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Lord Bradshaw: Again, I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty has said. This new clause is extremely welcome and many local authorities will be almost overjoyed that it has found its way into the Bill.
I have a simple question. Why is it restricted to only local authorities that have been designated as special partner authorities? It seems so far that there are relatively few authorities and some probably would not seek it but would still have bus lanes which they might wish to be supervised.
As the Minister has said, the police have virtually given up this job. They have so many other priorities that policing bus lanes does not figure anywhere in their list of priorities; and yet this must be done to enable the bus industry to provide the sort of service required and to make quality partnerships work.
But why is the amendment limited to bus lane enforcement, because it appears that the same cameras could be used to enforce banned right turns, restricted access into pedestrian areas, parking on zig-zag markings, yellow box markings, and no entry restrictions? I feel that we should take the opportunity presented by this Bill to allow that extension to take place. Even if Ministers do not choose to do it immediately, they should at least take the powers to do so at some future date. It requires primary legislation, but it would be sensible to keep those powers in the drawer, as it were, because it may be five years before we have another transport Bill.
I am no parliamentary draftsman, and perhaps if I were I could find employment somewhere, but it appears to me that this extension could be done by relatively simple amendments to the Road Traffic Act 1991. However I bow to the superior knowledge of such matters which rests in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.
Lord Swinfen: This is a relatively small point on subsection (5)(b). I can understand who the registered keeper is; I can understand who the driver is; but who does the Minister think, "any other appropriate person" would be who might have to pay the penalty?
Lord Brabazon of Tara: I should like briefly to follow on what my noble friend Lord Swinfen said. I was encouraged when the Minister said in his opening remarks that in the first place it would be the driver who was responsible for this, as it is in relation to other moving traffic offences. Therefore I cannot see why anybody other than the driver should be responsible. It should be the same in this as it is for speeding offences or any other moving traffic offence. Therefore in what circumstance might it be someone other than the driver?
Secondly, on paragraph (e), which is to do with the sums paid by way of penalty charges, the noble Lord said that the highway authority would have to cover the costs of enforcement, and that certainly is fair enough. However, what happens to any profit beyond
Baroness Hamwee: My pager was not telling me what to say! I had a similar question about the "proceeds", as it were, although I am not sure it is quite right to think of them as "proceeds"; they are penalties. One does not seek to enforce bus lane restrictions simply as a money-maker. However, peraps I may follow on the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, although it is perhaps no more than a rhetorical question. I hope that the Government will understand that there will be costs to local authorities in setting up systems for undertaking enforcement. I believe a degree of investment will be needed.
As regards subsection (2)(a) and (b), the Minister has explained that an authority is approved if it has been designated under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act which are mentioned. It is better to have special parking areas. As I understood it, it will be approved under subsection (2)(b) if it is within the provisions of subsection (2)(a). If that is so, what is the need for subsection (2)(b)? If there are additional criteria to be met under subsection (2)(b), what are they likely to be? I have expressed before some concern that subsection (2)(b) gives the opportunity for the Secretary of State in England, and for the National Assembly in Wales, to exercise what might be inappropriate discrimination between local authorities in giving or withholding approval under subsection (2)(b).
Lord Berkeley: I support the amendment. It is a great addition to the Bill. I also support the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who asked why it cannot be widened to take into account many other offences. My question to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty is: can the bus lane cameras that have already been installed, and those that are to be installed, on some buses, be used as evidence if the police choose to take action in criminal cases, including on endorsable offences?
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I have a brief point. As far as I am aware, the original provisions in the Bill do not refer to the Lord Chancellor at all but to the Secretary of State. One wonders whether his expertise--great as it is--covers these rather small points.
Lord Whitty: On that last point, the Lord Chancellor enters into this arena because he has the power to make the regulations about the notification and adjudication of the enforcement of penalty charges. That applies across the board as well as in this area. Therefore, it is not appropriate to simply give powers to the Secretary of State, which is why we have tabled Amendment No. 80. It will ensure that the Lord Chancellor fulfils that function.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made a related point as to why subsection (2)(b) has been provided. On the face of it, it would allow an approval for an authority which was not an authority with a decriminalised parking regime. It is there primarily to ensure that schemes can be checked to ascertain whether appropriate regimes are in place to ensure that the schemes are operated fairly. I suppose that it might also allow a degree of flexibility in relation to decriminalised parking regimes as far as the national authorities are concerned.
In relation to new, additional offences--this point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw--we are aware that it has also been suggested that other offences should be brought into the same category. The Government consider that we should gain experience first of how this regime works for bus lanes. They are the highest priority in terms of traffic management, and we should give them highest priority before extending the provision to other offences.
Lord Swinfen: Before the noble Lord leaves that question, does the Bill contain a power enabling the Secretary of State to bring in the other offences that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, suggested should be included?
Lord Swinfen: Will the Government consider bringing forward their own amendment to meet the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw? I understand the noble Lord wishing to gain some experience, but this is useful to all of us. It would be a pity to miss the opportunity that this Bill provides because, as the noble Lord will appreciate, being stuck trying to cross on to a clear road the other side of a yellow box, with a car at right angles, is nothing but a nuisance. It holds up a great many people and it happens very frequently.
Lord Whitty: The Government are not at present inclined to extend the provision to new offences. No doubt the noble Lord or others could raise this matter in the subsequent Committee stages, but the priority here is on bus lanes. A new provision is not necessary to allow those cameras to be used in connection with other offences. We decided to start with bus lanes because they are the highest priority. However, when cameras are not being used for bus lane enforcement, it would be possible to use them for other existing offences or indeed for traffic control or security surveillance. The powers being given to local authorities would not cover endorsable offences, which would remain a matter for the police--a further question for my noble friend, Lord Berkeley.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, also referred to the issue of who would be the "other appropriate person". We have indicated that the initial regulations will aim for driver liability in this area, as with other moving offences. The occasion could arise however where we might need to change that because of various changes in the law which may be necessary in future. That again provides a certain flexibility.
The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen asked, "Who else?". We are not specifying who else in this context but we might again need some flexibility in that area. It will be driver liability in the initial regulations.
Lord Swinfen: If the noble Lord will forgive me: who could possibly be responsible apart from the driver of the vehicle and perhaps the keeper of the vehicle? Is the Minister proposing to charge the Prime Minister for allowing his driver, without his authority, to take him down a bus lane on, say, the M4?
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