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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, my Amendment No. 134 is grouped with these and it is very simple. It deals with the issue of who should pay the penalty charge for someone who offends against a bus lane. We feel very strongly that it is the driver who is the person committing the offence and is the one who should pay the penalty charge. I accept that all too often, particularly with camera equipment, computers and everything else in this day and age, the owner of the vehicle is the person who can be caught. The fact of the matter is that it is the driver of the vehicle who commits the offence and it is only the driver. It is never the owner if the owner is not the driver. There is a difficulty here and one has to accept that. If the driver happens to be an employee of the owner, the matter becomes even more complicated, but at least the owner knows exactly who to tackle.

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We think that this ought to be explicit within the Bill: that it is the person who commits the offence who actually pays the penalty. I accept that this may on occasions cause problems. I do not think that the principle is wrong. I hope that the Minister may be prepared to consider it. If the wording of the amendment is not adequate, perhaps he may be able to bring forward a more acceptable way of dealing with this situation.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, before the Minister replies, I ask whether the Government are absolutely satisfied that it will be possible to hold someone responsible--driver or owner--without any doubt in the law. We need to have a clear position if we are to go forward.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, the Opposition are entirely wrong. If the driver is self-employed it follows that he will be liable. If the driver is employed by someone else it follows that that person will be responsible for the fine. It may be that that person will, if he is not lacking in responsibility, take the appropriate moves against the employee. The Government are entirely right about that and the Opposition are, as usual, entirely wrong.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I ask my noble friend for a little clarification on his introduction. Am I correct in thinking that in London it is still proposed that the owner is liable? If he could identify someone else as being the driver, that driver would become liable. If that is not the case outside London, how is it intended to identify the driver? From a camera or some other device?

The second question is: have the Government sorted out the problem of the Scottish case heard at the European Court of Human Rights and the defence that one does not have to divulge the name of the driver?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am grateful for the intervention of my noble friend Lord Berkeley--in a slightly more subtle way than my noble friend Lord Bradshaw--in connection with whether we were entirely bomb-proof in relation to various proceedings arising in this area under the Human Rights Act. The answer is that time will tell. The reality is that although these cases, including the one referred to in Scotland, have been widely reported as relating to camera enforcement and road traffic offences where the owner is required to identify the driver--where driver and owner are the same, self-incrimination therefore arises--in fact none of those case where the courts have so far ruled, whether in England or in Scotland, relates to camera enforcement in this context. Nevertheless, there may be developments in that area.

That is one of the reasons, but only one, where we require some degree of flexibility. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, would impose driver liability for penalty charges imposed by any local authority. We wish to have flexibility to be able to

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change the basis of liability for payment by secondary legislation. That would be on the basis of experience and practice, both inside London and outside, and if necessary make any changes in the implications of the law. The noble Lord's amendment would remove flexibility.

I hope that the noble Lords will understand why we are unable to support that amendment and that they will agree to withdraw it.

In response to the question from my noble friend, Lord Berkeley, where owner liability applies, already in many areas of the Road Traffic Acts the requirement is on the keeper. The owner, strictly speaking, should identify who was driving the car at that time. That is not altered in this context or in other Road Traffic Act contexts by this amendment or this Bill because it would remove what might prove to be necessary flexibility. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will not press this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 127:


    Page 85, line 44, leave out ("bus lane").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the reason this amendment was tabled is that it is apparent that bus operation in some of our major cities is in crisis. The Minister may know that the traffic commissioners have been pressing bus companies to improve their performance and to ensure that buses run within narrow time parameters of one minute before time and up to four or five minutes late but no more. At a recent hearing in Bristol, where bus operation is in crisis, evidence given by Colin Buchanan and Partners, who are leading consultants in this field, showed conclusively that it is impossible to operate a bus service reliably in that city. Even if extra buses were added to the service, they could not keep within the timetable because of the unpredictability of traffic flows.

I went through the evidence carefully with a senior partner of the firm. He showed me evidence from Birmingham where the bus service is completely breaking down and what is operating bears no resemblance whatever to the timetable. The traffic commissioners, as they are empowered to do under the law, are threatening to withdraw the licence of the operators and ban them operating. If they did that, it is difficult to believe that any other operator would want to enter a market to operate a bus service which, in time, would give rise to complaint and to their finding themselves in court also answering charges of running an unreliable bus service.

The only way to deal with this situation is to manage the highway more effectively. A number of authorities have not taken up the special parking arrangements now available under the law; they do not properly enforce parking restrictions; and we know that the police do not do so because they believe they have other priorities. We need active traffic management.

No doubt camera enforcement of bus lanes will be effective in helping to restore punctuality to bus services. However, when I spoke to local authorities

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and to bus companies they said that the enforcement of box junctions--many bus lanes end in box junctions--is also of great importance. When we raised this matter at earlier stages of the Bill, we asked from these Benches for more camera enforcement. Ministers said that they were not willing to take powers which they had no immediate intention of using.

The purpose of tabling Amendment No. 127 is to ask Ministers to think again about taking powers in respect of box junctions to enhance the efficiency of bus operation. It was moved solely to help local authorities to carry out the responsibilities placed on them by the Government in the consultation paper From Workhorse to Thoroughbred, and other documents published by the Government. I hope that the Government will take the amendment seriously. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, in his amendment. I too had details of the problems arising in Bristol. It is always a surprise to me that we have bus lanes in many places, some enforced better than others, but in many cases the junctions allow cars in or consist of a box junction.

It has been my belief for many years that the only viable way to get buses running on time and to schedule is to have a continuous lane, be it bus lane, box junction or whatever. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is right in relation to the lack of enforcement in that regard. People contravene box junctions with great frequency. If it was possible to have camera enforcement of those regulations alongside those for bus lanes, we might actually get the buses to run on time and therefore more people using them, which is the objective, I believe, of government policy.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I too should like to express a few words in favour of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw.

In this country, we seem to have a talent for introducing sensible rules; but the more sensible they are, the less we seem to enforce them. That is truly ridiculous. If an amendment such as this could nudge some of the relevant authorities into something approaching action and stir them out of their habitual lethargy and inertia, it would be a good thing.

Box junctions are not the only example. Parts of London are festooned with notices saying, "No delivery and no collection between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.". But one cannot see the notices for the crowds of vehicles around them collecting and delivering.

When governments take powers, introduce legislation and make sensible rules, they should do so with the determination that they should be enforced, instead of which they tend to walk away--I refer to all governments, not just this one--leave the powers on the statute book and do nothing. Once rules are made, if anyone is to respect the law they must be enforced,

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and time and again they are not. Motorists are driven mad by that failure to enforce sensible rules. Therefore I support Amendment No. 127.


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