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Earl Attlee: Perhaps I ought to withdraw my somewhat acidic comments about the noble Lord's amendment.

Lord Whitty: Amendment No. 400 seeks to consolidate and make available in electronic form the construction and use regulations. These regulations contain a detailed prescription of the technical design and construction standards required of vehicles. They are very complex and that of itself places a practical limit on those who can use them. Generally, only manufacturers and others with a professional interest in the subject are likely to consult them. We do, of course, provide advisory material for maintenance and other purposes and for private individuals where necessary, much of which can be seen on the Internet.

Specialist publications, including electronic media, already make available commercially the consolidated position. In addition, Her Majesty's Stationary Office has placed all statutory instruments made since January 1997 on its website, and that is freely accessible.

There have been numerous amendments to these regulations since they were made in 1986. It is undeniably the case that consolidation is now warranted. We are also considering whether some restructuring would be beneficial, for example, by separating the regulations into subject themes. The Road Vehicles (Lighting) Regulations 1989 are a precedent. That would make the regulations easier to follow. and to amend in a transparent fashion. However, that option represents a very substantial drafting exercise. We are starting to give the task due priority, along with other drafting work. Once that is completed the number and net complexity of any future changes will vary year by year. In some years there might be few amendments whereas in other years there could be a substantial number. The question of whether to republish every year needs to be taken into account and we therefore need a rather more flexible requirement than automatic annual consolidation.

Once we have consolidated and, if appropriate, restructured the construction and use regulations, they will appear on the HMSO website, as will subsequent amendments. Given that that is already in the pipeline, I do not believe that it would be cost effective to divert resources to achieve what the proposed amendments seek.

On the rather different subject of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, I am sorry to have to disappoint him. We have already indicated that we are tackling some of the problems in the 10-year plan arising from the issue he raises. He questions under what powers we will conduct the introduction of the 44-tonne lorries. The Government will be making regulations under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The issue concerns the existing inter-modal operators who have already taken advantage of the current 44-tonne weight limit and have invested in

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equipment as well as demonstrating a commitment to inter-modal road/rail freight movements. The noble Lord was concerned that the Euro II engine requirement which will come into effect on the new extension of 44-tonne lorries--which will come into effect now on 1st February next year--will affect disproportionately the inter-modal operators which already exist. Euro II engines became compulsory anyway for all lorries put into service in late 1997. We have had discussions with the inter-modal operators and have established that the relatively small number of 44-tonne vehicles which came into service before that date will, by and large, have reached the end of their useful life by the end of 2003.

For that reason we announced last week that we will not repeal the existing 44-tonne combined transport regulations until the end of 2003. Therefore, we are giving a three-year extension to non-Euro II engine compliant vehicles rather than the 10 years which the noble Lord requests in Amendment No. 402. We believe that will deal with the bulk of the problem which he identifies. With these explanations I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to my noble friend for that explanation. I have slightly different information. Although 10 years was my and their first stab at the time period, perhaps something in the middle is right. I shall certainly go away and speak to the noble Lords further. Perhaps I shall come back and perhaps I shall not.

Earl Attlee: It is good that the time is not right to test the opinion of the Committee. I was a little disappointed with the Minister's reply. The construction and use regulations are very detailed. Sometimes it is important to be able to look up in a reference book when a particular requirement comes into force. For instance, how young does a vehicle have to be before it needs to be fitted with sideguards?

Perhaps the Minister can say why the Northern Irish road haulage fraternity has the benefit of one volume of the Northern Ireland construction and use regulations?

Lord Whitty: All I would say is that things are often better in Northern Ireland.

Earl Attlee: I hope that Hansard caught that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 401:

    After Clause 256, insert the following new clause--


(" . After subsection (5) of section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 there shall be inserted--
"(5A) No order relating to mobile cranes made under this section shall prevent the operator of the mobile crane from carrying a motor bicycle of no more than 250cc displacement with the vehicle."").

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The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 401 I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 409. These amendments deal with totally unrelated issues but I am confident that I shall receive a full reply. Amendment No. 401 seeks to allow a small motorbike to be carried on a mobile crane. Current construction and use regulations prohibit the carriage of anything not strictly necessary for the operation of the crane. However, these cranes are expensive to run and sometimes can be very large indeed. One type weighs 138 tonnes. If a small motorbike could be carried, unnecessary movements could be avoided. I hope the Minister will look favourably at the principle.

I turn to Amendment No. 409. I remind the Committee that I have an interest. Amendment No. 409 deals with the need for a network of roads that can accommodate very high, wide or heavy loads. I am not convinced that sufficient attention is being paid to the need to maintain a suitable network. I believe the Minister is aware of the problem but sometimes highways and bridge authorities are very willing to move the problem somewhere else. That could result in an order for our heavy engineering industry going somewhere else as well. Perhaps the Minister would say what is being done about this problem. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: Amendment No. 409 concerns the movement of abnormal loads. I can inform the Committee that we are already tackling this problem. Officials from my department are engaged in the task of developing and seeking agreements on maintaining a strategic route network for moving heavy and high loads safely and economically. Any system for routeing abnormal loads needs to be flexible to take into account the varying circumstances, the time of the movement, the duration of the movement and the size of the movement. A legislative base, which is what the amendment provides, would be somewhat less flexible than what we hope will be the outcome of the administrative approach which we are already developing. It might preclude the development and use of other transportation systems--for example, on inland waterways--which might help in one instance and not in another. I hope that the noble Earl is reassured that we are administratively beginning to tackle that problem and that he will not therefore press his amendment.

Amendment No. 401 relates to heavy mobile cranes. There is a fairly strict requirement that mobile cranes should not carry anything. I remain to be convinced that a small motorbike should be an exemption from that requirement. Presumably, the intention behind the amendment is that when the operator of the mobile crane has arrived at his destination he can jump on his motorbike and go home. When we are dealing with capital equipment worth several thousands it is not beyond the wit of the operator to ensure that when the crane driver arrives at the site he has a means of transportation home, if that is the problem. I am not totally convinced that what seems to be a minor and convenient amendment

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for the operator is justifiable in that it could be seen as the thin end of the wedge. There are other ways of meeting that requirement.

Lord Bradshaw: I was interested in the Minister's reply to Amendment No. 409 regarding high and heavy loads. I am desperately concerned about the number of railway bridges that are regularly hit by high vehicles. One bridge between Aylesbury and Bicester has been hit several times this year. There is a tragedy waiting to happen. I hope that the Minister's officials working on the high and heavy load strategy will mark out on the map the bridges that are frequently hit by heavy lorries and will try to ensure that wherever possible routeing avoids them. There is a serious problem.

Lord Berkeley: They should also ensure that the drivers and owners of heavy lorries are prosecuted. When last we discussed this matter the answer given by my noble friend--perhaps it was his predecessor--was that Railtrack would prosecute only in cases of vehicles owned by large companies because those companies would be expected to know the height of their lorries. We need to go further than that. Perhaps I may make one comment on Amendment No. 401. The alternative to a motorbike is a pushbike, for which one does not need a licence.

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