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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall happily send the noble Viscount the transcript of meetings with, among others, the CBI London region and the London chambers of commerce, on the subject.

8.24 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall confine my remarks to the Bill and to those matters that concern the Government rather than the promoters. It is incumbent on me to give the Government's view of the Bill.

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On a number of occasions officials have discussed the Bill's proposals with the promoters. Following the promoters' decision to withdraw Clauses 13 and 14 on street works, the Government have no objections in principle to the Bill, although we seek certain assurances about the way that the decriminalised enforcement powers will be used. We shall also want to raise some points of detail in Committee. I shall return to the issue of street works and Clauses 13 and 14 at the close of my remarks.

As my noble friend Lord Graham has explained, the main purpose of the Bill is to give the London borough councils and Transport for London powers to facilitate the smoother operation of their roads, in particular by giving the authorities powers to enforce various road traffic and highways law contraventions. The Government agree that it is not a good use of limited police resources to expect them to enforce offences that are not directly related to road safety; for example, speeding. The Bill builds on the well-established London system of civil enforcement by the traffic authority of parking controls and bus lanes.

It is right that road traffic and highway law contraventions should be properly enforced and that the enforcement system should be an effective deterrent to would-be offenders. It is also right that the relevant authorities should be discriminating in their use of enforcement powers and focus on the most serious problems. Over-zealous enforcement of minor infringements can easily bring the system into discredit and give credence to the idea that enforcement is being used as a means of raising revenue rather than dealing with serious problems.

The new powers should be piloted before they are used generally and there needs to be guidance to ensure that enforcement authorities adopt a focused and reasonable approach. I look to my noble friend Lord Graham to give us a clear undertaking on those matters when he responds to the debate.

In principle, the Government accept the decriminalisation proposal relating to the enforcement of the London lorry ban. By avoiding the need to pursue every offence through the courts, as at present, the proposal should significantly reduce the administrative burden on the courts, the enforcing authorities and defendants. In parallel with that proposal, work is in hand through the London sustainable distribution forum to review the current operation of the lorry ban in pursuit of the commitment to do so in the Mayor of London's transport strategy. The Government welcome the review. The lorry ban was introduced when, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said, lorries were noisier than they are now and it is right to consider whether the present extent and operation of the ban strikes the right balance between protecting the environment and the need to reduce unnecessary burdens on commerce and industry. I would like the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on the lorry ban to be communicated to the London Sustainable Distribution Forum.

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The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asked whether there will be camera evidence of a box junction offence. The answer is yes, although for a box junction offence one would like to see a moving picture to see whether the car in front that you thought would move forward has moved. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, also asked about details of vehicle keepers in relation to Clause 7. The DVLA may release information on registered keepers and vehicles to those, such as the police, who have a reasonable need for such information.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, made a very interesting speech, of great concern to the promoters, about new developments in technology as they affect street works. He made a point about "trenchless" technology. We are aware of the developments that he described and we are enthusiastic about the possibilities of the techniques available to utility companies, especially for renewing water and gas pipes. They will require fewer openings—rather than no openings—of the highway and cause less destruction, but they will be difficult to use in central London where there is a concentration of what is technically called apparatus—what I would call pipes, ducts and cables. We take seriously what he says.

The Government did urge the promoters to withdraw Clauses 13 and 14, despite the fact that we are keen to reduce the disruption caused by street works—as evidenced by our support for the current lane rental pilots in Camden and Middlesbrough. We took lane rental powers in the Transport Act 2000—urged on by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, who was a pioneer. The pilots started in March 2002 and, subject to their outcome, we would be prepared to roll out lane rental nationally. My answer to whether the pilots will be extended to other individual local authorities is that we are looking at going straight from Camden and Middlesbrough to national implementation.

