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Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am grateful for noble Lords' comments on the amendment. As everyone says, right of entry is a difficult subject, one on which a great deal of sensitivity has to be shown. My noble friend Lord Graham underlined that point.

Most comments on the amendment have related to costs. The intensive consultation in 1999 included local authorities and raised the very points on cost that have been made today. Following consultation, procedures have been set to ensure that local authorities are compensated for the new burdens that will follow as a result of the Bill. I hope that that statement of fact reassures noble Lords.

I listened to the point about planning raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I should point out—it may or may not be helpful—that grants to local authorities have increased dramatically over the past few years. We hope that that problem will not stand in the way of the successful implementation of the Bill, when enacted.

I am not sure what the answer is to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner. My guess is that, if a person tends his side of a hedge and his neighbour allows the other side to grow in a rampant way, he will have the right to make the same complaint to the local authority as he would if the hedge were overgrown. However, I shall write to the noble Baroness if I am wrong on that point.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 11 [Remedial action by relevant authority etc]:

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 17:

"(a) a person authorised by the relevant authority may enter the neighbouring land and take the required action; and
(b) the relevant authority may recover any expenses reasonably incurred by that person in doing so from any person who is the owner or an occupier of the land."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this and the following amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendments Nos. 18 and 19:

    Page 9, line 25, at end insert—

"(3A) A person shall not enter land in the exercise of a power conferred by this section unless at least 7 days' notice of the intended entry has been given to every occupier of the land.
(3B) A person authorised under this section to enter land—
(a) shall, if so required, produce evidence of his authority before entering; and
(b) shall produce such evidence if required to do so at any time while he remains on the land.

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(3C) A person who enters land in the exercise of a power conferred by this section may—
(a) use a vehicle to enter the land;
(b) take with him such other persons as may be necessary;
(c) take with him equipment and materials needed for the purpose of taking the required action.
(3D) If, in the exercise of a power conferred by this section, a person enters land which is unoccupied or from which all of the persons occupying the land are temporarily absent, he must on his departure leave it as effectively secured against unauthorised entry as he found it." Page 9, line 32, leave out "subsection (1)" and insert "this section"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 16 [Power to amend sections 1 and 2]:

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 20:

    Page 12, line 5, leave out from "regulations" to "the" in line 11 and insert "do one or both of the following—

(a) amend section 1 for the purpose of extending the scope of complaints relating to high hedges to which this Act applies; and
(b) amend"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill [HL]

12.12 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This short Bill has the purpose of regulating in the modern era the driving or use of vehicles drawn on roads or in other public places by horses or other animals. As such, it is based on proposals which were the subject of a limited consultation by the then Department of Transport in 1995.

The department had become concerned about the state of the law concerning such vehicles as the result of an incident in Derby in which a mother was seriously injured and her teenage daughter killed by a horse which broke away from its carriage and ran them down on the pavement. The only statutory offence, involving negligently or wilfully misusing a carriage, was Section 78 of the Highway Act 1835, which had an inappropriate maximum penalty of £100—level 1 on the standard scale. For that reason, the prosecuting authority brought a charge of manslaughter, but the judge ruled that the circumstances did not warrant such a grave charge and the trial was halted.

Ministers in the transport department were naturally concerned, given the increasing use of horse-drawn vehicles for weddings and other functions, and they obtained the agreement of colleagues in the Home Office to a range of penalties from the minor to the more serious to fill the gap. Consultation on that basis took place with horse societies and bodies, which advised that they were not opposed to the proposals.

It may be averred that one incident, no matter how serious, would not in itself serve as a precedent for legislation. But, like Ministers of that day, I take the view that there should be requirements that the driving

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and use of such vehicles take place in a safe and responsible way, as indeed has long been the case with other large road vehicles. A statutory framework is the best way to achieve that.

