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Viscount Simon: The first two amendments appear exceedingly good. I wanted to try out the Segway at lunchtime today, but unfortunately another appointment suddenly came up. It sounds like a marvellous machine. However, Amendment No. 154 was slightly dismissed as being fairly irrelevant. I have received an email from a retired police officer who is an expert in such matters. I shall read his comment on the amendment:

I leave it at that.

Earl Attlee: I confess that I have forgotten what that section of the Highways Act does.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Let me enlighten the Committee about that section—not that I am hanging the whole of my argument on it; very far from it. If we repealed that section of the 1835 Act we would allow horses on pavements as well, which would lead to some interesting issues for pedestrians. There is some merit in the 1835 Act in protecting the pavement for pedestrians. I am in great danger of appearing a killjoy of antique vintage in my inability to share the enthusiasm that has been expressed on all sides of the Committee. I share it in one obvious sense, in that I can see that the form of transport has great potential. I recognise the strong advocacy of it. I was a little shocked to hear it suggested that I would be advised by officials who would not know one end of the machine from the other. It might be that Ministers do not have the privilege of getting close to such machines, but I reassure noble Lords that officials have a close acquaintance with the human transporter.

Obviously, there is a safety issue here. I heard what the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, said, and the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, also mentioned its use by police. Let me be clear: we will not be able to justify a machine
 
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because it is of particular use to the police. They are entitled to avail themselves of all sorts of technology to deal with criminals that we would not give to the ordinary citizen. I hear the point that the machines can be extremely useful for law enforcement, but so can mountain bikes ridden by a policeman in pedestrian precincts. But we would not then say that because a policeman is empowered to use such machines safely in a pedestrian precinct that opens the way for all mountain bikes to be deployed in the same way by an ordinary member of the public. I am not going to accept the argument about police use, although I commend the machines on that feature. I hear that certain sections of the British constabulary are availing themselves of the opportunity to try them out, and that fills my heart with great joy if it aids in dealing with crime.

There is a safety issue in the use of these machines our pavements. First, a machine that can travel at 12 mph needs some careful handling and could be a threat to other pedestrians. Not all pedestrians are as adroit and competent as your Lordships undoubtedly are. After all, from what I hear everyone managed the technology of the new machine almost as soon as they were introduced to it. That speaks volumes for our youthfulness and ability to learn. However, other pedestrians have all sorts of incapacities that make them a good deal less mobile. Our pavements are used by many people with limited walking ability and a limited ability to get out of the way of a machine moving at a speed even approaching 12 mph. There is a question of where this machine should be used.

I am not going to appear a killjoy; I am delighted to hear of its development, and I can see ways in which it will add to the advantage of all of us. I cannot, however, accept the amendments at this stage. We would need the fullest consultation before we introduced primary legislation to make arrangements for this machine. I am not at all clear that it should be used on the pavement. We may have to start thinking of designated track ways.

Baroness Hanham: In bus lanes.

Lord Davies of Oldham: The noble Baroness is helpful, as ever. I cannot go "snap" on that, either. We could have dedicated avenues for these machines, so that we separate them from pedestrians. Suffice it to say that of course I welcome the enormous enthusiasm displayed here today. The department is fully acquainted with the issue and does not seek to restrict such an exciting development. However, it would be premature to abrogate all legislation which protects our pavements and gives safety to our pedestrians—most of all, the 1835 Act.

Lord Swinfen: Does the Minister recall that there was a time when a man had to walk in front of a car
 
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with a red flag? He seems to be saying "This is a new idea, so it cannot work". Let us hear him say "This is a new idea; let us see how we can make it work".

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am enormously grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen. He has just won for me a wager with my officials that somebody was going to mention the man with the red flag.

Earl Attlee: I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, except for the Minister, at whose response I was not surprised, therefore I cannot be disappointed. My noble friends on the Front Bench were much wiser, because they kept quiet—no doubt because they can see which way the wind is blowing.

I remind the Minister of the history of citizens' band radio. At one point they were illegal, and then everyone started using them. The Government then, reluctantly, had to make them legal. That is the situation we could end up with—people using them in such large quantities that it becomes impractical to do anything about it. We would then have let the law come into disrepute.

The Minister talked about safety, as I expected him to. What is he doing about people roller-skating at high speed on footpaths? They cannot stop themselves—they are a kinetic time bomb. Whereas, on a Segway, you just lean back and it stops very quickly indeed—probably faster than one could stop when running.

I am grateful for being reminded what the 1835 Act covers. The way in which that legislation works is extremely old-fashioned. I was very surprised that it has not been incorporated into some later legislation. That is a minor matter, just something I picked up.

