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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have a few questions to put to the Minister, but first I thank him and I congratulate most warmly the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, who, through his own campaign, working with the Evening Standard and with quite a lot of coverage from "Today in Parliament", has kept this issue well to the fore.
On the first amendment, can the Minister confirm that the provisions will extend to footpaths as well as to carriageways? He mentioned pedestrians, but can we be assured that the dislodging of pedestrians from footpaths, as well as the problems of works to a carriageway spilling over on to a footpath, will be taken into account?
On the lane rental provisions, noble Lords will be aware that local authorities charge undertakers when the highway authority has to refill a hole because it has been filled so incompetently in the first place, and that that is something that happens quite often. I hope that the rental charged to the undertaker will extend to that circumstance; in other words, that the highway authority will not have to bear the cost. I appreciate that that point will be covered by regulations and will not be on the face of the Bill.
The Minister made a point about the start and finish of works. I hope that the factual position will override a date notified by an undertaker. Frankly, I would be fairly suspicious about the accuracy of such dates. I am sure that I am not the only Member of this House who is irritated by how much litter, such as abandoned signs and pieces of fencing from around works, is left behind at the close of works, particularly in London. Often those who undertake work do not clear up once the job is finished.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil. He has been concerned with this matter for a long time and deserves every congratulation on achieving government acceptance, in principle, of his proposals.
My point follows on a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on lane rentals for footpaths. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, mentioned Birdcage Walk. I do not know whether he has tried to walk along that road, but it is just about impossible to drive down it, and walking down it is even worse because the contractors have taken over both footpaths with an unfriendly wire fence.
Regularly one finds that footpaths are blocked by spoil from road excavations. One classic case in Oxford, where I live, involved a bus lane where one is encouraged to cycle as it is also a cycle route. For some reason it was dug up and a large sign was erected saying, "Cyclists dismount". Why should cyclists dismount? Why should not the cars slow down? Why should there not be space for pedestrians? If cars and vehicles can use the road, cyclists and pedestrians should be able to use it as well.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I join noble Lords who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Peyton on his supreme resistance in raising this issue for about a year, through Starred Questions, Unstarred Questions, a Private Member's Bill and amendments to this Bill. The result is that we have government amendments that meet his points. I also thank the Minister warmly for bringing forward these amendments.
I may not have understood what the Minister said in introducing the amendments. He said that the regulations under existing Section 74 of the New Roads and Street Works Act are now in draft and out for consultation and it is hoped that they will be brought into force by the end of the year. The second of the two amendments seeks to amend Section 74 and mentions regulations. Will those regulations come in simultaneously with those regulations that are now out in draft form, or will there be a further delay while they are consulted upon? I do not want to sound carpish, but originally the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said in June that he had hoped that the orders would be laid before the House in the autumn, before the end of this parliamentary session. We have already seen some slippage in that, but that may be because the second amendment requires additional regulations. Can the Minister clarify that particular point?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, my understanding of the regulations, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, is that the reports on the consultations will occur simultaneously, so the answer is yes. My noble friend Lord Berkeley spoke of the position in Birdcage Walk. I remind the House that that is a royal park and what takes place there is up to the royal park.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, mentioned footpaths, or footways as they are technically described. They will come under the same considerations as roads. As for pedestrians, there will be a code of practice that will set out how utilities should carry out their works, which should make provision for pedestrians. Clearly, the rental costs will be a matter for regulation. I am sure that that will encompass the point that she makes about the factual position as to the notification of dates.
I am grateful to all those who congratulated us on this matter. As I said earlier, those congratulations belong in large measure to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. I accept his stricture on the word "shall" as opposed to the word "may". I confess to being a victim of the tyranny of the pedants who draft these provisions; but I am the creature in these matters in this instance.
The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, posed many other questions of substance. Like him, I hope that these powers will not be an unused battery of guns if there is evidence that they are required. My intuition, which I am sure the noble Lord shares, is that when new Section 74A is enacted, it will be seen as something that can be usefully employed throughout England and Wales. I anticipate that Section 74 will be given something of a run for its money. But in the not-too-distant future, new Section 74A will be called into play.
I take also the noble Lord's point about the campaign conducted by the Evening Standard. In my previous role, one of the media companies under my chairmanship was the Glasgow Evening Times, which won the award for being the best evening newspaper in the United Kingdom, but ceded it quite rapidly to the Evening Standard. I should say that under the editorship of Max Hastings, Londoners are well served by that newspaper in its constant vigilance. It is well known for its awards so I hope that, if it introduces a new award, perhaps for good works as well as roadworks, at some point it will set a golden cone upon the head of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton.