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Viscount Thurso: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, for that explanation. I was quite curious to see what was the objective of his Amendment No. 217. I was interested to hear that it is to do with the idea of electronic tolls on the M.8. I shall not go into the question of test beds that he raised. I thought on from that and two points came to mind which I would like to put to the noble Lord. Perhaps he can answer them when he winds up on this matter.
I assume that the Scottish parliament will be responsible for the maintenance of all trunk roads and so forth because as far as I can see that does not appear to be a reserved matter but a fully devolved one. Therefore, whoever has responsibility for paying, if a toll is ever going to be raised anywhere, should equally have the responsibility for raising payment.
I wonder whether he has considered my second point. I presume that the Forth road bridge and the Skye bridge are both considered trunk roads. Therefore, the effect of the noble Lord's amendment would be to reserve to Westminster any decision by the Scottish parliament as regards tolls on those two bridges. Given the great support in the Highlands for getting rid of the toll on the Skye bridge, I should imagine that is one thing he would like to leave to the Scottish parliament. Did the noble Lord consider that in framing his amendment?
Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish on Amendment No. 218, to which my name is attached as well. I am concerned that we do not have a situation where there is unnecessary controversy between Scotland and England. If we have a situation where insurance companies are necessarily compounding the amount that they wish to charge as a premium to Scottish drivers over English drivers, that is a recipe for disaster. People drive across the Border from all directions. I earnestly hope that cognisance is taken of this amendment.
Secondly, the amendment would separate responsibility for charging on the trunk road network from the responsibility for charging on local roads. It will be clear to noble Lords that one has direct implications for the other. Therefore, there is a need for consistency in the application. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw that amendment.
As regards Amendment No. 218, despite the views expressed by both noble Lords, I am unable to accept it either. The effect of the amendment will be to reserve the provisions of the Road Traffic Act which deals with the recovery of payments towards the costs of treating road traffic casualties. The provisions of the 1988 Act clearly refer to the recovery of costs incurred by local hospitals and therefore they are concerned with health and not transport. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, accepts that it would be appropriate for the money to go to the local national health trust which incurred the treatment expenditure and not anywhere else. As health is a devolved matter, it would be inappropriate for this area of cost recovery and administration to be reserved.
I turn to the question of charging, which was the point of concern to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. Powers in relation to charges are exercised by health Ministers. The devolution of such powers would have the effect of giving Scottish Ministers the responsibility for setting charges which are commensurate with the treatment costs in Scotland rather than applying a UK average. The parliament will also be able to determine the most appropriate means for effecting recovery of the costs so that the National Health Service in Scotland can derive the maximum financial benefit from its ability to charge.
As regards the point raised about insurance companies, the Association of British Insurers is aware that, after devolution, Scotland will be able to apply different treatment charges to those applied in England. I am advised that it has raised no specific concerns about that possibility. With reference to the impact on motor insurance premiums, that is a matter for the companies themselves to assess in due course. But significant differences in the amounts which Scottish and English motorists would have to pay seem to us to be unlikely at this stage. The determining factor here is where the accident occurs and, therefore, where the injured person is treated. Clearly, that would apply to English and Scottish motorists.
Lord Renton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way. There is a point which I do not believe has been raised. I ask the noble and learned Lord to look at page 78 of the Bill, lines 12 and 13, which read:
Lord Hardie: My Lords, I do not think that there will be a contradiction. There is no intention of impeding the transportation of goods. It is simply that there may be charging for the use of trunk roads, just as there may well be charging for trunk roads in England for goods vehicles or others using the trunk roads.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate for the clarification. I am not sure that I entirely agree with the way the Government have decided the issues, but at least it is clear and now on the record in Hansard. As regards trunk roads, I entirely accept the argument and take the point that the Scottish parliament and executive will be able to put electronic tolls and charges, or any other kind of charges, on the Scottish road system. That will at least make it clear for the future who is responsible for these issues.
Concerning the point about health payments, from my side there is no argument that the money should go to the trusts in Scotland. We then moved on to the question of whether it would be possible for Scottish Ministers to increase the charges. The Minister has made it clear that it would be possible. Inevitably, that means that the premiums could go up in such circumstances. The fact that the Association of British Insurers is aware, but did not raise any concerns, is neither here nor there because it will pass on those concerns to the customers. It is very simple.
The argument was that a person from England visiting Scotland might be asked to pay higher charges. The insurance companies will live with that, as they will live with higher charges for Scottish drivers. The example I gave about Scottish or English drivers based in the countryside paying lower premiums because there was
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate underlined my point rather than went against it. The insurance companies will have to "cough up" any extra money for somebody from England who has an accident in Scotland, and they will live with that. The point is that they will load the premiums of Scottish drivers and that is something the motorists and motoring organisations will have to watch out for; that is, that the Scottish parliament does not use it as a convenient way to raise more money for the health service by upping the amount of money paid to health boards from road accident victims and therefore from insurance companies. The moment that happens insurance companies will review their premium position and, if I were their actuary, I would advise them that they would have to review their premiums slightly upwards and Scottish motorists would have to pay higher premiums than they otherwise would.
I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying these issues. The Government's intentions for both those amendments are now on the record, and we shall see what the Scottish parliament decides to do with those issues in the future. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.