I now turn to the Bill. The principle underlying it, as proposed by the transport department in 1995, is that there should be no distinction between offences relating to mechanically propelled vehicles and those relating to horse-drawn ones. Therefore, the Bill closely parallels existing offences relating to mechanically propelled vehicles, as set out in the Road Traffic Acts 1988 and 1991, subject to the uprating of penalties for more serious offences in accordance with later criminal justice legislation.

As to the extension of the Bill to vehicles drawn by animals others than horses, there are precedents in provisions which presently apply only in Northern Ireland. Because of the use of affected vehicles in public places other than roads, I have thought it expedient that the Bill should seek to extend there in addition to applying to roads.

I now, briefly and sequentially, describe the provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 seeks to introduce a new Part IIA into the Road Traffic Act 1988. It contains new offences concerning vehicles drawn by horses or other animals—offences which, as I said earlier, parallel ones relating to mechanically propelled vehicles. They are: causing death by dangerous driving; driving dangerously; driving carelessly or inconsiderately; dangerous or unreasonable interference with a vehicle; and using a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

The rest of the Bill seeks simply to make ancillary provision with respect to the offences created by Part IIA. For the purposes of enforcement, Clause 2 empowers the police to stop an affected vehicle and to require the name and address of the driver and owner. It goes on to place a duty on a driver to stop after an accident and either to give his name and address and those of the owner or to report the accident to the police. Failure to comply in each case would be an offence. The clause also contains a supplementary provision with respect to powers of arrest in Scotland.

Clause 3 seeks to make provision for alternative verdicts in relation to offences created by Part IIA. Clause 4 and Schedule 1 seek to make provision for the prosecution and punishment of those offences in like manner as applies to mechanically propelled vehicles. There remain Clauses 5 and 6 and Schedules 2 and 3, which are concerned with making minor or consequential amendments and repeals. Being concerned with reserved matters, the Bill seeks to extend to Scotland.

Based as the provisions are on proposals mooted by the transport department, when it was such, I very much hope that the Minister will view the Bill favourably and seek to improve it during its passage rather than oppose it. I have been in correspondence with the Minister, who said that at present the Government do not believe that the matter warrants primary legislation. I should be interested to know what has caused that change of opinion. However, the

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Government go on to say that they would be prepared to produce legislation if it was seen to be needed. I should have thought that the best thing to do would be to go ahead with it as it is at present. It has already been introduced in the House of Keys in the Isle of Man.

As I said, I hope that the Government will view the Bill favourably. Being an uncontroversial affair, I trust that the Bill will receive support from the present Administration, as indeed it did from the previous one. I submit that it serves the useful function of addressing relatively minor matters in the scheme of things which would otherwise stand little chance of being addressed in the Government's legislative programme. Indeed, I suspect that that may well be the reason that a government Bill has yet to appear over seven years since it was first canvassed.

I believe that noble Lords will be as surprised as I was to learn of the gap in the law which the Bill seeks to fill. I cannot cite chapter and verse, but I suspect that the gap arose from the sweeping away of horse-vehicle legislation with the speedy advent of motor vehicles some 80 years or more ago. Now that the use of horse-drawn vehicles is increasing, I believe that we need to fill the gap. I pay tribute to the work of Mr Ian Saberton, who has worked tirelessly on this matter. As such, I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Beaumont of Whitley.)

12.20 p.m.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, on bringing forward this Bill. A short affair, it addresses issues rightly deserving attention. For the reasons adduced by the noble Lord when moving the Second Reading, I support the underlying theme of the Bill. It clearly cannot be right that drivers of horse-drawn vehicles, and the like, should be materially less accountable for their actions on roads or in other public places than drivers of all other large road vehicles. Therefore, I agree with the parallel that the Bill seeks to draw between the two; for whether a large road vehicle is mechanically propelled or not, I am of the opinion that driving it in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner is of equal concern and of equal gravity.

It is true that the existing state of the law is unsatisfactory. Section 78 of the Highway Act 1835, to which the noble Lord referred, is couched in the language of a bygone era and patently fails to provide adequate sanction in more serious cases of misuse—and, dare I say, in lesser cases too. It is right that the Bill should seek to sweep it away.

