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Lord Swinfen: My Lords, the wearing rate of cycle helmets by boys may be only 11 per cent now but we should bear in mind that when the wearing of seat belts was made compulsory the relevant figure was a great deal less than 11 per cent. The measure started from a much lower base. In my view it is now unusual to see someone driving not wearing a seat belt. You have to start from somewhere. Don't tell me, as the Irish do, "Don't start from here"we are here today and now, and this is where we have to start from.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, with regard to children under 12 rather than those under 14. I know that at 14 children are becoming much more independent. I also appreciate what he and other noble Lords said about children not always obeying their parents or doing as they were told. I know that from my own personal experience as a child when I did not do as I was told, as a father and as a grandfather. Children grow up and learn from their mistakes but if you lay down the guidelines
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firmly, in my view as a non-lawyer you have some defence under the law. I realise that my amendment may not be perfect as regards the criminal responsibility of either the parent or the school, but I am not a lawyer and I hope that that could be tightened up and improved in another placethat is the whole point of the Bill passing from one House to another.
As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, some cycling organisations are split on the issue. Some want the wearing of headgear to be made compulsory whereas others do not. It is interesting to note that the racing organisations have now made the wearing of headgear compulsory for racing. Perhaps that is more dangerous than cycling gently down to the village for a bag of sweets at the local shop, but children race on their bikes on the roads as well as off them.
I do not think that compulsion will stop cycling. There has been no reduction in the riding of ponies or horses since it became necessary for children to wear headgear while riding on the roads. I have already mentioned that seat belts are now much more likely to be worn than they were when compulsion was introduced in that regard.
In view of the hour and the fact that it would be extremely unlikely that I would win a Division, I will not divide the House on the amendment tonight but will rely on colleagues in another place to take the matter forward. I am sure that it will not be dropped. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"PROOF NECESSARY TO DRIVE HGV ON RESTRICTED ROAD
After section 19 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) (prohibition of parking of HGV's on verges, central reservations and footways) insert
"19A PROOF NECESSARY TO DRIVE HGV ON RESTRICTED ROAD
A person shall not drive a heavy commercial vehicle (as defined in section 20 of this Act) on a restricted road (as defined in section 82 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) unless he has documentary proof of his need to drive on that road.""
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I believe that this is the seventh day of debate on the Bill and I do not propose to prolong the discussion. However, I feel strongly about the subject of Amendment No. 26. The driver of a lorry travelling on a restricted road should produce proof of why he should be there rather than the police having to follow him all the way along the
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restricted road to prosecute him after seeing that he has not stopped. It is an awful waste of police time and means that many restrictions are not enforced. At this stage I simply ask the Minister to seriously think about the waste of police time, the ineffectiveness of the present regulations and the ease with which it could be made possible for a constable to stop a lorry driver on a restricted road and ask him for the weigh bill to show that he is delivering to or collecting from premises on the relevant road. It is a very simple transaction and would not involve much alteration to the law. I trust that the Minister will commend the measure to his colleagues in another place. It is a simple amendment which I know would be welcomed by police forces. It would offer to many people living along restricted roads protection from the unwanted passage of lorries. I shall listen to what the Minister says, but I shall not press the amendment. I beg to move.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the problem of heavy goods vehicles in rural areas is a growing one? It is not simply a question of people living in rural areas not wanting to be bothered by nasty lorries; that really is not the case. The problem is that over the past decade there has, quite correctly, been a policy of diversifying farm sites. Quite often these are turned into heavy goods operating sites. It appears to be a sensible use of some of these sites. But the problem is that there is a lacuna in the system for licensing them in that the required operating licence takes into account only the confines of the site up to where it joins the highway.
The local planning authority, the highways authority, has no say in the matter at all if it is a small site, say, with fewer than five vehicles, because then it does not come within the remit of the planning system. Even if it is a slightly larger site, the local authority is allowed to take into account only the effect that that one site has on the local traffic system. It is not allowed to take into account the cumulative effect of having lots of small sites in one area. Left with that problem, many local authorities attempt to manage the HGV traffic with weight restrictions on some roads, particularly where they go through larger villages and towns, but as we have heard from my noble friend there is a real problem with enforcing those restrictions. The police have to follow the vehicle from the start of the weight restriction to the end, and if the vehicle does not stop at any point the police can prove that it did not need to be there. As noble Lords can imagine, the police have far better things to do with their time. I hope that the Minister will give this some serious thought and that his department might think about a slightly different way in which those sorts of sites could be licensed.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate. The Government are sympathetic to the points that have been raised and are all too aware that heavy goods vehicles can cause problems on unsuitable roads. We are also aware that for various reasons it is a growing problem; but we do not think that the
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amendment would solve it. We are not at all sure that it would have its intended effect. We certainly will continue to examine the issue with great care.
As both noble Lords have indicated, it is an issue of enforcement. Under the Traffic Management Act 2004 local authorities have the ability to ensure that there are environment weight limits on roads and can pursue civil enforcement procedures, but that is difficult to do. We also accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, that this is not a high priority for the police, who have many other demands on their time. I accept the spirit in which the amendment is proposed, that we should address ourselves further to the issue, and I undertake that we will look at it further. I hope that noble Lords will recognise that this amendment would not hit the target, and we are unpersuaded of its merits. Perhaps on that basis the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
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