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Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, what evidence is there in the Department for Transport on whether these collisions are caused by bendy buses, as has been said, or by other buses, and how many are caused by lorries fitted with guards or with left-hand drives?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I think that there are two different issues here: which causes more accidents and what is the evidence on bendy buses. I cannot immediately say which is the cause of more accidents but I can provide the noble Lord with that information. As for bendy buses, however, the most recent statistics I have to hand are for London in 2007. They show that a total of 155 incidents involved cyclists and buses, of which 28 were bendy buses. That is 18 per cent of all incidents.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, has the noble Lord read the judgment of Mr Justice Wyn Williams in the High Court a few days ago to the effect that an otherwise blameless cyclist not wearing protective headgear would inevitably suffer a diminution in the damages that would otherwise have been paid? Is there any good reason why the rule that has obtained since 1976 in relation to the blameless person in a motorcar not wearing a seatbelt should not apply equally to cyclists?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I have not read the judgment but I will consider very carefully what the noble Lord has said.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that when I sat as a magistrate every single prosecution after an accident or fatality to a cyclist was the fault of the motorist? It is very important to look at the balance of the evidence.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, it is very important that motorists, including those in charge of large vehicles, behave responsibly and realise the acute vulnerability of cyclists on the road.

Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the real answer to the problem is to have doors that you can see through? I had to operate on a young lady of 20 who was run over by one of these huge lorries over her abdomen, and her injuries were appalling. It would not have happened if the driver could have seen through the side door. The lady survived.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, that is a very interesting point which I will consider further.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords—

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, to be fair, we ought to move on now.



3 pm

Asked By Baroness Sharples

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, yes, we are. I recently hosted a round-table meeting with allotment interests to consider current trends, issues and priorities for action. With their help we are drawing up options about how we can provide further support to local authorities to meet their duty under Section 23 of the 1908 Act to provide allotments where they perceive a demand for them in their area.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that Answer. John Prescott set up core strategies in relation to planning that have resulted in delays of maybe five years in setting up allotments. Is she aware that there is a great demand for allotments? In fact, it is increasing. Sheffield City Council has a waiting list of over 2,000.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am absolutely aware of the increasing demand for allotments. We are trying to do all that we can to help local authorities to satisfy that. The noble Baroness is right that local authorities are required to consider the allocation of protection of green space in their core strategies and local development plans, which is a good way to secure allotments for the future. It also involves the community, which is a good thing in itself. We are concerned that it has taken longer to provide the LDFs than we thought—they are complex documents—but we are putting in a lot of extra help, particularly through the Planning Inspectorate and Planning Advisory Service. I am pleased to say that we have over 100 finalised and found sound.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of Pendle Borough Council, which, in the last few days, has agreed terms to purchase land to provide allotments in the ward that I represent on the council—so I do something useful occasionally. Are not statutory allotments the only service for which parish councils and town councils have a statutory duty? In many cases, they provide allotments that are non-statutory. One of the keys to providing more allotments is to provide capital finance to parish councils to be able to purchase land and set up allotments. They are good at running allotments and often do it economically, but finding the money to buy the land and set up the scheme is often difficult. There seem to be no schemes at the moment for that.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, everything that I hear about Pendle Borough Council—I hear a great deal in one way or another, actually—is admirable. I imagine that the noble Lord is an allotment holder.

Lord Greaves: No.

Baroness Andrews: I take it back, my Lords. What is wonderful about allotments is that they have special statutory protections, and therefore local authorities are required to meet demand. What the noble Lord says about parish councils is true; we would like parishes to use resources to expand allotments. The key to more allotments is not to change the law, which is

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robust, but to enable local authorities to understand and enforce the protections that exist. That is why we concentrate our efforts on promoting good practice and giving advice.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the city neighbouring where she lives—Brighton and Hove—has long waiting lists for allotments but has increased the number available substantially by splitting the existing number of allotments when they become available and on the market again? Will she ensure that that is looked at in her review?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, one of the recommendations from a report that we commissioned by Professor Wilshire, which we are looking at closely, was on splitting of plots. Plot size was fixed many years ago. I can see some advantages in plot splitting. I am not sure that it would command much support from the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, but we should look at it.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, given the widespread demand for allotments, will the Minister encourage local councils to work with Landshare, a new initiative set up to encourage landowners in both the private and the public sectors to release derelict land to the community for the use of allotments?

Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords, I am pleased that the Landshare scheme has come along. We would certainly want to encourage that. The National Trust has made some of its estate available for allotments in recent weeks. That will mean possibly 1,000 places, and the Landshare scheme is going to manage that. It is a website that enables people who want to grow their own food to match up with landowners who have private land which they are prepared to give over. I would encourage any noble Lord with land that they would like to see used for that purpose to get in touch with Landshare and its website, which I can make available.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, many allotments are indeed on private land. I declare an interest as an allotment holder of the Saltaire Canalside Allotment Society, which pays rent to a private company. What incentives do the Government have to encourage the large number of companies that have parcels of land around the towns and villages to make them available for an extended period for the rapidly rising number of people who want to run allotments?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, the National Trust has set a good example of what other public authorities might do with some of the land at their disposal. We should consider that. We would have to address certain issues because they may not be statutory allotments and therefore they do not bring protections with them, but the matter is worth considering.

Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, will the Minister intercede to ensure that local councils carry the cost of removing toxic waste from land recycled for allotments after a significant period of misuse or disuse in which the councils used it for waste dumping? At times, it is costing a great deal of money and effort.

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The noble Baroness might wish to start with the allotments at the junction of the Hornet and Whyke Lane in Chichester.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I will consider the noble Lord’s remarks and write to him.

Arrangement of Business


3.06 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lord Myners will repeat the Statement on the G20 Finance Ministers’ meeting at a convenient point around 6.30 pm. To aid progress on the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, the usual channels have agreed that, if the dinner break business does not take a full hour, the House should resume Committee stage immediately after consideration of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 (Tribunal Composition) Order 2009.

Postal Services Bill [HL]

Order of Consideration Motion

3.07 pm

Moved By Lord Tunnicliffe

Motion agreed.

Parliamentary Constituencies (England) (Amendment) Order 2009

Parliamentary Constituencies (England) (Amendment) Order 2009
6 Report Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

3.08 pm

Moved By Lord Bach

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My Lords, in moving the approval Motion, I should like to say a few brief words in anticipation of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, moving his amendment. We fully debated the draft order in Grand Committee on Wednesday 4 March, the proceedings of which are reported in Hansard. I am sure that all noble Lords will be keen to get on with the marine Bill, but it is entirely open to the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, if he so wishes, to test the opinion of the House on his amendment. I should draw to the

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House’s attention the fact that the other place approved the draft order last Wednesday by a majority of 402 votes to 58. I beg to move.

Amendment to the Motion

Moved by Lord Tyler

Lord Tyler: My Lords, in moving the amendment I can, as the Minister indicated, be as brief as possible because there has been a full discussion both in your Lordships’ House and in the other place. Three major issues are at stake. First, I want to make it clear to your Lordships that this is not an attack on the integrity or independence of the Boundary Commission. Like others, I have appeared at a Boundary Commission inquiry and have been impressed by the process. However, in the exceptional circumstances of the process by which the commission decided to recommend changes to the boundaries in the two Somerset constituencies referred to in the order, the commission has misdirected itself. Significantly, I am joined in that view by both Members of Parliament whose constituencies are affected, who both argued forcefully to that effect last week.

First, the commission misdirected itself on the need for a further interim review just because the second-tier authority, the district authority, had changed its ward boundaries. This is not required by Parliament, by the 1986 Act or by any other statute, and it has not been a deciding factor everywhere else in England. Instead, the commission decided to take more notice of its own rule, which it had invented, than of the local ties that Parliament had asked it to make its major consideration. The Conservative Member of Parliament for Wells argued this point so convincingly last week that I am sure his colleagues in this House will wish to support the amendment on those grounds alone.

The misdirection also failed to take account of important links between villages and their local town. Any Members of your Lordships’ House who are aware of those important links, historic and social, will, I am sure, understand that the failure to do so was important. The commission also failed to take account of substantial objections to its revised proposals, even from Mendip District Council, whose ward changes were alleged to be the rationale for reopening the issue.