It may, of course, be possible to prosecute for causing bodily harm by wanton and furious driving under Section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, although I am not aware of the provision being so used in the case of horse-drawn vehicles in modern times. The offence is an indictable one which is punishable on conviction with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

There are, however, substantive problems here. First, the provision fails to address misdriving short of causing bodily harm, no matter how dangerous,

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careless or inconsiderate it may be. And secondly, in more serious cases of the kind to which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, referred, it does not provide sanctions commensurate with those available under the Road Traffic Acts with respect to the misdriving of mechanically propelled vehicles.

By contrast, the Bill offers a range of penalties from the minor to the more serious, depending on the nature of the offences that the Bill seeks to create. It is, I believe, an approach that is flexible, responsive, and fine-tuned to the circumstances that would be involved.

Perhaps I may now move on to aspects of the Bill about which I am uncertain or which I believe are capable of improvement. First, given that the Bill deals with reserved matters and seeks to apply to Scotland, I would welcome the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, clarifying why the offence of interference or the provisions concerning alternative verdicts would not extend there. Conversely, I have some difficulty understanding why a supplementary power of arrest in Clause 2(3) does so extend, but not to England and Wales.

Secondly, I note that the Bill seeks to apply to public places besides roads and to animals other than horses. I am inclined to believe that such application is right, but look forward to the noble Lord clarifying why the Bill should apply in that way. Thirdly, I am not entirely convinced of the basis for the consequential amendments in Schedule 2. I look forward to the noble Lord's response.

Finally, if the Bill receives a Second Reading and progresses—the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, is not too hopeful of that—he may wish to consider bringing forward an amendment to make an "arrestable offence" the offence proposed to be created by draft Section 170A(4), as inserted by Clause 2. The offence as proposed by that draft section relates to the failure to give one's name and address after an accident involving a horse-drawn vehicle. It is modelled on an existing offence relating to mechanically propelled vehicles under Section 170(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1988—an existing offence that is now an "arrestable offence" by virtue of the Police Reform Act 2002.

As the Bill seeks generally to draw a parallel between offences relating to mechanically propelled vehicles and horse-drawn ones, it seems right that the proposed offence, like the existing one, should be an "arrestable offence" too. As noble Lords will be aware, an "arrestable offence" is one where a constable may arrest, on suspicion, without a warrant. It includes any offence carrying imprisonment for a term of five years or more, but it also includes a few others, of which the offence under existing Section 170(4) is one.

To conclude, I believe that the Bill's provisions are wholly in line with the desirable aim for consistency in treatment between drivers of mechanically propelled vehicles and horse-drawn ones. In seeking to close a gap in the law I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has done a service to the House in bringing forward the Bill, which has my support.

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12.26 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I start by declaring an interest as president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. I support the Bill wholeheartedly as it will fill a gap in our road traffic law. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, on introducing it.

The general principle of road use should be that each and every one of us has a duty to behave in a reasonable, responsible and safe manner when using the road, so that we do not endanger other people or indeed ourselves. Carriages drawn by horses, or by other animals, such as ponies, donkeys and mules may not have the essential transport function that they had a century ago, but they are popular for tourism, leisure and social purposes. It is, for example, quite common to see a bride arrive at her wedding in a horse-drawn vehicle.

This morning on my way to your Lordships' House, I passed a hearse drawn by two beautiful black horses making its way to a funeral somewhere in south London. It is most unlikely that such a vehicle would be driven in a dangerous manner, but we must remember that horses are powerful animals that are easily frightened and that can panic, especially near fast-moving traffic or at sudden loud noises. If not trained and controlled properly, they can very easily cause injury to themselves, to vehicle occupants and to other road users.

The British Horse Society estimates that there are around 3,000 road accidents involving horses each year. Half of them take place on minor roads. I am not aware of how many of those accidents involve horse-drawn vehicles. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, or my noble friend the Minister may have some statistics on that.

