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Lord Tope: I am grateful to the Minister, and I am of course aware of that. I think that we have a straightforward difference of opinion about this issue--and not for the first time. I will not pursue the matter now and we shall consider it further. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 296C to 296CB not moved.]

Clause 208 agreed to.

Clauses 209 and 210 agreed to.

Clause 211 [Exercise of powers so as to affect another authority's roads]:

7 p.m.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 296CC:


Page 112, line 33, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (11A) below,").

The noble Earl said: It may be convenient if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 296CD to 296CH and to Amendments Nos. 297XMA to 297XMD.

I will explain briefly the effects of each amendment. Amendment No. 296CC makes consultation unnecessary if it is irrelevant. For instance, the impact on traffic safety of a road crossover footbridge might not be relevant to a GLA main road. However, it would of course be relevant locally in the borough. The Committee needs to know where the need to consult will stop.

Amendment No. 296CF raises the question as to how far the GLA/TfL will be able to interfere in local decisions through their control over GLA roads. Clause 212 inserts a new section into the Highways Act 1980 giving the GLA a veto over local decisions in respect of roads. Therefore, this appears to be an appropriate place to peg back GLA power by clarifying the basis upon which it can act.

Amendment No. 296CG deletes subsections (6) and (7) of the new clause to be inserted in the 1980 Act. These give TfL the power to act if a borough contravenes this clause. This is necessary because the self-help remedy is totally inappropriate. The exercise of highways powers affects third parties, particularly highway users. They should be confident that they know what they are allowed to do. We cannot have a situation whereby TfL staff remove traffic signs and the borough erects them again. If TfL considers that the provision is not being complied with, it should, if necessary, take the matter to court or to arbitration.

The other amendments in this group are similar and raise the same issue. I beg to move.

Lord Bowness: Perhaps it comes as no surprise to the Committee to learn that I rise to support this group of amendments and to express my fears about how these various clauses will work when brought into force. My noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding referred to the fact that one of the greatest problems under the former

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Greater London Council administration was the two-tier highway and planning regime. That situation led to an enormous lack of clarity, and to citizens not knowing who was responsible for what, in their eyes, were minor and local matters. That problem arose because many issues were referred to the GLC.

I am concerned about the provisions in the Bill that refer to the London borough councils not exercising any power under the Act:


    "in a way which will affect, or be likely to affect ... a GLA road ... a road in another London borough". There are similar provisions regarding the workings of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. I refreshed myself about those workings earlier this afternoon in the office and I was amazed how many functions are dealt with under that Act. The Minister will no doubt be glad--as I was--that I could not find a copy of the Highways Act 1980, but it deals with a similar number of issues.

Both the Highways Act and the Road Traffic Regulation Act contain the statement:


    "No London borough council shall exercise any power under this Act which will affect, or be likely to affect". I have no doubt that that statement will be interpreted very widely. I believe that, whatever good will may come to this legislation, those responsible will feel that it is necessary to refer to the other authority. For example, London borough councils will feel that it is necessary to ensure that their pedestrian crossings, their one-way local traffic management schemes or whatever are referred to the mayor and to the GLA in order to ensure that they do not adversely affect a Greater London Authority road. They will fear the powers in the Bill that enable the mayor and the authority to reverse the actions of London borough councils if they have not done what they are required to do in the event that their proposals affect a GLA road.

This process is extraordinarily tortuous. I understand that there must be some provision to protect the Greater London Authority roads from what might be described as the "maverick" actions of a London borough council--if there is such a thing as a maverick London borough council. However, I believe that it would be wrong to enshrine in this legislation this kind of provision that will lead inevitably to duplication and to delay.

Those who remember the time of the Greater London Council will recall that it might have taken two years to establish a pedestrian crossing in a relatively minor street. Members will remember that it took a similar amount of time to lay a few yards of yellow paint to make some road safety provision. Signs--which were commonsense provisions in the eyes of the public--could not be erected without referring to somebody else. The truth of the matter is that, when such things start to be referred, they are referred in profusion. To protect the position, queries and objections are inevitably raised while further investigations are made. That is when the delays set in.

I ask the Minister to re-examine these provisions during the summer. He kindly said that he would consider the provisions that we discussed relating to the

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City and how far around side turnings the writ of the GLA should go. As my noble friend Lord Jenkin said, if the public are frustrated with the operation of the GLA, it will do no one any good. We do not want to live in the past, but we must remember the mistakes of the past. This kind of duplication, delay and lack of clarity led to the unpopularity of the former Greater London Council. That sort of thing was much more responsible for its unpopularity than some of its more exotic policies. Businesses and residents became disenchanted with the GLC when they realised that totally local matters were being referred to the county authority.

These clauses contain a recipe for that to happen again. I ask the noble Lord to reconsider the matter during the summer to see how it can be clarified and simplified.

Lord Tope: I support the pleas from the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, who speaks with 30 years' experience as a London borough councillor--and, for most of that time, he was a very distinguished leader of that council and of London borough government. I speak with a mere 12 years' experience as an Opposition leader at the time of the GLC and as a London Borough councillor in the 13 years since then. The noble Lord and I adopted very different views about what should have been the future of the GLC--and I suspect that that is still the case. However, I recognise absolutely the horror stories that he has told of the borough councils' relationship with the GLC regarding matters such as this.

I am sure that the Minister will say to us, and with justification, that the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, is not understating his case and that we will not replicate the horrors that all of us in London experienced under the GLC. I hope that it will be the case with the mayor and the London boroughs. If we do we shall have failed massively. All this points to the same issue we raised in connection with side road returns; we need greater clarity about where responsibility lies.

While not necessarily speaking in such extreme terms as my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, I support at least as strongly his plea to the Minister to consider the issue carefully during the summer. If, as I suspect, he rejects this amendment, I urge him to bring back amendments at the Report stage which will provide for much greater clarity or--and I repeat earlier warnings--the issue will be the source of the greatest conflict between the mayor and the London boroughs. We all want to avoid that conflict and at this stage we can largely do so.

Lord Dormand of Easington: I wonder whether the noble Lord would support what might be called "direct action" in pursuing the noble Lord's proposal? Some years ago I was a member of a parish council which decided to move a bus stop as a result of the danger involved. The people in the village wanted it so. We applied to change it and discovered that we needed the permission of the district council, the county council and

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the transport authority. The procedure went on for months and months. So one night, two of us got up, dug it up and changed it and we heard no more about it!

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am tempted to follow the noble Lord's great initiative. However, I want to say only that on Second Reading I joined others in supporting the structure if the assembly consisted of representatives of the London boroughs. It is on precisely such an issue that there will be no constraint on what the mayor does from an elected assembly. If the assembly had consisted of borough representatives, I suspect that many of the fears voiced tonight might have been much fewer. However, that is water under the bridge and it is clear that we shall not achieve that. Therefore, I join in the plea to the Minister, in so far as it lies within human power, to bring clarity and avoid the bureaucratic nonsense which so disfigured the earlier regime.


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