Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing forward the amendments in response to the amendments I brought forward on Report. I am particularly pleased to see legal identity being given to home zones and quiet lanes. I welcome the flexibility which the proposed new clauses give to local authorities in this important area of road safety. However, the devil, as always, will be in the detail. Much will hinge on the regulations and guidance. Will the Minister say when that will be forthcoming?

I would appreciate some clarification of subsection (6) of the proposed new clause in Amendment No. 28, which states,

I feared that this might mean that the Secretary of State's approval would be required for each individual scheme.

I am rather disappointed that the issue of precedence has not been covered in the Government's amendments. On Report, the Minister said that he would redraft my amendments to meet his quibbles. I suppose that I am quibbling at his use of the word "quibble" because precedence is fundamental to the concept of home zones. That is certainly the experience of our Continental neighbours. We were keen to see the enabling powers put on the face of the Bill and are therefore disappointed to note that they are not included in the amendment. Earlier this evening when we discussed a workplace parking levy, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh--rightly, in our view--said that the purpose of workplace charging was to give local authorities a tool and that it had been included in the Bill in response to the demands of local authorities. After consultation has taken place and after representations are made, if it becomes clear that there is a demand on the part of local authorities for powers to change the precedence, will the Government consider including that matter in guidance in the future?

I particularly welcome the rural road hierarchy and the commitment to a 12-month review and the publication of the results of that review. I was interested to note that the Bill refers to a link between speed limits and accidents. That measure will be welcomed by many rural dwellers for whom that matter is a constant concern. Does the Minister see lower speed limits on minor rural roads as a desirable outcome of the review? Once the review is completed,

9 Nov 2000 : Column 1758

will primary legislation be required to change the hierarchy, or can that be done by statutory instrument?

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I support the amendment. I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for bringing it forward. It is good to see quiet lanes and home zones included on the face of the Bill. I have two questions. First, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, mentioned priority for pedestrians. Can the use order be used to specify or designate priority for pedestrians, or does that matter require primary legislation? Secondly, an interesting road sign has been approved by the European Union. I believe that it is called E30. It depicts an attractive little house and kids playing football. Would local authorities require approval to erect such signs when home zones are established, or could they erect them anyway? I think that would be rather nice. I hope that my noble friend will comment on that.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am grateful for the general welcome for the amendments. I hope that I can respond to some of the points that have been made. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, asked what authorities other than local authorities would be involved. In London it could be the GLA. Although, initially, individual consents may be given, that may change in time.

We hope to issue guidance as soon as possible. That almost certainly means next year. As regards my view on speed limits in rural lanes, the road safety strategy, and my frequent elaboration of it, indicate that I believe that in many cases 60 miles an hour--that is the default speed on single carriageway roads--is not appropriate in many rural lanes. However, each local authority can assess the appropriate speed for an individual rural road or lane.

As regards the issue of priority or precedence, I accept that our amendment differs in this respect from that tabled by the Liberal Democrats at an earlier stage. We believe that we can achieve that objective through existing powers. We believe that the absolute priority that is established in some Continental legislation is not appropriate. We are considering the position, say, on a zebra crossing where pedestrians have the right of way but they are expected to cross in a reasonable time. Where children are playing in a home zone, clearly one would expect the car to slow down. However, one would also expect a provision whereby the children would make way in order for the car to reach its destination.

To lay down precedence in absolute terms would not be appropriate. We are talking here about the obligation on the car driver and other road users to act reasonably in the context of the road that they were using. A home zone would be marked by clear signs. Whether or not they would be the signs described by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, such zones would have designated low vehicle speeds which could be 10 miles per hour or lower. All the existing important provisions as regards due care and attention, consideration for other road users and so on would

9 Nov 2000 : Column 1759

apply. If one adds all that up, creating a new offence of failure to give precedence, given the difficulty that might arise in certain situations, would not add very much.