Lord Berkeley: I thank the noble Earl for giving way. How and when does the department intend to evaluate this machine and come up with a solution as to where it can be operated legally. If it is not to be permitted on a footpath, is it on a road with a flashing yellow light on one's head, or whatever? These machines will be used, as many noble Lords have said. It would be much better if the department came up with a policy that everybody accepted, preceded by consultation, than if it were just left like the CB radio. Perhaps he could give us some idea as to what the process is, and the timescale.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I cannot do so with any precision. Let me make the obvious point. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, suggests, certain decisions will need to be taken in the near future. This debate enables us to take the issues forward. The department is all too well aware of the public interest in this machine, and also public concern about the safety aspects to which I have given voice. This debate has been extremely helpful in
 
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sharpening the minds of the department towards the issue, and of course we have to address a new safety issue on our streets.

Earl Attlee: As I said, I am not completely surprised by the position of the Minister, but I am sure that we will have to return to the issue on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 153 not moved.]

Clause 41 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 154 not moved.]

Clause 42 agreed to.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 155:


"REMOVAL OF VEHICLES BY POLICE CONTRACTED RECOVERY SCHEMES
In section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27) (removal of vehicles etc.), after subsection (2)(c) insert—
"(d) may, subject to paragraphs (e) and (f), provide for Police Contracted Recovery Schemes;
(e) any regulations for a scheme under subsection (2)(d) shall provide that—
(i) all appointed recovery operators are accredited to an International Standards Organisation standard;
(ii) a person whose vehicle falls within subsection (1) is, subject to sub-paragraph (iii) or (iv), given the opportunity to arrange removal himself;
(iii) sub-paragraph (ii) shall not apply if a constable believes safety or other road users would be compromised and the customer is unlikely to be able to arrange for the vehicle's removal before the appointed recovery operator;
(iv) sub-paragraph (ii) shall not apply if the road on which the vehicle is permitted to rest is a special road and the customer is unlikely to be able to arrange for the vehicle's removal within a time specified in the regulations or one hour, whichever is the greater;
(v) if a person whose vehicle falls within subsection (1) arranges removal of the vehicle himself and his choice of recovery operator arrives before the appointed recovery operator, he shall be under no obligation to the appointed recovery operator or the authority;
(vi) neither the authority, the chief police officer or the police authority may benefit from a preferential scale of charges or free services from an appointed recovery operator;
(vii) when a vehicle has been abandoned by the owner or registered keeper the authority shall pay the appointed recovery operator the charges prescribed under section 102 of this Act;
 
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(viii) an appointed recovery operator shall not be required to give any financial or other consideration for being appointed;
(ix) the police authority may make a financial charge, as prescribed, against the person whose vehilce falls within subsection (1), for despatching the appointed recovery operator, and such a charge may be collected by the appointed recovery operator;
(x) any scheme must allow for competition, new operators joining the scheme, and aim to have operators no further than a prescribed distance from each other;
(xi) no person shall be appointed under a police contracted recovery scheme if he is not of good repute as defined in sub-paragraph (xii);
(xii) a person is of good repute if he meets similar requirements to paragraphs 1 to 6 of Schedule 3 to the Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995;
(xiii) appointed recovery operators shall not charge more than the amount prescribed under section 102 for removing a vehicle weighing no more than 3,500 kilograms unless approved by the chief officer of police on each occasion;
(xiv) appointed recovery operators shall not charge more than the amount prescribed under section 102 for removing a vehicle weighing more than 3,500 kilograms unless there are unusual difficulties requiring extra facilities, but rates shall not exceed those published under sub-paragraph (xv); and
(xv) appointed recovery operators shall publish their scale of charges in such form as may be prescribed in one or more local papers;
(f) before making any regulations under subsection (2)(d) the Secretary of State shall consult such organisations as he considers necessary and in particular the authorities empowered by regulations under section 99(1).""

The noble Earl said: The hour is late and I will not weary the Committee with the detail of why the amendment is so vital. Suffice it to say that the amendment concerns provision of vehicle recovery services, particularly those organised by the police. There are several problems on which I could elaborate. One is the congestion caused due to breakdown, but there is another serious problem about police-organised recovery schemes. Recovery operators pay a substantial fee to be on the list. It is not a bribe because it is open, but I doubt whether the average motorist is aware of it. Of course, the motorist pays in the end. Even worse, the police frequently organise their scheme so that their own vehicle recoveries are undertaken for free—and guess who pays for that.

It will not have escaped the Minister's notice that I moved exactly the same amendment during the passage of the then Police Reform Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, gave a helpful reply by saying, "Yes, there is a problem and we're working on it", or
 
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words to that effect. Will the Minister give us an update and tell us what has been done since his noble friend gave such a helpful reply? I beg to move.


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