns us. However, requirements for access to frontage businesses--particularly on red routes--need to be taken into account at the stage of bus lane planning and during consultation. Normally bus lanes operate only during peak periods, that is, between 7 o'clock and 10 o'clock in the morning and between 4 o'clock and 7 o'clock in the evening. We are aware that on the Continent bus lanes usually operate all day and that deliveries must be
Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that tourist coaches frequently park in the bus lanes immediately opposite your Lordships' House? Is there any general rule exempting tourist coaches from the rules that apply to every other mortal?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am not aware of the exact legal position with regard to tourist coaches. I will write to the noble Lord with the details. There are exemptions to the bus lane prohibition, for example, pedal cyclists, but I do not know the details, so I will write to the noble Lord.
Lord St. John of Bletso: My Lords, I am one of the many motor cyclists in your Lordships' House. Can the Minister give any encouragement to motor cyclists that the Government will consider allowing them to use bus lanes?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the experiment in Bristol was inconclusive. Motor cyclists are not normally permitted to use bus lanes for safety reasons. There is, of course, a major public transport review and I have no doubt that, through the associations representing motor cyclists, the noble Lord will wish to make his case. But at the moment motor cycles are not allowed.
Lord Teviot: My Lords, can the noble Baroness comment on the experiment of equipping buses in London with cameras? Do the Government believe in encouraging it? It happens in other cities which have terrible traffic problems, just like London.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the use of additional security cameras to monitor the illegal use of bus lanes at prohibited times is to be extended. My honourable friend Glenda Jackson, the Minister in another place, has referred to the importance of an event at the end of July to draw attention to the illegal use of bus lanes and to the enforcement that will be possible by the proper authorities through the use of security cameras.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a problem just as serious as parked lorries and cars in bus lanes arises when cars are driven illegally in bus lanes, blocking the yellow boxes? Can she tell the House who is responsible for the enforcement of bus lane regulations and whether the Government have any plans for extending them?
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