Secondly, there is no party-political motive in challenging the process by which this draft order comes before us. There is no suggestion of any electoral advantage either to the Conservatives, who hold Wells, or to the Liberal Democrats, who hold Somerton and Frome—hence the total agreement of those two senior Members of Parliament, the right honourable David Heathcoat-Amory and David Heath, in the committee last week. Mr Heathcoat-Amory summed it up as follows:

“It is beyond doubt that in 2007 those of us in Somerset were told that the parliamentary boundaries had been fixed for the next election. Indeed, they were approved by order”.—[Official Report, Commons, Second Delegated Legislation Committee, 9/3/09; col. 10.]

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The issue is simply that the commission has very unusually—exceptionally—failed to take account of Parliament’s instruction and has instead given precedence to a rule of its own in relation to district council ward boundaries.

Thirdly, we are faced with an insidious argument from Ministers that we should not question this order. Indeed, in the committee in the other place, the Minister went so far as to suggest that any challenge should be by judicial review. Imagine asking the inhabitants of small villages in Somerset to go to the expense of judicial review when we, in the high court of Parliament, are given a specific duty to scrutinise these orders. Why do noble Lords suppose that Parliament has laid down that this process should take place here? Were we expected to act like the proverbial rubber stamp? There might be a case for MPs to avoid taking the final decision on matters that could be considered to be of electoral significance in their own constituencies. However, in your Lordships’ House there is no reason to have such qualms. We have a firm, principled and statutory duty to say so when we think that the process has gone wrong. I beg to move.

3.15 pm

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, before expressing a view on this amendment, perhaps I may take the opportunity to set out the legislative background to the order. Section 2(1) of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 established, among other things, the Boundary Commission for England. Under Section 3(3) of the Act, the commission may submit to the Secretary of State a report recommending the way in which any particular area should be divided into constituencies. The boundaries of the current parliamentary constituencies in England are set out in the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 2007, and these constituencies conform to the pattern of district and borough council areas as established on 12 April 2005.

However, as your Lordships know, since that date a number of changes to the local government wards have been recommended by the commission and subsequently implemented by order. As a consequence, the boundaries of a number of parliamentary constituencies no longer align with the relevant changed areas. Two of those local government changes occurred in the district of South Northamptonshire and the district of Mendip in Somerset. For reasons that are unclear to me, the commission decided that in the case of those two areas, but not in the remainder of those altered since 12 April 2005, realignment should be made to the affected parliamentary constituencies, which are Daventry, South Northamptonshire, Somerton and Frome and Wells.

Accordingly, the commission conducted a statutory review under Section 3(3) of the 1986 Act. The commission published its provisional recommendations in July 2007, inviting representations. As there were a number of objections to the recommendations, the commission held public inquiries in both areas, thereafter producing revised proposals in each case. Despite further written objections to those proposals, the commission decided to make no further adjustments and reported to the

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Secretary of State on 25 July 2008. The draft order before us implements, without any modification, the Boundary Commission report.

I should say at the outset that we have no intention of supporting the Liberal Democrat amendment, or, indeed, of challenging the order. Parliament, although it has the constitutional right to do so, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, pointed out, should, in our view, be very slow, for obvious reasons, to challenge decisions about the composition of individual parliamentary constituencies.

However, the decisions that the order implements raise three issues on which we suggest that clarification would be helpful for the future. First, there is no statutory duty on the commission to realign parliamentary boundaries following alterations to local government ward boundaries. Nevertheless, the commission has always so acted as a matter of policy and practice. Here, if I understand the situation correctly, the commission appears to have altered the boundaries of four constituencies affected by ward boundary changes since 12 April, 2005, but to have ignored the remainder in the same class. If I am correct about the facts, perhaps the Minister would be kind enough to explain why that was so.

Secondly, following the public inquiry in Somerset, so the debate in another place suggests, the inspectors’ revised proposals contained a solution that was never, it is said, raised or discussed at that inquiry. The revised proposals—again, so it is said—are those that appear in the order. If that version of events is correct, would it not be preferable to alter the inquiry rules so that, in future, a public inquiry can be reconvened so as to furnish objectors with the opportunity to test such a solution, which would otherwise remain unexamined?

Finally, there will plainly be occasions when the Boundary Commission’s policy to realign parliamentary constituencies following ward boundary changes will conflict with its statutory obligation contained in the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 to take into account local ties that would be broken by an alteration to a parliamentary boundary. It would be desirable if some help could be given to inspectors in the form of guidance to assist them in determining the appropriate approach to balance those potentially clashing considerations.

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