We are proposing that there would be a special reference and special supplement to the Highway Code explaining how road users should behave in home zones. I hope that that answers most of the questions. I commend the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 29:

    After Clause 266, insert the following new clause--


(".--(1) The Secretary of State shall review the operation in relation to rural roads of the provision made by and under--
(a) Part VI of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (speed limits), and
(b) Schedule 9 to that Act (orders) so far as relating to orders under that Part.
(2) The review shall in particular include consideration of whether (and, if so, how) the law should be amended to facilitate the introduction of rural road hierarchies.
(3) A rural road hierarchy is a system under which rural roads are categorised by a local traffic authority (by reference to the ways in which they are used) for the purpose of subjecting different categories of rural roads to different speed limits.
(4) The Secretary of State shall consult--
(a) the Scottish Ministers, and
(b) the National Assembly for Wales,
when carrying out the review.
(5) The Secretary of State shall publish a report of the review before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.
(6) The Secretary of State shall lay a copy of the report before each House of Parliament.
(7) In this section "local traffic authority" has the same meaning as in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 272 [Commencement]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 30 and 31:

    Clause 272, page 177, line 16, leave out second ("and").

    Clause 272, page 177, line 16, at end insert ("and section (Report on rural road speed limits)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 276 [Extent]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 32 and 33:

    Clause 276, page 178, line 23, leave out ("and 266 to 268") and insert ("266 and (Quiet lanes and home zones) and 267 and 268").

    Clause 276, page 178, line 26, leave out ("section 265") and insert ("sections (Type approval: individual exemptions), 265 and (Report on rural road speed limits)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 12 [Road user charging and workplace parking levy: financial provisions]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 34:

    Schedule 12, page 235, line 2, at end insert (", a London traffic authority's and the Greater London Authority's").

9 Nov 2000 : Column 1760

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 35 to 39.

The Bill provides that local authorities shall have the power as a tool in their transport planning to raise either congestion charges or workplace parking levies. One might have thought that in that situation one was discussing a local tax raised locally for local purposes. It is a matter of regret that that is not what Schedule 12 provides. Schedule 12 provides that these local taxes set and determined locally for local purposes may remain so for 10 years. After that period, it is an option and the Government will review the situation. Of course, they may do the honourable and decent thing and allow the situation to continue; but they may not. That seems to me to be a new departure in local taxation which is somewhat different from the situation which arises over fines--they tend to find their way into the Government's hands--which are the product of traffic offences committed locally and the result of local procedures.

As we heard earlier, sometimes local authorities are not even allowed to keep the costs of collecting those revenues. In this instance, this is a purely local affair for 10 years after which the Government can get their sticky fingers on the money if they so choose. That is a novel principle in local government taxation which I find to be thoroughly wrong and obnoxious.

The purpose of this group of amendments is so to amend Schedule 12 that we make it possible for the product of this revenue to remain with the local authorities for the long-term future. We provide that, if the original purpose for which the money was required ceases--it has to be transport related initially--that money can be kept locally in aid of the local rate fund.

The question was raised as to whether we could include London. London is included, whether it is the Greater London Authority or one of the boroughs which raises the charge.

At this hour, I do not wish to go beyond the basic principle. The ramifications are extremely dangerous. I do not think that we should accept the dangerous principle that it is proper for the Government administratively to decide that the product of a local taxation decision should be drawn into the Government's coffers after a period of time. These amendments would make it possible for the revenue to remain locally. I beg to move.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the novel part of these provisions is that the revenue from such road user charging would be totally hypothecated. It would be hypothecated for public transport purposes for 10 years or for any scheme started within the 10 years. That is an important principle of charging, in delivering our integrated transport policy at the local level, and of giving effect to the local transport plans on which so many local authorities are now enthusiastically engaged.

9 Nov 2000 : Column 1761

As drafted, the noble Lord's amendments would depart from that principle. They would offer local authorities the option of using the revenue from new charges, for example, to reduce council tax--not after 10 years but from the moment a charging or licensing scheme is introduced. That is not appropriate. From the way the noble Lord moved the amendment I do not think that it was his intention. We believe that this situation has to be reviewed in 10 years' time because ultimately under hypothecation one may well run out of appropriate transport expenditure in which to engage. But that hypothecation should stand for a significant period of time. Ten years seems to be the most appropriate.

We discussed this issue during some lengthy discussions on the Greater London Authority Bills. We accepted that 10 years is an appropriate period. We believe that that should be the case more generally in this Bill for all local authorities. Clearly, if there are transport needs to be addressed after 10 years, the hypothecation could well continue. But we need to build in a review period. It is not an interference in local judgment. It will be up to the local authority whether it continues the scheme and what it spends the money on from the scheme within the framework of its local transport plan.

I believe that the noble Lord's anxieties are misplaced. The amendment would lead almost to the opposite of what the Bill is about; namely, the delivery of an effective integrated transport system at local level. I hope that he will not pursue the amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page