Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Henley: My Lords, as I made clear, there will be the two hospitals to which the noble Lord referred, but there will also be three Ministry of Defence hospital units within the NHS which will be staffed by defence medical services people and which will provide our people with appropriate expertise. In terms of extra resources in times of crisis, as I mentioned--I shall repeat the fact for the noble Lord--there will be some 6,600 reservists as well as the 5,000 or so trained reserve forces in the TA and other reserve units.

Cyclists: Observance of the Law

3.17 p.m.

Lord Swansea asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, it is an offence to cycle on the footway unless there are signs allowing shared use with pedestrians.

Lord Swansea: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that admirably concise and not unexpected Answer. However, can he say why that law is not enforced? We see bicycles being ridden on the pavements every day, often endangering elderly, disabled and blind pedestrians, and that is only part of the growing tendency of many cyclists completely to flout the traffic regulations. I refer, for example, to jumping traffic lights, cycling after dark without lights and cycling the wrong way in a one-way street, all of which I have seen. Will the Government mount an intensive campaign to impress upon cyclists the fact that a bicycle is a vehicle and is as much subject to the traffic laws as any other vehicle whether on two, three or four wheels?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I fully appreciate and share my noble friend's concerns on safety grounds. We are doing a lot to make cyclists more aware of their legal responsibilities. We are talking about existing offences under the law. The enforcement of that law is a matter for the police and is at their discretion.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords--

Lord Molloy: My Lords--

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, far be it for me to interfere in a personal quarrel, but I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, might be allowed to ask his question.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, remembering what the Minister said about this being a matter for the police, is he aware that bicycling has increased considerably in

15 Dec 1994 : Column 1365

central London? Is he aware that when I went to our local police station they said that they were unable to deal with the problem because they did not have enough manpower or resources? Will he look into that matter?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I shall of course refer the noble Lord's comments to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. Nevertheless, the offences he mentioned exist and the police will have to set their priorities according to the demands upon their services.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, will my noble friend make it clear to chief constables outside London that the law is as he stated? Cyclists go along the pavement on the front at Brighton to the great detriment of patients from St. Dunstan's and those who are trying to give them some fresh air and exercise.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I am sure that the police and the chief constables are well aware of the law. It is important to differentiate between a footpath and a footway. Local authorities can make by-laws or obtain traffic regulation orders to make it an offence to cycle on a footpath, otherwise it would not be so.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I can confirm this as an occasional cyclist, but some days it is like the "wild west" out in the streets of London. Confrontations between cyclists and other road users have become unacceptable. Since the Government so positively recommended cycling, the number of cyclists in London has decreased because cyclists who behave themselves are frighted to go on the streets in case they become involved in confrontations. Will the Minister ensure that the law is enforced because that will result in more people cycling and the Government's encouragement will be responded to?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Viscount is right about his reference to the government policy on cycling. It is good for those who seek to cycle. It is an environmentally friendly option, which we have encouraged. Nonetheless, cyclists will be taking advantage of the increased provision of cycle lanes. Separating cyclists from motorised road users is of advantage. I hope that that will contribute to reducing the noble Viscount's frustration.

Lord Finsberg: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that this is a problem that has now grown out of all recognition? It is broken frequently by cycle couriers. They cycle the wrong way up one-way streets in front of policemen who take no notice. Will he ask his right honourable friend the Home Secretary to talk to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis to try to obtain some action instead of the bland statements we have been receiving?

Viscount Goschen: I have already said that I will refer the feeling of the House to my right honourable friend. Couriers provide a valuable service, and with the industry we have provided a code of practice for cyclists, with which it agrees fully.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does the Minister acknowledge that proper transport planning requires that greater priority should be given to cyclists and

15 Dec 1994 : Column 1366

pedestrians in terms of the provision that is made for them? Adding to those who have exercised considerable anxiety about the reticence of the police when dealing with dangerous and illegal practices, does the Minister agree that it is not just the use of pavements, there is a failure to provide proper lighting on bicycles at night? That is frequently the case at present. Is there not also another practice which is becoming increasingly dangerous? That is, recumbent-type machines upon which cyclists appear to be riding on their backs while going along the streets. I cannot think that that is in the best interests of safety.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to highlight the variety of offences that are committed. There is a variety of offences, such as dangerous and careless cycling, to cope with such circumstances.

Lord Molloy: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Next Question!

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am aware of two things, and, as always, I am very much in your Lordships' hands. This is the season of good will. The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has been trying to get in from the very beginning of this Question. I wonder whether your Lordships might feel that he should ask the last question on this subject.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, I shall be as brief as I can. Is the Minister aware that in the Greenford area of Middlesex it is not just bicycles that travel on the pavements but that some cars and lorries do? They park also on the yellow lines on the grounds that if they are on the pavement and not on the yellow line, they are not committing a crime. The serious point is that the local authority (Ealing Borough Council) has prohibited the police from having any authority in these matters. It has appointed a private firm which has visited these sites twice in the past four months. It is a lawless situation. Will the Minister look at this matter and contact the local authority before I have to come here and say that something must now be done because someone, possibly a child crossing to go to school, has been killed?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we are faced with a variety of road traffic offences, and the police do a splendid job in coping with them.

Ferry Safety

3.26 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that their proposals to enhance ferry safety, complemented by the decisions made by the Council of Transport Ministers on 22nd November 1994, are sufficient.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we place a very high priority on ferry safety. We welcome, therefore, the resolution of the Council of Transport Ministers on 22nd November, and the decision of the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation to set up a

15 Dec 1994 : Column 1367

review of ferry safety. We shall take account of the results of that work, of the findings of the official inquiry into the loss of the "Estonia", and of our on-going programmes of research and inspections, in deciding what further measures may be needed to ensure that ferries serving our ports continue to meet sufficiently high standards.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he be instructing his officials at the IMO to urge that seafarers' representatives be included on the panel of experts which is to be set up by the IMO, and that the terms of reference include investigation into excessive hours which masters and officers are forced frequently to work at the expense of safety?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we have always made it our policy to consult fully the unions and other bodies representing seafarers. We have also made it our policy to take fully into account the human elements which the noble Lord highlighted involved in any possible tragedy.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page