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Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Minister's assurance that the fines will be used only to cover administrative costs and not as a general revenue-raising power by the police or local authorities. However, will the Government consider the reasonableness of the new speed limits? They are acceptable to motorists only if they see them as being reasonable. Does the Minister agree that, for example, the speed limit on the elevated section of the M.4 was satisfactory at 50 miles an hour, particularly when there was less traffic about? Is it really reasonable to have a lower limit?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the whole question of the appropriateness of limits in various circumstances is being addressed in the speed review. In general, detailed decisions on speed limits are matters for local highways authorities. In the particular case to which the noble Lord refers, the roads are under the remit of the Highways Agency. The speed limit on that road seems to be the most appropriate for the volume of traffic involved at various times. However, I ask the noble Lord to await the outcome of the speed review to see the totality of our policy within that area.
Viscount Tenby: My Lords, will the Minister give an indication of when we can expect to receive the speed review? It has been eagerly awaited for a large number of months. It is a matter of great importance and we should be glad to hear when it will be publicised.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I appreciate the noble Viscount's concern. He initiated a debate on that very subject which was very informative to your Lordships. On the timing, the position is that publication will be early in the new year. I hope to interpret that fairly robustly.
The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is considerable concern in some quarters that the administration of those cameras may be taken outside the direct control of the police and be operated by some agency, or even privatised? Will the Minister please reassure the House that that is absolutely not the intention of Her Majesty's Government?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, we understand from the electoral registration officer of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that there are 166 Peers on the electoral register in Kensington and Chelsea. Sadly, he does not know how many of them are no longer entitled to sit in your Lordships' House.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, while I confess to some disappointment in that reply, is it not reasonable to assume that a considerable proportion of them were indeed noble Lords who are no longer entitled to sit and vote in your Lordships' House? Does that not make a mockery of the assurances given by different Ministers during the passage of the House of Lords Bill?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am quite happy to agree with the noble Lord's first point, that it is reasonable to assume that many of the hereditary Peers formerly entitled to sit in your Lordships' House are indeed on the register in Kensington and Chelsea. However, I cannot support his second point. The issue was raised during debates on the reform of the House of Lords. We gave an assurance at the time that the situation would be recognised. There is no question in our minds that it will be. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, fully accepted the position as stated during the course of those debates. He accepted that former hereditary Peers would be able to come on to the register next year. Indeed, he said,
Secondly, is it not the fact that when your Lordships discussed the matter of the possible disenfranchisement of some noble Lords, the Government gave it to be completely understood that that would not happen because powers were given to the Secretary of State to bring into force a statutory instrument; an order? I apologise if I am mistaken in that recollection, but I understand from the noises behind me that I am not alone in that regard.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, is the Minister aware that his answers have been uncharacteristically shoddy this afternoon? The fact is that, as the Minister correctly said in his reply earlier, those hereditary Peers are already on the register. The question is not a new one; it was raised six or seven months ago. Why have the Government been so slow in coming forward with an order simply to remove the bar on those Peers who are already on the electoral register from being able to vote in the by-election?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I appreciate that they are on the register already to vote in European and local elections. We fully intend to bring forward an order in the fastest time possible to enable them to qualify to vote in general elections and by-elections. We were well aware of the issue back in May this year. My noble and learned friend Lord Falconer made the position plain. He said at the time that we accepted that it would be too long to wait until 2001 to go on to the register. We shall expedite the matter as quickly as possible. We did not control the timetable of the calling of the Kensington and Chelsea by-election. It was not our business at all.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether it was open to those noble Lords no longer entitled to sit and vote in the House of Lords to contact the electoral officer and to claim their right to vote?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, they would not have been able to vote because they were not qualified to do so. The House of Lords Bill received Royal Assent on 11th November. There was not time in the
Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lord Bassam will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement being made in another place on passports. The Statement is likely to be taken after the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the Local Government Bill.