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The Deputy Speaker (Lord Strabolgi): My Lords, I should point out that there should be a small amendment to subsection (6), where, to correct a printing error, the words "subsection (4) (b)" should read "subsection (4) (a)".

6 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, has dealt with the amendment extremely comprehensively. We have so much business to get through that I do not intend to detain the House other than to support warmly and wholeheartedly both the amendment and the noble Lord's supporting arguments. However, I should like to add one point. I join the noble Lord in thanking the Minister for receiving the delegation. Doing so on Tuesday morning must have been extremely inconvenient for him.

Local authorities understand the need to take such steps and, in understanding that need, they also understand that they may not be desperately popular with those individuals against whom the steps are taken. However, as I said, they recognise the overall need and understand the loud call which is now coming from city centres and the suburbs—indeed, throughout the country—for steps to be taken urgently to improve our air quality. As the noble Lord said, this is not a matter that applies only to London.

It will not be that easy for the local authorities to introduce the measures. As the Government know, such steps tend to provoke hurt and outrage among those who are caught out. As a local councillor, I am sure that my 'phone will ring with people saying, "How dare you!" Well, the local authorities do dare and would like to be given the powers to dare.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, I too urge the Government to be courageous about the amendments. I was in Austria last year where such provisions are strictly enforced. All tourist coaches turn off their engines when stationary. They are not allowed to lurk in the centres of towns. There are extremely strict controls on vehicle emissions. It can be done. It is not just a question of health, asthma and the carcinogens that are pumped out with diesel fumes; it is also a question of the greenhouse effect. I note that the Secretary of State admitted yesterday that the greenhouse effect is a reality and that we are faced with global warming. It would be a small but urgent contribution to controlling vehicle emissions if the new clauses could be inserted in the Bill.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, during his speech of only a few minutes I believe that my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding produced an absolutely unanswerable case. I do not intend to repeat any of his arguments, except to say that the idea that pollution and

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bad smells have to be dealt with in London but not elsewhere in the country seems far-fetched and unreasonable even by the standards of modern legislation.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I spoke briefly in Committee to support the principle of the amendments moved by my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, and I should like to do so again this evening. I should also like to make a few suggestions about how the provisions might be put into force. First, as my noble friend said, it is an offence at the moment under the construction and use regulations to do what the amendment seeks to stop. It would be strange to have two sets of offences for that—one under the construction and use regulations and one under the provisions to be given to local authorities. I believe that the current construction and use offence should be decriminalised and that local authorities should be permitted to carry out the enforcements.

Secondly, I believe that the funds raised from fixed penalty notices should be ring-fenced for further enforcement, as happens to local authorities with parking enforcements. That is the precedent. Furthermore, the police should be reimbursed for stopping vehicles. Treasury rules should be changed to allow that funding to be additional to the core Home Office funding. I suggest also that the fixed penalty charge, which the amendment suggests, should be set at a fairly low level to begin with as drivers are often unaware that they are committing an offence. The existence of a penalty would act as an incentive to motorists to check that their emissions are in order, but I believe that it would be unfair to penalise such motorists unduly because they will face the additional cost of rectifying the vehicle. The penalties for non-compliance with a rectification notice should, however, be harsh. If people do not obey such a notice, they should be penalised.

My only other observation in support of the amendment is that the training requirements of the authorised officers in the local authorities should be the same as those of the Department of Transport's Vehicles Inspectorate. That should be included in the code of practice to which subsection (7) of my noble friend's amendment refers.

Having made those observations, I am anxious to hear what my noble friend the Minister has to say, and particularly whether he can expand on what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport said between the last stage of the Bill and today.

Lord Mishcon: My Lords, I support the principle of the amendment and ask for the forgiveness of the House if I raise what may appear to be a minor point. I am interested in the apparent justice of any provision which contains within it a penalty. Your Lordships will observe that the amendment allows a penalty to be charged by a notice served by an authorised officer of a local authority. The right of appeal against that penalty, which is payable to the local authority, is in the first instance to the local authority. The appeal from the local authority is to an adjudicator appointed by the local authority.

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Your Lordships may feel that that chain of appeal does not include any independent person upon whom the driver can rely. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin—or the Government if, as I hope, the amendment is accepted—might not think it proper that at least the last person in the chain of appeal—namely, the adjudicator appointed by the local authority—should be an adjudicator appointed by the ministry.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has said almost exactly verbatim what I was going to say. I agree totally with what is proposed by my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding. All that I would add is that the appeal thereafter should be to the local magistrates. We have had them for 600 years and they are quite capable of doing that. It seems the simple way of dealing with the matter. Apart from those words, I am in complete agreement with my noble friend Lord Jenkin.

Lord Renton: My Lords, there is another small technical point to which I feel obliged to draw your Lordships' attention. I have great sympathy with the main purpose of my noble friend Lord Jenkin, but I draw your Lordships' attention to the top of page 13 of the Marshalled List and to subsection (6) which states:


    "The amount of the penalty charge payable under subsection (4) (b) above shall be set at a level which would allow the local authority to recover the reasonable costs of the enforcement of the provisions of this section".

But if we look back to subsection (4) (b)—

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, perhaps my noble friend should understand that the noble Lord who is in the Chair made a correction to that. It should read "subsection (4) (a)" not "subsection (4) (b)".

