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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I am very happy to declare myself entirely satisfied with what the noble Lord has said. He will recognise that it is far from the case that my anxiety springs from a desire to be mischievous, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. I am cut to the quick by the idea; I have no such intention. I am concerned that many of the powers to which the Bill will add have been unused in the past. I am sure that the noble Lord and the Government appreciate that. I take the whole Bill as evidence of that. However, I hope that they will keep their mind on the fact that energy in this field has not been particularly visible in either the Highways Agency or the local authorities. I hope that the noble Lord will bear that in mind. Meanwhile, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment, which, as the noble Lord said, I never intended to press to a Division.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 5 and 10. All three amendments are small drafting improvements to improve consistency and accuracy. They have no policy implications.
Amendment No. 5 relates to Clause 5 and is to replace the word "regulations" as it appears on page 3, line 11, with the word "orders", for consistency with Clause 8, which uses the word "orders" not "regulations".
Amendment No. 10 relates to Clause 11 and is to replace the word "granted" as it appears on page 6, line 13, with the word "given", for consistency with Clause 2(2) which uses the word "given" not "granted". I beg to move.
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The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 4, and they suggest that Clause 2(1)(b) and Clause 2(5) should be deleted. I want to know why those provisions are in the Bill. Are they necessary? I beg to move.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, I did not intervene on the first amendment of my noble friend Lord Peyton because I was sure that the Minister was going to give him a satisfactory answer, which he did. We are grateful.
My noble friend Lord Peyton has raised an important point about the designation of traffic officers. In the Explanatory Notes, the Government state that in the longer term there is the option to employ contractors to provide traffic officers. It would be helpful to the House if the Minister could say what they mean by "the longer term" and when they would consider that these traffic officers could be employed by external service providers.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I hope that I will be able to satisfy both noble Lords about this amendment. Traffic officers in England will be designated by the Secretary of State and will be employees of the Highways Agency, and there are no current plans to do otherwise. In fact, in the other place my right honourable friend the Minister made that clear when he said that there are no plans to contract out and that,
However, the Government wish to retain the flexibility to be able to exercise the option of employing contractors in the future. We would consider this only where there are clear value for money benefits and benefits for road users, without undermining the integrity of the service.
For example, this might be a suitable option for limited parts of the network, such as a tunnel or a bridge. Indeed, the Dartford and Severn crossings have already set a precedent where the operator or concessionaire may directly appoint persons as traffic officers or similar. For this reason, the Government are not happy to take out the flexibility that Clause 2 provides to enable the use and development of new procurement and service delivery options in the future. Because we have no plans at all to take advantage of this flexibility at the moment, it is impossible to put a time scale on our determination not to contract out, but I hope that the explanation that I have given is satisfactory to the noble Lord and he will agree to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, once again, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, will forget entirely that word "mischief" as applied to myself. I am happy to say that I am content to withdraw the amendment.
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I shall read with care what the Minister has said, but he has made a useful contribution to my peace of mind. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 9. My principal concern is why Highways Agency traffic officers require the same power to stop any vehicle in the same way as a police constable. It seems to be a general power with no specific purpose, which could lead to some confusion.
I am aware that consideration is being given elsewhere for non-police to offer fixed penalty notices, both endorsable and non-endorsable, for moving traffic; that is, criminal offences. Unless this enforcement is always done as a conditional offer by post, non-police will need to stop vehicles.
That leads me on to Amendment No. 9, which would allow the traffic officer to stop a vehicle only for offences for which the officer can prosecute under this Bill and for no other reason. I beg to move.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend seeks to remove the power for traffic officers to stop traffic as set out in Clause 6(4) and add a power to stop traffic in Clause 10(4). The effect of his amendment would be to stop traffic officers from being given the power under Section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to stop vehicles. This power is necessary for traffic officers to be able to carry out their functions effectively.
It is true that under Clause 6 traffic officers will already be given the power of Section 35 of the 1988 Act to stop traffic. However, the Section 35 power may only be used where the traffic officer is,
Section 163 does not contain that qualification. This means that it could be used in circumstances where the primary duty being carried out by the traffic officer was not clearly "the regulation of traffic" as such, for example, escorting an abnormal load, or on patrol on a motorway. He might notice that a tarpaulin cover on the back of a lorry was coming off and thus liable to cause an accident, and he may pull the vehicle over to get the driver to secure it properly. I stress that the use of Section 163 by a traffic officer would not be unlimited. It would be restricted by Clause 5 to the purposes defined in subsection (3), such as avoiding danger to other traffic using the road.
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It is on that basis that my noble friend will recognise that there are limited but nevertheless necessary powers with regard to this position, which are slightly wider than his amendment would permit. I hope that with this explanation, the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.
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