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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, on his slightly unheralded or covert maiden speech. I welcome him as the 11th noble Lord from Scotland to become a Member of this House since the general election.
I should declare the fact that I have a possible pecuniary interest in an opencast colliery development and also that I shall be living next door to it as well as being surrounded by four nodding donkeys from a coalbed methane project. I have also become a member of the Scottish Environmental Education Council.
These regulations are welcome. They certainly tidy up issues which have developed from the reviews of the older mineral commissions within the context of increased environmental protection requirements and expectations of enhanced reinstatement.
The second regulation clarifies the availability and extent of compensation, sorting out problems currently found between mineral operators and local authorities who are taking part in the review process. The order certainly spells out exactly what compensation can be claimed. I am sure that both sets of regulations will resolve the issues of use, modification, discontinuance, resumption and suspension of commissions. The inclusion of the huge piles of temporary waste will be very necessary and helpful.
At the end of the day success in these issues will depend on getting the balance right between efficient mineral extraction, which is a necessary activity within our economy producing raw materials and fuels, and achieving ever higher standards of environmental protection during the working phase and in the reinstatement phase afterwards.
It is certainly a big issue in the wee county of Clackmannan where there are many opencast mines and quarries in operation and in embryo. That is despite Clackmannanshire being the smallest county in the United Kingdom. But living in the immediate vicinity of a quarry or opencast mine can never be inconsequential for those who have to do so. Every effort should be made to mitigate the effects. I hope that these regulations will contribute towards that.
Lord Selkirk of Douglas: My Lords, may I from the Back Benches issue a word of welcome to the new Minister and congratulate him warmly on these orders. I should mention that my brother's companies have had an interest in mineral rights and the company of which I am unpaid director has had in the past, and it is not impossible it might have in the future. There would be considerable interest if the Minister could say something about the current situation of the Glensanda quarry in the Western Isles because a great many people have a general interest in that subject, especially the islanders of the Western Isles.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, for his kind remarks. I shall certainly bear in mind what he said about the quarry in Harris. I am advised that the situation is that it is not appropriate to connect the super-quarry with this legislation. The Secretary of State will be able to advise as soon as he himself receives the reporter's final submissions on this matter. I thank the noble Earl also for his comments about my contribution to the Gaelic college in Skye. The contributions would have been scarcely possible without the good offices of the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas. I also bear his comments in mind.
I turn to the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie. The regulations do not impinge in any significant way on the current policy review on opencast coal. Consultations on the consultative draft new policy guidance for opencast coal ended on 11th December. The responses are currently being considered and the conclusions will be announced in due course.
I take the point made earlier by the noble Earl. I hope that he will accept that this legislation is very similar to that already in place in England and Wales and that it has been consulted upon very widely in Scotland with local authorities, industry and other interested parties. Indeed, we received 34 responses in total and the vast majority of those responding confirmed that they were content with what was proposed. Although a number of technical points were made, they did not necessitate the regulations being amended. Therefore, as the provisions are working well in England and Wales, I hope that the noble Earl will accept that there is no reason why the situation should be different in Scotland. I commend the order to the House.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by providing noble Lords with some of the background which has led to the order now before us. In 1993 the Home Office amended the Functions of Traffic Wardens Order 1970 by the Functions of Traffic Wardens (Amendment) Order 1993 to give new powers to traffic wardens. Following consultation with the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, it was agreed that the functions of traffic wardens in Scotland should similarly be extended. However, in view of the changes made by the Home Office and the changes made to road traffic legislation since the Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order 1971 was made, it was necessary to completely re-make rather than simply amend that order. Therefore, the Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order 1998 brings us in line with England and Wales.
Traffic wardens already play a significant role in parking enforcement and the order will allow wardens to be of greater assistance to the police in the enforcement of parking offences, thereby releasing police time for more essential duties. The order, if introduced, would be available to all police forces in Scotland. It would, however, be for individual chief constables to decide when to make use of it. I shall explain as simply as I can what changes the order will make.
Traffic wardens in Scotland presently issue fixed penalty tickets to vehicles parked in contravention of local parking orders, issue fixed penalty tickets to vehicles not displaying valid excise licences, and direct traffic. All of the offences currently dealt with are non-endorasable. The Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order 1998 will allow them to exercise the additional functions of the interim removal of illegally parked vehicles and the immobilisation of illegally parked vehicles. This is similar to the powers presently available to police officers under terms of the Removal and Disposal of Vehicles Regulations which are currently being amended in tandem with this order. For example, vehicles causing an unnecessary obstruction will be a non-endorsable offence. For the first time, traffic wardens will be able to issue a fixed penalty notice for endorsable offences, these being dangerously parked vehicles and vehicles parked in breach of pedestrian crossing regulations. There will also be the power to require the production of a driving licence and, in certain cases, a statement of date of birth if there is cause to believe that one of the endorsable offences has been committed.
The new functions proposed in the order provide chief constables in Scotland with the means to increase the role of their traffic warden forces in day to day parking enforcement. Police officers will be able to focus their time on duties of greater priority. However, we and the police recognise that it is important that the new duties to be carried out by wardens are discharged in a proper way and that training of traffic wardens in the new duties is essential. We shall stress the importance of training to chief constables in the advice that we issue to them about the new order. I believe that the new arrangements have a significant contribution to make to the police service. I beg to move.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, I join with others in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, to his new role. I do not want to take up time, but there are one or two points I wish to make about the order. First, although the noble Lord has given a list of the extension of powers of traffic wardens, I hope that he will accept that they fall into two distinctive categories. I do not think that anyone would query the extension of powers for traffic wardens to act as parking attendants or school crossing officers and so on, but the second category is quite different. It is a new concept in Scotland that someone other than a police officer could demand the identity of a driver or the production of a driving licence, or could issue a fixed penalty in respect of an endorsable offence. That is a major extension of the role of traffic wardens. It should not be entered upon lightly without some cross-examination.
For example, the question of whether a vehicle is dangerously parked is a matter of opinion. A police officer with training is perfectly capable of advancing that opinion if the matter came to court. I am not so sure that that is true of a traffic warden. I wish to press the Minister to be more explicit as to what training will be given before these extra powers are brought into effect.
Secondly, in England, though not yet in Scotland, I understand, some traffic warden services have been privatised. I would like to be reassured that none of the powers in the order will be transferred to privatised traffic warden services. These have proved somewhat unpopular in some parts of England.
My last point is this. As the Minister said, these powers are permissive to chief constables. It is therefore possible that we could have different police forces in Scotland implementing these powers differently. This could cause some difficulty where people who are used to police officers having the powers in one area of Scotland travel to another area where traffic wardens have the powers. If there is a case for the powers, they should be introduced uniformly across the country and not in a piecemeal manner in different areas where they could give rise to confusion and some public anxiety. I hope that the Minister feels that these are reasonable questions I raise.
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