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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I believe that everyone who has taken part in this short debate is aware that the Government are very seized of this issue. We issued a consultation document last summer seeking views on a proposal to prohibit the use of hand-held—not hands-free—mobile phones. We have had over 1,000 responses. We are now considering the responses that we have been given. I hope that we shall be able to make an announcement very shortly.

However, there is one difficulty with the amendment and one reason why it is not absolutely essential. The difficulty with the amendment is that when we give our response to the consultation I am sure, for the reasons given by a number of noble Lords, that it will be much more complicated than the wording of the amendment. The phrase,

is a very interesting phrase. I refer also to the phrase,

    "a motor vehicle on a road".

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Does that apply to carparks or to private roads? As regards the phrase,

    "if the driver is using a hand-held mobile telephone",

what is the definition of a "hand-held mobile telephone"?

Should there be exemptions for emergency services? All kinds of issues will have to be referred to in our response. That is the rather profound difficulty with the amendment. But, if it is any consolation, we do not need primary legislation to implement whatever we decide to do. It can be done by—as the amendment suggests—an addition to the construction and use regulations. We have power under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, as amended, to make regulations about the conditions under which motor vehicles may be used on roads. If any announcement is made which commits us to change, it will not be lost because it is made after the passage of this Bill.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I think that I am able to decode the message which my noble friend gave me in that reply. I am encouraged by it. I believe that an announcement is not too far away. In that expectation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 24:

    After Clause 107, insert the following new clause—

(1) In the interest of public health and safety, the following shall have effect.
(2) The Secretary of State shall within one year from the coming into force of this enactment make a permanent traffic regulation order to prohibit the use of non-essential mechanically propelled vehicles on the National Trails.
(3) Non-essential mechanically propelled vehicles shall mean all such vehicles but shall not include those driven by individuals with an estate or interest in land adjoining the Trails or their lawful visitors or emergency vehicles.
(4) A traffic regulation order shall mean an order as defined in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27) and as subsequently amended."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment addresses a matter of great concern. Since we previously discussed it in Grand Committee, I notice that the Countryside Agency has published a report in which it describes the situation on the national trails as a national disgrace.

There is no purpose in local authorities seeking to publish bits of traffic orders for bits of the national trails as they are very expensive to produce, take a long time to produce and are almost unenforceable once passed. What is needed to protect the national trails—we desperately need something to protect them—is a blanket traffic order which applies to all national trails everywhere and prohibits the use of any mechanically propelled vehicle other than that which has legitimate reason to be there. That would obviously include motor bikes and various quad bikes.

I know before he responds to the amendment that the Minister is sympathetic to what I am saying although he is concerned about the means of achieving

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what I propose. Should he wish, I am very willing to defer to Third Reading consideration of the amendment if between now and then I can meet with someone, for example, a Minister in another place, who is charged with getting something done about the matter.

I do not want to lose the opportunity to move a simple amendment that requires the Secretary of State to do something within a period of time after the Bill has passed; it does not compel him to do something immediately it has passed. However, I should like the Minister in his reply to advise me what I may best do to achieve an end result which, if put to a free vote of the House, would be passed overwhelmingly. I believe that that is what most of us would like to achieve. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this issue is a nightmare. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has shown me the photographs of the Ridgeway, and I entirely accept that the places he has shown me are in an intolerable state. They are seas of mud or water and are in many ways impassable for pedestrians or cyclists. I therefore recognise the noble Lord's valid point. However, I do not have a simple answer, nor do I believe has he.

The noble Lord asked me what progress we can make. Invitations have been issued to him—I hope that by now he has received his—and the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, to attend a meeting to be held next week by Alun Michael, the Minister for Rural Affairs. It will be one of a number of meetings involving MPs, local highway authorities and the Countryside Agency to assess the progress made by the Ridgeway Management Group in implementing a comprehensive management plan, which includes the use of TROs. I now realise that I should have ensured that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, was also invited, in view of the fact that he lives close to the Ridgeway. I will remedy that omission. It seems that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has not received the invitation. It will be sent again as soon as possible. It is now up to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and his colleagues to persuade Alun Michael that something should be done.

However, if the noble Lord's concern relates to the difficulty of local authorities to implement their powers to lay TROs, I can reassure the noble Lord that Section 22 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 already enables traffic regulation orders to be made in relation to special areas of the countryside. That section of the Act applies to, among other areas, long distance routes such as the Ridgeway.

The Act enables the Countryside Agency to make submissions to the Secretary of State about the desirability of a traffic regulation order being made in relation to a national trail. Where the traffic authorities responsible for a trail notify him that they do not intend to make an order imposing the proposed restrictions, the Secretary of State may himself promote an order as if he were the traffic authority. Of course, it will be the subject of the same procedures for

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objections, and if necessary a public inquiry, but I suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, should urge that course on the Minister for Rural Affairs.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I will take advantage of attending the meeting, if I can. I do not believe that I have received the invitation. Unfortunately, my noble friend Lady Scott is in Hamburg, or somewhere a little more exotic than here. We will try to persuade Alun Michael to table proposals at Third Reading, because this is a rare parliamentary opportunity to do anything. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 25:

    After Clause 107, insert the following new clause—

"Operating centres
In section 13(5) of the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 (c. 23), after paragraph (d) there is inserted—
"( ) in permitting goods vehicles operators to establish an operating centre, the traffic commissioner is satisfied that the centre is available, suitable and of sufficient capacity and must take into account the suitability of the local road network for the establishment of such a centre;"."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that we shall receive a positive response from the Minister to this amendment. This issue is a running sore in the countryside, particularly with farm buildings coming on to the market. In considering the suitability of an operating centre, the traffic commissioners would be enabled to look at the building, the road and the splay on to the road, but would be precluded from deciding whether the roads in the vicinity were suitable for heavy traffic.

It is all very well to say that the local authority may object to the planning consent. In fact, the planning consent for the buildings and the access to it may be in order. What is not in order is the highway, often leading for many miles around the operating centre. All that the amendment would do—and I hope that it is a simple amendment—is allow the traffic commissioner to have a little more power than he has now, but to take account of the impact that vehicle operation will have on the villages or small settlements around the operating centre. It is a minor amendment, but I am sure that there are many parts of the country where it would effective. It is no good to say that local authorities are experts on goods vehicles, even if the traffic commissioner had power to take into account what they say. Frankly, local authorities are not experts on goods vehicles and many of them know very little about them. I beg to move.

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