The Bill will make it an offence for drivers of vehicles drawn by horses or other animals to drive their vehicles in a careless or dangerous manner, or to operate them in an unsafe condition. Thus it brings such drivers into line with drivers of motor vehicles, and for that reason is welcome. There is a strong case for extending the principle to all users of the road, no matter what the vehicle, such as, for example, motorised scooters and, indeed, non-motorised ones.

I have one further question for the promoter. Does new Section 86F on page 3 of the Bill—

    "Using horse-drawn vehicle etc. in dangerous condition"—

cover the need to use lights and reflectors on the vehicle in the dark? If not, would the noble Lord accept an amendment at a later stage to make that mandatory?

This is a useful Bill which I am happy to support and it has the wholehearted support of RoSPA. If I may advertise for a second, I commend to your Lordships a new policy statement from the society on horse riders, the contents of which are wholly consistent with what the noble Lord's Bill seeks to achieve in respect of horse-drawn vehicles. I wish the Bill every success.

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12.29 p.m.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, from these Benches I want to add a few words to the comprehensive introduction given to the Bill by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. Some noble Lords will be aware that I am a county councillor in Suffolk. But they may not know—I accept that this topic is not on the lips of everyone throughout the land—that in that capacity I chair the rights of way and traffic management sub-committee. I have spent a number of years pondering various issues of road safety, particularly in a rural context, and indeed regarding rights of way. That includes the needs of what I have heard described as the "horsey culture".

Certainly in Suffolk, as far as I am aware, there has not been an accident involving injury with a horse-drawn vehicle since I have held this august position. Until the Bill appeared I, too, was unaware of the general exclusion of horse-drawn vehicles from road safety provision.

I am slightly concerned whether one accident, however tragic, should give rise to a change in primary legislation. Nevertheless, I welcome the opportunity to have the debate and to air the issues. As we have heard, these issues are to be dealt with under general laws which relate to negligence, as well as to rather more ancient and obscure legislation.

At this point I have some news for the noble Viscount. Some years ago it was proposed that carriage racing should be held on the ancient Peddars Way in Suffolk. I asked the solicitors whether anything could be done to stop it. They said that they could not find anything. I sent them off to have another look. A young solicitor emerged from a dusty room with the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which prohibits,

    "wanton and furious driving or racing".

On that basis, we were able to stop the race.

This part of East Anglia was once inhabited by the Iceni tribe. I was rather nervous about the spirit of Boadicea haunting me ever after. Nevertheless, it is interesting to reflect that we had to resort to legislation that was 150 years old. It is also interesting that rights-of-way law make no distinction between horse-drawn and motorised vehicles. So we have two different sets of law which treat these vehicles very differently.

It might seem sensible to include these provisions in order to bring horse-drawn vehicles in line with others, but I remain to be convinced that primary legislation is entirely needed. However, I look forward to hearing the comments of the Minister and other noble Lords.

12.32 p.m.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, the Bill seeks to impose severe penalties on those who drive horse-drawn vehicles dangerously. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, referred to races. There is a problem in certain areas with trotting races that are usually run on a Sunday by the gypsy community on public roads.

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Nevertheless, the Bill as proposed is severe and prescriptive. While, like any Private Members' Bill, we are largely neutral on the subject, we would want to be convinced that: first, the Bill is necessary; is it a real problem? And, secondly, are the clauses justified or is the current law sufficient for the purpose? The question is one for the Minister to answer.

Looking at the Bill, how, for example, would new Section 86F work? The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, made a reasonable point about reflectors and lights, but there are more subjective matters. Is it right for a policeman to be required to judge whether a horse-drawn cart is dangerous? Carts do not need to have MoTs. Does it mean it should have a brake? If so, what brake? Who is to know how many persons should be carried? Indeed, the Bill covers carts drawn by "other animals". What animals is the noble Lord considering?

Clause 2(3) gives the power to the police to ask for,

    "insurance or security and test certificates".

Can the noble Lord tell the House what test certificate is needed to drive a horse and cart?

