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Viscount Astor: My Lords, as we have discussed on previous amendments, local authorities are responsible for half the works that we see. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley is right; we often do not know the difference between one and the other. This is an important principle and I support the amendment.

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, the reason I have not spoken to the amendment is that I thoroughly concur with everything that has been said, in a much better way, by everyone else.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, the modern information system which the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, saw in the control room of Transport for London displays all work carried out by the highway authority as well as that carried out by contractors and the utilities. I believe that all modern systems do the same. It is important that the Government, whether through regulations or in the Bill, should insist on this.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, works cause disruption whoever is carrying them out. Further to the assurances given in Grand Committee and by Ministers in another place, I wrote to all Peers who spoke at Grand Committee making a clear statement that the Government believe that permit schemes should apply to an authority's own work. That remains the Government's policy. As my noble friend Lord Borrie said, I pointed out in Committee that Clause 38 makes it clear that permit schemes can include works under the Highways Act 1980. That covers a wide range of works by authorities, including road maintenance. We have asked the relevant working group to consider how, not if—I repeat "not if"—authorities' work should be incorporated in permit schemes.

My noble friend Lord Borrie asked whether contractors who work for highways authorities can be covered by permit schemes. The answer is "yes" and they will be.

I have given a clear statement on behalf of the Government on a matter that has been of concern to your Lordships both in Committee and now on Report, but I hope that, given my assurance, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he said that it is a question of "how" and not
 
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"if". Does that mean that, once the working group has produced recommendations, the Secretary of State will come forward with an order that brings them into effect, as stated in Clause 38(3)?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: Yes, my Lords. The working group will come forward with its recommendations. We are absolutely determined—I hope that it is now crystal clear—that local authorities will be treated in the same way as other undertakers. My guess is that an order will be brought forward to confirm that.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister. His words sound exceedingly clear and encouraging. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 37 [Crown application]:

Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 58:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment is similar to that which I tabled in Grand Committee. I am grateful to Ministers for engaging in some interesting correspondence with me since then, but I regret to say that I still do not understand the clause. Perhaps I am being thick.

My problem is with "Crown application". As I read the clause, the Crown may introduce a permit scheme, but Her Majesty in her private capacity or in the right of the Duchy of Cornwall or the Duchy of Lancaster cannot be affected by one. Nor can they can be guilty of criminal offences, which is quite amusing.

The first letter I received from the Minister states that,

I assume that that may or may not include the Royal Parks, because their roads are not public highways but owned by central government. When I asked my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey last Friday for the definition of a private road, he replied that it is one that is not a highway. I do not know whether a private road is a road on which one can drive or one on which one can be arrested or accosted for going down it. I do not understand the definition of "private".

The Minister went on to state in his letter that,

I thought that Clause 37 was about who sets up permit schemes rather than who is governed by them, but I shall leave that aside.

In the second letter which the Minister kindly sent to me, he stated that,


 
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That is regardless of whether they are private or public. He continued:

But she could set up a permit scheme.

Where are all these roads that the Queen owns on which we are allowed to drive and which are not part of the Royal Parks? Where are the Duchy of Cornwall roads and where are the Duchy of Lancaster roads? If they are important roads which could be subject to traffic delays when people dig them up, whether the Queen has authorised it or not, surely she should apply to herself for a permit if she is the contractor. It seems odd that the Queen should be exempt in her private capacity from giving herself permits. I am sorry to confuse your Lordships, but I am totally confused. I do not know whether the Minister can help me or whether we should just put the matter to bed and say that it is just one of the consequences of having a constitutional monarchy. I look forward to my noble friend's reply. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am sorry that our voluminous correspondence has not assuaged the anxieties of my noble friend. Of course, we recognise that works conducted by all bodies should be subject to appropriate controls and should be managed in a way that bears in mind the need to minimise disruption among other things.

Clause 37 leaves quite unchanged the existing controls applied to Her Majesty and the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall by the Highways Act and the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. That should not impact on utilities which conduct works that would benefit Her Majesty, but it might mean, for example, that Her Majesty would not have to apply for a permit for an activity which might obstruct a street. In practice, we would not expect that to hamper an authority's ability to manage its road network effectively.

I shall make an obvious point to my noble friend. In Westminster, where there is the greatest potential for such a problem to arise, there is an arrangement whereby Westminster manages the Crown Estate's works on its behalf. Therefore, the authority conducts the estate's work. My noble friend may say that the authority might thereby be applying for a permit to itself, but he will recognise that those are exceptional arrangements for a particular case.

I cannot answer my noble friend's questions about roads which may be in the royal purview. We have discussed the position of the Royal Parks. As far as I know, in all other circumstances, there are no royal highways in the country. They all come under some form of public authority. My noble friend would recognise that when a highway is obstructed, it is often related to events which we all recognise as needing special and proper priority, such as the necessary arrangements for a constitutional monarchy. While
 
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my noble friend is not entirely satisfied by my letters to him, he will recognise that we are operating under the constraints of particular arrangements and that I have gone as far as I am able to go.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. He has tried very hard, both in writing and in the House, to answer my concerns. That is a pretty impossible task, but I shall not pursue the matter further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 59 not moved.]

Clause 38 [Interpretation of Part 3]:


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