Lord Renton: My Lords, I did not know that. Indeed, had I known it I would not have made that point. I thank my noble friend.

Lord Burnham: My noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, in proposing the amendment, talked about a motor vehicle on a road. He talked about tar boilers and other similar vehicles which may not be motor driven or are unlikely to be motor driven. Will the Minister consider whether in this context it would be right to use another definition to include tar boilers and similar vehicles?

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, these amendments seek to increase the powers of local authorities to deal with emissions from vehicles in the street. Amendment No. 225 aims to give local authorities the power to carry out vehicle emission testing and to impose a penalty charge on the owner of a vehicle failing to comply with emission standards as laid down by appropriate construction and use regulations. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, will note the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, supported by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, when he considers whether his amendment is correct.

The noble Lord brought forward this amendment in Committee and was gracious enough to withdraw it on the basis of an assurance that government would, without commitment, consider whether they could bring

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forward their own provisions at a later stage in the Bill. I am afraid that I can add little to the assurance I gave then. Ministers are sympathetic to the noble Lord's aims and are actively considering the matter. The noble Lord will appreciate, however, that his proposals raise a number of complex issues in relation both to the charging regime and the use of police resources. I am afraid therefore that I can give no commitment as to the likelihood of government bringing forward provisions at a later stage of the Bill.

Although we support wholeheartedly the principle underlying the noble Lord's amendment, the Government's priority within the Bill is to move forward with the main legislative base for its proposals for air quality management. These were set out in Air Quality: Meeting the Challenge, the statement of the Government's strategic policies in this area published in January by my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Transport and for the Environment. We will be bringing forward amendments establishing that framework in another place.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, urged me to be courageous about these amendments: I believe that we are being courageous about those amendments but perhaps not about these amendments. These are likely to be similar in effect, if not form, to those brought forward by the noble Lords, Lord Nathan and Lord Lewis in Committee.

The Government are giving detailed consideration to the kinds of new powers and tools that may be needed by local authorities to carry out their new responsibilities in the area of air quality management in addition to the planning, transport planning, and local air pollution responsibilities they already possess. This week we commenced formal discussions with local authorities and local authority associations, including the LBA, on implementation of the Government's air quality management proposals. We expect to cover in depth the issue of additional powers and tools and how best they might be framed. Air Quality: Meeting the Challenge explicitly recognises that the power to test vehicle emissions may well prove useful to local authorities in, for instance, air quality management areas.

In that context, I appreciate the helpful intent with which my noble friend brings forward his amendments. However, it is important that we do not move ahead of ourselves. Of paramount importance is establishing the legislative framework for air quality management within which the provision of further powers can be considered. As I indicated, we hope to do that in another place. Once that is established, we shall better be able to consider the new tools that local government may need and how best they might be framed. We would hope to bring forward such provisions at a future legislative opportunity, although again I am unable to give any assurances in relation to the specific powers sought by my noble friend. The Government are, however, fully committed to increasing resources available for vehicle emission testing. Only last month the Secretary of State for Transport announced a programme of further measures to address vehicle

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pollution. This includes a further Vehicle Inspectorate emissions testing blitz, building on the considerable success of a similar exercise at the end of last year. It is hoped that more blitzes may take place later in the year. The Secretary of State has also announced a prosecution crackdown on offending vehicles with fines of up to £2,500, and he will be bringing forward the date of introduction of tighter MOT emissions standards for older, more polluting vehicles.

Air Quality: Meeting the Challenge highlights the importance of partnership between central and local government in securing sustainable improvements in air quality. To that end, future Vehicle Inspectorate-operated emission testing blitzes will be subject to consultation with local authorities. This is critical to ensuring the most effective use of resources for emission testing.

Amendment No. 226 seeks to extend the statutory nuisance controls in Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to include smoke, fumes or gases emitted from any vehicle, machinery or equipment in the street, excepting those emitted from vehicle exhaust systems. As I indicated in Committee to my noble friend, although again I cannot find fault with his intentions, the Government believe that there are already sufficient powers available to the police, vehicle inspectors and others to control these emissions. These include the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 and a variety of provisions under health and safety legislation. The Government therefore feel that the amendment would be an unnecessary duplication of existing controls, which was also a fear of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon. The Government oppose the amendment.

Amendment No. 227 seeks to deal with motorists who leave their engines running unnecessarily when parked. Again, I am forced to repeat myself. When the noble Lord brought forward this amendment in Committee, I stated that it sounded attractive and that I was very much in sympathy with the intent behind it. Any noble Lord walking around Whitehall or St. James's during the height of the tourist season cannot fail to notice the unpleasant emissions from tourist coaches idling their engines while waiting for their passengers to embark. However, there are difficulties with the approach suggested by my noble friend and it is not clear that his amendment is the answer. A similar offence to the one he proposes already exists in relation to noise emanating from stationary vehicles. I refer to Regulation 98 of the Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. This requires that drivers should take appropriate action to prevent unnecessary noise by switching off their engines when stationary. In practice, however, the offence is very difficult to prosecute and difficult to prove. The Government would not wish to duplicate those difficulties in respect of emissions.

I have indicated that the Government are moving forward on this front. My noble friend wishes me to go further and faster. However I hope that in the light of what I have said he will not press the amendment.


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