I suspect that the problem of trotting races can be covered by local authority bylaws. I doubt that the Bill is suitable for the statute book or indeed for a Committee stage, but I shall listen carefully to what the Minister has to say.

12.34 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have a certain number of personal, although clearly not financial, interests in the subject matter of the Bill. When I took my driving test in 1950—took and passed, I hasten to say—the Highway Code contained a number of graphic illustrations of horse-drawn carriages. It had a gentleman wearing a flat version of a hat. If he wanted to turn right he held his whip out to the right of the carriage and when he wanted to turn left he held it above his head and rotated it gently in a clockwise direction. I cannot remember the other but there were comparable actions in those days before there were electric indicators in cars. In a sense, I regret that.

I also have an interest in that my great-grandfather, who was a brewer's drayman for Whitbread, was kicked very severely by one of his own horses, which I believe happened on the public highway. He had to have his leg amputated by a butcher because no one could afford a surgeon and he never moved from the front room for the rest of his life. My wife's great-grandmother, who was a leading Methodist layperson and therefore a teetotaller, was knocked over and killed by a brewer's dray in Highgate Hill. So, I feel strongly about these issues.

Perhaps I may turn to the issues raised by the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has referred to the Code of Practice for Horse Drawn Vehicles, which was drawn up in the wake of the tragedy in Derby. That provides simple but authoritative guidance on the use and maintenance of horse-drawn vehicles, prepared in conjunction with the British Driving Society and the British Horse Society.

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The code lays down the requirements for what is known as the road driving assessment, which is the minimum standard of competence for driving horses and vehicles for carrying passengers on the public highway. The test is not mandatory, but I understand that it is required by some local authorities as a condition for issuing a licence to operate a passenger-carrying horse-drawn vehicle. Whether that includes carrying a dead body, I am not sure.

The code also includes comprehensive lists of safety checks that should be carried out to ensure that the carriage and its fittings are safe and in good working order. The carriage check lists can also be used by local authorities as part of any licensing scheme as a basis for ensuring that vehicles are properly maintained. It is clear that the code and the assessment have a particular standing and role to play in ensuring safe driving standards. When the then Department of Transport indicated that it was sympathetic to action after the Derby tragedy, this is the action that resulted.

Copies of the code are free. There have been more than 10,000 copies distributed since it was published in November 1996. I recognise that the code does not have the same force as legislation. That is true, but the real test is surely whether the measure, whether statutory or not, is an effective way to deal with the issue that it was meant to address. The evidence from road casualty statistics, to which I shall return, suggests that the voluntary approach has worked well. It is supplemented by statutory controls.

As well as the code of practice we have the provisions of Section 78 of the Highway Act 1835, which makes it an offence for the driver of a carriage on the highway,

    "by negligence or wilful behaviour",

to injure or damage any person, horse, cattle or goods conveyed in a carriage on the highway. However, the maximum penalty is a fine at level 1 on the standard scale, which is currently £200. That is for minor offences.

Far sterner penalties apply under Section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, referred rather disparagingly. What is wrong with legislation that is 150 years old if it works? That makes it an offence for any person in charge of a vehicle to cause, or cause to be done, bodily harm to any person,

    "by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect".

Apart from the fact that that applies to Suffolk drivers such as Boadicea, it is in fact an indictable offence and carries a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. It has been used to prosecute motorists, but it would of course have been originally created to deal with carriage drivers and it is available for that purpose.

In addition, very detailed road traffic legislation has been in place for many years which regulates the operation of mechanically propelled vehicles. That reflects the fact that the overwhelming majority of casualties on our roads are caused by motor vehicles.

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I do not know where the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, obtained his figure of 3,000 accidents. My figures show that in 2001 there were seven fatalities and 65 serious injuries in accidents involving non-motorised vehicles. That includes all forms of non-motorised vehicles, not just animal-drawn ones. It includes casualties in any vehicle in an accident in which a non-motorised vehicle was concerned. The number of accidents caused by animal-drawn vehicles would surely be even lower.

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