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Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I am grateful for the comments of the noble Baroness. What has been working extremely hard during the passage of this Bill is the fax machine in my office. The documents that have poured forth from my noble friend's department and the London Boroughs Traffic Scheme have to be seen to be believed. That the amendments before the House tonight are themselves starred is testament to the fact that the work was proceeding until a late hour yesterday before my noble friend's new paragraphs could be tabled. At one point I received comments on an earlier draft when the new draft was already coming through by fax, which made life a little difficult. All this is testimony to the fact that officials both in the London Boroughs Transport Scheme and my noble friend's department have bent over backwards to try to reach a workable agreement to reconcile the very desirable objectives of protecting the citizens of London from unnecessary disruption and loss of sleep in the night and allowing this hugely important project to get under way.
My noble friend's department has been at the centre of a good deal of pressure. I have seen some of the pressure that has come from London and Continental Railways and the very proper and single-minded enthusiasm of the London Boroughs Transport Scheme. Like the noble Baroness, I was glad to hear of the undertakings for the formal recording of assurances that had been given to the London Boroughs Transport Scheme about the timing of applications and the contact point for enforcement queries. That will be most valuable. It demonstrates the importance of the register to which the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, referred in another context a few moments ago. They will be recorded in the register and will be enforceable, and, if necessary, justiciable.
I also welcome the fact that the conditions to be attached to deemed permits under the emergency procedure will be departed from only where it is necessary to give effect to approved arrangements in respect of one or more of the qualifying authorities in London. That, too, is a valuable assurance. As we have heard in several debates, it is the nature of this huge national project that makes it necessary to suspend the operation of the normal rules and regulations. I believe that we are nearly there.
I refer next to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness. I shall become a little more earthy. I am sure that the railway company will do its best; I am sure that the head contractors will do their best. But one is here
Imagine that an urgent load, perhaps a special piece of excavating equipment, comes from a site somewhere to the west of London down the M.4, or from the north down the M.40. That load has to reach a site in Kent, perhaps--who knows?--at Ebbsfleet. As subsection (3)(g) of my noble friend's amendment is drawn, it is only if it has to stop in London that it will be subject to these constraints. It does not have to stop in London; indeed, it is not going to any place in London. It is travelling from a depot in the West Country to a site in Kent, which is outside London. Obviously, it is highly desirable that that load should travel via the M.25 unless the M.25 is closed, in which case the situation is covered by a police direction.
However, lorry drivers being what they are will not necessarily want to go through the tunnel and incur the toll. It would be nicer for them to cross a bridge and incur no fees and pocket the money. Alternatively, they may have other reasons for wanting to stop in London. It is well known that from time to time lorry drivers like to visit their girlfriends. If there is no obligation on a lorry driver to go round London on the M.25 and avoid the restricted roads--there is no power under the scheme to require him to do so because subsection (3)(g) refers only to lorries making deliveries to or collections from London--there is a loophole. That loophole does not concern any of the obstacles that may be in the way of the railway company getting on with building the railway. It is a loophole for lorry drivers.
The London Boroughs Traffic Scheme has had a good deal of experience in dealing with lorry drivers. It seems to me that the Bill should not leave a loophole. I believe that the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, which does not refer to delivering or collecting from London but is at large, will close that loophole. When the moment comes perhaps she would be wise to consider pressing her amendment in the light of what my noble friend may say in reply.
Amendment No. 14 has the effect of deleting from the Bill the definition of "working day" at line 21 on page 181. I should like to ask a question, not so much on that definition, but on the definition of "working day" which is relevant in the context of protecting people in the context of the environment. I refer to the definition of working day in the first part of the code of construction practice produced by the railway company to satisfy the environmental minimum requirements.
A normal working day is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is a possibility in special circumstances of extending that by an hour so that work could start at 7 a.m. and continue until 7 p.m. It is suggested that that might become a norm when it should be only an exception. If my noble friend could give an assurance and state that the normal working day is what it is supposed to be and that the exception is supposed to be an exception only, some of us would go home happy tonight.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, if the Minister now speaks I am not sure whether I would have the right to speak again, so it may be better if I intervene at this stage. The House is greatly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for pressing the points they have in the way that they have, and to the Minister and his civil servants for responding as they have.
The ideas were put forward by the LBTS, as we heard in Committee. I thought then that they were potent points upon which the Minister should have reflected, and I am glad to say that he has. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, rather than his fax machine, was able to represent the case on that occasion. It is a wonderful fax machine, over-used, but necessarily so.
I said at the time that I believed that reconciliation was possible. That has happened, with this relatively minor point, having regard to the totality of what was in issue, outstanding. In these matters it is difficult to achieve a proper balance. Someone once described a proper balance as having a chip on both shoulders. Everyone has striven to achieve that balance, and I believe that overall it has been accomplished.
The points made by the noble Baroness, as has been acknowledged by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, are significant. I cannot believe that they would create too much difficulty. I hope that the House will not divide over that issue. I do not know what the Minister will say about it, but the best thing may be to see how the situation works, not in theory, but in practice. I have some doubts as to the wisdom of encouraging a Division, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, seemed to do, because we have achieved a great deal, and I do not believe that it should be spoilt. I would urge the Minister to seek to achieve a balance, even at this late stage, because we are not at the end of the proceedings. As the Bill has to go to another place, there is the possibility for that matter to be considered still further. Having said all that, I have some doubt about the practicality of the proposal, but I shall listen, as I said, to what the Minister has to say.
The House is greatly indebted to the Minister for the way in which he has responded on this matter. They were real ministerial qualities, if I may say so. He and his civil servants are to be congratulated on that. I support the Minister's amendments.
