|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the aim of the amendment is to ensure that the permit scheme is applied "intelligently", focusing on areas where it is most needed. It has arisen out of concerns expressed by the utilities industry, which are being ignored, that there is unnecessary bureaucracy in the permit scheme. There is also considerable concern that the secondary legislation will not deliver, particularly as it is felt that the working groups are being guided by the Government. I hope that the Minister can clarify the situation with regard to the concerns that I have put forward on behalf of the industry today.
A "traffic-sensitive street" can be defined by a whole range of criteria which are measurable and on which all local authorities will have data and local knowledge. Traffic-sensitive management will deliver results by focusing on the areas where it is needed. It will save on resources, reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, affect delivery of vital utility services only where absolutely necessary, and will meet the Government's objectives on congestion on our streets. I beg to move.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, when utilities carry out works on traffic-sensitive streets, they are required to give more advance notice of those works than they do in relation to other streets. Traffic-sensitive streets are designated by authorities. They have to satisfy certain criteria, including being trunk or principal roads, or having a high vehicle or pedestrian
29 Jun 2004 : Column 175
traffic flow. Other streets can also be designated as traffic-sensitive but only with the agreement of all the utilities that have apparatus in that street.
Given that the highway authority is responsible for managing the roads in its area and for securing the expeditious movement of traffic, we do not believe that any one utilityI emphasise that there are now about 150 of themshould be in a position to veto the inclusion of a particular road when unnecessary and unmanaged delays on that road might lead to serious disruption on other parts of the network.
We do not believe that permit schemes should be confined on the face of the Bill to sensitive streets. Indeed, there is a strong case for saying that where an authority operates a permit scheme, it is better that it applies to all roads in that area. That means that those wanting to execute works would not have to deal with two different systems for managing their works, one on permitted roads and one on others.
We think that the question of what types of streets should be covered should be left to regulations. These will be prepared with the help of the interested parties, such as authorities and utilities, and debated in Parliament having been subject to public consultation. I should also remind the House that no permit scheme could be put in place without approval of the Secretary of State or the National Assembly in Wales. So, there are adequate safeguards to prevent authorities from operating permit schemes in an unreasonable manner.
On that basis I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that the Government's position is carefully thought through and that we could not possibly contemplate a situation where among a vast plethora of utilities, any one would be able to operate effectively a veto on a scheme. I hope that the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 33 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 41 to 44. Clause 34(6) to (8) and Clause 35(4) to (6) allow the national authoritythe Secretary of State for Transport or the Welsh Assembly Governmentto vary or revoke permit schemes which are already in operation. These might be needed, say, where a local authority chooses to stop operating a scheme and where it has to be wound up or where at some point in the future a second set of permit regulations makes changes to the earlier ones and where these changes need to be carried through to the details of individual permit schemes.
29 Jun 2004 : Column 176
We believe it seems sensible to tidy up the provisions and bring them together. Amendments Nos. 41 and 43 delete the existing powers in the Bill covering permit schemes operated by local and national authorities respectively. Amendment No. 42 is simply a consequential one, following on from Amendment No. 43.
Amendment No. 44 replaces these and makes clear that schemes must be revoked or varied by order, and that a single order can apply to more than one scheme. The permit regulations have the power to modify or disapply existing enactments, for example, to ensure that undertakers do not have to comply with both permit rules and similar provisions under other Acts. The amendment provides that an order can also disapply enactments to reflect any changes needed to schemes already in operation at the time that future permit regulations make changes to the existing rules governing schemes.
Finally, Amendment No. 33 clarifies that the power in Clause 32(2)(e) allowing for permit regulations to provide for the review or variation of permits can also cover applications for variations. That might include, say, where a person granted a permit to dig up the street wishes to apply for conditions attached to it to be varied, perhaps because it is no longer possible to do the work to the original timetable. I beg to move.
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, these amendments apparently aim to set out in a more straightforward way the powers of the appropriate national authority to vary or revoke permit schemes by order. They allow for a single order to vary more than one permit scheme. The Minister said that they intend to use these powers for the purpose of the good administration of permit schemes or simply to make changes to reflect alterations in the permit regulations.
The utilities industry feels that this may have been an attempt by the Government to respond to complaints raised in Committee regarding the difficulties of varying permit schemes from authority to authority for those trying to comply, particularly when the works cut across boundaries. If so, the amendment arguably does not tackle that as it still does not introduce any degree of consistency between permit schemes for those utilities operating across the country which will be forced to contend with all these different schemes. It tightens up the existing wording but does not address our fundamental concern and very much leaves open the possibility of having a multiplicity of different systems throughout the country. For any one utility having more than one system to comply with and on which to train staff it will be a logistical nightmare. I would welcome any further response that the Minister could provide.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, where a permit scheme is in force and the local authority needs to put into force another one, here is the method for getting rid of the first set of permit schemes. Clearly, the noble Lord raised issues other than that. I should like to take them away, consider what he said and write to him with our views.
29 Jun 2004 : Column 177
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|