Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, for his amendment and for providing us with the chance to debate this issue again and, of course, I respect the trenchant views of my noble friend Lord Berkeley. I shall address the majority of my remarks to the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, but I pay due regard to the arguments of my noble friend. I assure him that joined-up government is an important concept. He will recognise that this issue touches on it.

If the roads in the Royal Parks were there solely for the effective movement of transport, there would be no gainsaying the argument of my noble friend; that is, that they should be fully integrated into a normal pattern of control. However, he will recognise that the roads in the Royal Parks are an integral part of the nation's heritage which those parks represent. We also have a responsibility to preserve the primary purpose of the parks, handed down over many generations, which is to provide enjoyment to the public. The Government are the responsible authority in that respect. I therefore assure my noble friend that although I am going to disappoint him in not accepting his amendment, which he would probably have predicted, he will recognise that the role of the Royal Parks goes beyond effective transport movements in London. They have a part to play in that, which I shall address shortly in responding to the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. My noble friend will also
29 Jun 2004 : Column 152
recognise that we have an obligation to preserve the parks for their primary purpose and that is why they are the responsibility of the Government. I shall speak about the interface between government departments and agencies in a moment, but I am sure that my noble friend will appreciate that to change the status of the roads of the Royal Parks would create not integrated, joined-up government, but a considerable dissonance between government departments.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for giving way. I shall be brief. I do not disagree with anything that he has said, but how are those sound objectives met by allowing contractors to park their cars there? I once saw a caravan parked there overnight. How does that enhance the quality and the beauty of Hyde Park?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am not here to defend the Royal Parks in every conceivable detail of its policies. I hope that the complaints that my noble friend has articulated will be borne in mind by the authorities and his representations are appropriate. However, I emphasise that the issue of the Royal Parks amounts to more than its roads. Nor are its roads simply or even primarily a part of the public highway; they are an integral part of the facilities that we offer in our great cities, particularly in London, to the public.

In response to the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, I emphasise that it is essential that central government, who are responsible for the parks, can scarcely impose on local authorities the duty to consult if they are not prepared to follow the same principles in their own operations. In the particular case of the Royal Parks, I reassure your Lordships that the Government are concerned to fulfil their due obligations.

The Secretary of State is required under the Crown Lands Act 1851 to manage Royal Parks on behalf of the Crown for the quiet enjoyment of the public. The roads are an integral part of the parks. Although they have increasingly come to be seen in recent decades by those who use them as just another part of the local road network, park roads are not public highways. Their primary purpose is to allow access to the parks. They are not intended to be through roads for motorised traffic. Against that background, I emphasise that it would not make sense to impose a duty on the Royal Parks to manage their roads as if they were part of the local road network. We accept that where a volume of traffic is significant, there is a need to manage carefully the problem in conjunction with neighbouring authorities. My noble friend Lord Berkeley has voiced both today and in Committee some of the frustrations that have arisen when there has been insufficient consideration of the impact on the local network of decisions taken in respect of the Royal Parks.

The Highways Agency is already committed to consultation. The Secretary of State is required under the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to consult local boroughs and TfL before exercising any functions in relation to the management of park roads in such a way
29 Jun 2004 : Column 153
as to affect a highway for which the agency is responsible. There is a clear need for that form of consultation as park management would often involve different objectives to those of a local traffic authority. We all recognise that demands are sometimes made on parks which relate to their roads as part of the public highway. It is only reasonable that the Royal Parks should be considered a special case. For instance, in the case of a large event in the park which might lead to road closures, we insist that park managers work closely from an early stage with the local authorities, police and Transport for London on the arrangements for that event, including anything that might cause disruption to traffic. Sometimes it will be recognised that Royal Parks must accommodate projects or events, such as temporary stabling for the Household Cavalry in Hyde Park, which might impact on neighbouring roads. In each case, the organisation using the park is required to seek planning permission, which includes permission for any traffic arrangements.

In the same vein, local authorities are involved in planning the arrangements for national celebrations such as the Jubilee and other ceremonies. As for unforeseen incidents, as the GLA Act recognises, it might not be possible to consult local authorities when roads have to be closed through emergencies or at short notice. However, in such cases, the agency endeavours to communicate information to the relevant local authorities as soon as practicable. If authorities have any examples when that has not gone smoothly and wish to present those issues to the Royal Parks, I emphasise the fact that they will find a sympathetic response.

I recognise the points made about the necessity for some of the roads in the Royal Parks being relied on by the public as crucial routes, as has inevitably happened in recent decades. Because of that, we must balance the responsibility of the parks authorities to maintain the park as a public facility, while at the same time recognising that decisions in relation to those roads can have a significant effect on traffic flows. That is why the fullest consultation is necessary.

I hope on the basis of the assurances that I have given to the noble Viscount, he feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, the Minister has given a helpful answer. Of course, it is only really helpful if the parks authorities not only inform local authorities of what they are going to do but listen to responses. In many ways, they have done the first but not the second. I hope that this short debate will encourage them to listen more carefully to responses. In the mean time, I am grateful to the Minister for his response and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 [Arrangements for network management]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 12:

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this small amendment inserts a duty so that the local traffic authority shall publish such arrangements as it
29 Jun 2004 : Column 154
considers appropriate for planning and carrying out the action to be taken in performing its network management duty, as set out in Clause 17.

We believe that the local authority should publish its objectives and policies. Many local authorities publish such information, but there is no duty on them to do so and no guarantee of uniformity in the terms of access to the information. If they were required to publish, it would help local accountability and it would help local residents and their local representative in another place—their Member of Parliament—to understand what was going on. It would also help the utility companies and any other road users, because they could see what local authorities were planning to do and how they were planning to achieve it.

It is important, if we are to have sensible traffic management, that we can all see what it is going to be. Each local authority should set out its plans, making them clear. I hope that the Government support this modest but useful amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, Amendment No. 12 would require a local traffic authority to publish its arrangements for carrying out its network management duty. We have deliberately not been prescriptive as to how a local authority should carry out its network management duty. Dissemination of relevant information is extremely important, but it is not for national government to determine how to do it in every circumstance. Those are local decisions, best left to a local authorities.

If the duty were to be considered in isolation, it might have its attractions. However, the provisions in the Bill have been designed to reflect the wider relationship between local and central government. Both central and local government have signed up to the new modernisation agenda. The principle of plan reduction is a key element in this. The aim is to reduce the amount of planning documents that central government departments require for approval or monitoring, looking instead for other means of achieving the same goal. Requiring the publication of an additional plan, as this amendment suggests, runs counter to that idea.

That said, we agree with the noble Viscount on the need for a robust monitoring and evaluation framework under which to assess an authority's performance. That is intrinsically linked to the determination of success and, ultimately, consideration of failure and possible intervention. As such, this framework will be developed for inclusion in the guidance under Clause 27.

The guidance will be developed with assistance from the working and advisory groups set up by the department to consider Part 2 of the Bill. The advisory group is composed of road user representatives. The working group consists of local authority practitioners and includes representatives from organisations such as the Local Government Association, the County Surveyors' Society, and the Association of London Government. The aim is to provide a proportionate framework of analysis which is consistent with the modernisation agenda, while allowing proper assessment of performance.
29 Jun 2004 : Column 155

As the guidance document will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, noble Lords will be able to satisfy themselves that these issues are adequately covered. I hope that with that explanation, the noble Viscount will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page