On Clause 13, we told the promoters that we have been actively pursuing other ways of improving the operation of street works. Among them is a new specification for backfilling trenches and reinstatement that came into force in July and a stronger inspection regime, which was introduced this month. We are not idle. There is a long way to go and I hope that the lane rental pilots work and have an effect.

Clause 14 is about providing ducts. I am pleased that the department will be launching a study by the end of the year that will look not only at the idea represented by that clause but more widely. For example, it will examine how barriers to trench sharing can be reduced and its use encouraged. It will investigate ideas such as providing one large duct or tunnel that could carry all the services into a new development—so avoiding the need to dig up the road subsequently. It is better not to pursue Clause 14 but to deal with the matter at national level.

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Those remarks cover the principal matters raised in debate and to which it is appropriate for the Government to reply. I look forward to hearing my noble friend's response.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I asked whether there is a statutory duty on local authorities to keep traffic moving. I am told that there is not. Is the Minister able to help us with that point?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord is referring to a national traffic authority. We believe that the present arrangements for keeping traffic moving provide the right balance between national and local interests. The Highways Agency is responsible for roads of strategic importance, which carry the bulk of goods vehicles, and it is right that they should be dealt with at national level. The roads in Greater London for which the Highways Agency is responsible are virtually confined to the stubs of the M1, M11, M4 and A3113 around Heathrow.

In the course of devolution to London, we gave responsibility for strategic transport planning and co-ordination to the mayor and Transport for London. That was the will of Parliament. Some 96 per cent of roads in the country, including in London, are the responsibility of local authorities—which can best represent the interests of homeowners, shops and businesses, as well of road transport. The balance between those interests is and ought to be the responsibility of local authorities.

8.34 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I am grateful to everyone who has taken part in the debate—particularly my noble friend the Minister, who has relieved me of a great deal of responsibility for providing answers to questions that were legitimately raised. I repeat my gratitude to my noble friend for taking on that burden.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg my noble friend's pardon for interrupting, but there is one question to which he should not be expected to respond. I refer to the question of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, about what happens next. My understanding is that the procedure for private Bills normally includes carry-over into the next Session. That will clearly happen in this case.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: After that carry-over, my Lords, I will carry on.

The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, speaks with the voice of aggravation and experience and none of your Lordships would disagree with his comments about frustration. His great argument is that, it ain't what you do but the way that you do it. The way in which Transport for London consults with or takes note of the noble Lord and many others leaves something to

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be desired. I repeat the assurance that I gave the noble Lord before the debate. I will do everything possible to persuade the powers that be at Transport for London to take careful note and to consider how it can improve its procedures in such a way that the aggravation and frustration felt and voiced by the noble Lord are diminished.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, offered us the fascinating prospect of avoiding—albeit with difficulty and at a cost—some of the aggravations addressed by the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out the current delicate state of life under the highway. She forecast major surgery, not keyhole surgery, if that matter is not dealt with—and I entirely agree.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, referred to the lorry ban. When I sat in another place, I spoke on the environment. The lorry ban issue in the early 1980s was a child of the Greater London Council. Over the years, it has been under constant review. In general, people and businesses in London accept the environmental case for a lorry ban. However, nothing is perfect. I will try to ensure that the powers that be in another place and elsewhere are made aware of the need to take into account the noble Earl's points.

As to Clauses 13 and 14, and without any further promises, whatever form the consultations take they will be the subject of debate, argument and possibly amendment in this House and elsewhere.

As to evidence in relation to box junctions, I was once caught for speeding. The photograph that I obtained from the police was evidence that I was "bang to rights". The answer of course was in the negative—was that a pun?—and I could not dispute it. My noble friend's comments were certainly helpful.

My noble friend said that clear guidelines are needed for the future and that pilot schemes need to be undertaken with care and reason. One does not want to jump from one situation to another too hastily or too far.

I am grateful to the House for listening. If I have failed to answer any points, I say as Ministers sometimes do—I will ensure that an answer is sent.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to an Unopposed Bill Committee.

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