Lord Ampthill: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly just to say how sorry I am about the heat of the fax machine of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding. He could have avoided shifting his temperature by having brought this matter before the Select Committee, which, in some respects, is an omission which has given the department the task of finding rather hurried solutions to the problem. I welcome what the department has come forward with, which is along the lines, I hope, of what we might have come forward with.
We had problems of this nature; for example, in the Borough of Newham where there is a ventilation shaft, and, as it is surrounded entirely by residential streets, there is no way in which one can get rid of the spoil
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Of course there was a petition. There was thought to be an agreement. On that basis, the petition was withdrawn, which is why it did not go before the Select Committee.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I thank those noble Lords who have spoken during the debate. Despite the procedural difficulties in which we found ourselves, perhaps I may address the points made by the noble Baroness. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for his positive approach and support for the government amendments, and for his feeling that perhaps for the noble Baroness to seek to amend the Bill with her amendment would not necessarily be the best course of action. I hope that I shall be able to persuade her of that fact through force of argument. I also hope that I shall be able to persuade my noble friend Lord Jenkin.
I should like to welcome the role that officials have played, both those from the department and those from the LBTS. They have been involved in some of the most detailed, exhausting and exhaustive negotiations that I can remember. The running total is about eight-and-a-half hours of negotiations with several players on each side. We worked out the total at about one man-week.
Given the effort that has gone into producing what I understood to be an agreed solution, I urge the noble Baroness not to press her amendment. It is not the minor detail that some might think. It is a significant amendment. Paragraph 9A(3)(g), as inserted by government Amendment No. 15, provides:
The "if" at the start of the paragraph is significant, in that it contemplates the possibility that emergency permits may also be sought for journeys through London but where no stop in London is intended; in other words, it would allow emergency permits to be sought for through journeys, with no stop in London.
Given that paragraph 9A deals only with emergency permits, the noble Baroness's amendment would not stop LCR or its haulage contractors applying for a permit for a through journey under the non-emergency provisions.
Leaving that detail aside though, I should explain why we have felt it necessary to make provision for through journeys. We must take into account the fact that the CTRL project, which the House has so warmly welcomed, is linear in nature, extending through London and beyond, with construction and working sites all along the route, rather than a number of discrete sites as for the Jubilee Line extension works or those for Waterloo International. There may be times when, in order to carry out the CTRL works in a timely and efficient manner, an operator would need to travel through London rather than take an orbital route. We must have this flexibility for a project of this nature. For example, an urgent journey may need to be made at a time the orbital routes are closed. This amendment would not allow the journey to traverse London even where the alternative was an unacceptably wide detour.
Having said that, I appreciate the concern that an operator might seek to make a through journey rather than an orbital one just to save money--and that is essentially the noble Baroness's concern--by, for example, saving money on fuel. We have recognised and dealt with that concern.
One of the government amendments in the group removes the cost-effective provision in paragraph 9 which my noble friend was so concerned about. In recognition of that great anxiety, we removed that provision. Therefore, if my noble friend is considering whether to support the noble Baroness's amendment, I hope that he will bear in mind that we have removed the provision about which he was so anxious.
As a result, the LBTS could refuse a permit if it considered that a route through London had been chosen just to save money and that the lorry could be routed via the M.25 without interfering with the timely and efficient carrying out of the work or with the construction arrangements approved under Schedule 6.
Moreover, the need to cater for through journeys was part of the agreement reached with LBTS on Monday. That is a significant point. The agreement was reached as a result of exhaustive negotiations, and that was part of it. In the light of that, I very much hope that the noble Baroness will see the force of the argument that I have sought to put forward and will not press the amendment.
My noble friend asked about start-up and close-down times for construction sites. I cannot answer that in two or three words and I hope that my noble friend will bear with me because I must give a rather detailed explanation.
The code of construction practice which specifies, among other things, working times and appropriate noise levels, has been the subject of negotiations over several years between Union Railways and the local authorities. The latest version, incorporating the results of the discussions, which include the matter now raised, was sent on 19th September to the London Borough of Newham which has been leading for the local authorities. No comments were received despite a specific request that Union Railways should be informed as soon as possible if there were any objections.
I remind the House about the provision for working hours. Normal working hours are from 8 o'clock in the morning until 6 o'clock in the evening on weekdays, which does not include Bank holidays, and 8 o'clock in the morning until 1 o'clock in the afternoon on Saturdays. If longer periods are needed because of, for example, weather or seasonably dependent works, those can be negotiated with the local authority in the usual way.
The extra time, which was mentioned by my noble friend, is a period of up to one hour before and after normal working hours. They are said to be used for start-up or close-down activities. Every effort has been made to ensure that the arrangements do not cause problems for those living nearby. The code is explicit that the extra periods should not be considered an extension of the normal working day and, again, particular care will be taken to limit and control disturbance to local residents during such periods. The code even goes so far as to give examples of the type of work which would and would not be permitted. The movement and maintenance of equipment and taking deliveries would be allowed but the operation of equipment would not be allowed. The code specifies also that the noise generated by any activities must not exceed the levels agreed with the local authorities for the quiet times before and after normal working hours.
My noble friend has asked for an undertaking that those times should be used only in exceptional circumstances. I cannot give such an undertaking. The code is very clear. The start-up and close-down times are provided in order to maintain working hours. In the light of this very important project, that is reasonable and the constraints on working already provided offer substantial protection to those living nearby. I hope that that detailed explanation puts the matter into context and will satisfy my noble friend.