HC Deb 26 July 1974 vol 877 cc2119-27

(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make such provision as he thinks fit for prohibiting the stopping of vehicles on any part of a highway—

  1. (a) which lies within such distance of an urban junction as may be specified in the regulations, being a distance of not more than 30 and not less than 5 yards measured from such point as may be determined in accordance with the regulations; and
  2. (b) which is marked by means of a traffic sign in accordance with subsection (3) below.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, regulations under this section—

I urge the hon. Member for Weston, super-Mare to withdraw the clause. He will be helping me and other hon. Members on the Government Benches who support him but who will be in a similar difficulty.

Question put, That the clause be read a second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 65.

(a) may make different provision in relation to different classes of urban junctions and may define any such class by reference to any characteristics of the junction or to any other circumstances whatsoever;

(b) may exclude from the application of the regulations any part of a highway which is marked in accordance with, and is subject to any provision of, regulations made under section 23 of the 1967 Act (pedestrian crossings) and, where it is necessary in consequence of any such exclusion, may reduce the minimum distance specified in subsection (1)(a) above accordingly;

(c) may provide that, in relation to vehicles of such classes as may be specified in the regulations, such provisions of the regulations as may be so specified shall not apply, or shall apply subject to such modifications as may be so specified;

(d) may provide that, subject to such conditions, and in relation to an urban junction of such class, as may be so specified, the appropriate authority for any highway, in relation to the whole or any part of which the regulations apply, may in such manner and to such extent as may be provided in the regulations exclude the application of any provision of the regulations in relation to that highway;

(e) may provide that, subject to such conditions as may be so specified, in any case where—

  1. (i) apart from any provision made by virtue of this paragraph, the part of any highway in relation to which the regulations apply does not extend for the maximum distance referred to in subsection (1)(a) above, and
  2. (ii) the appropriate authority for that highway determine that, having regard to the characteristics of the urban junction in question, it is desirable in the interests of road safety to extend the part of that highway to which the regulations apply by substituting for the distance specified in relation to that highway under subsection (1)(a) above such greater distance, not exceeding 30 yards, as may be specified by the authority.
the regulations shall apply in relation to that highway as if the distance specified by the appropriate authority were the distance specified in the regulations; and

(f) may extend to any vehicle which is stopped in such circumstances that part only of the vehicle is on or projects over a part of a highway falling within paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) above.

(3) Regulations under this section shall make provision for identifying any part of a highway to which any provision of the regulations is for the time being to apply by means of a traffic sign of a type or character specified in the regulations (being a type prescribed or character authorised under section 54 of the 1967 Act) and for the time being lawfully in place; and for the purposes of any such regulations any such traffic sign placed on or near a highway shall be deemed to be lawfully in place unless the contrary is proved.

(4) Nothing in regulations under this section shall prohibit the stopping of a vehicle if and so long as it is stopped in accordance with—

  1. (a) the indication given by a traffic sign, or
  2. (b) any direction or permission given by a constable in uniform, or
  3. (c) any direction or permission given by any other person exercising a power conferred by or under any enactment to control, stop or otherwise regulate traffic, or
  4. (d) any requirement imposed by regulations under section 23 of the 1967 Act, or
  5. (e) any requirement arising under section 25 of the 1967 Act (stopping at school crossings),
or for the purpose of making a left or right turn, or in any other case where the driver is prevented from proceeding by circumstances beyond his control or it is either necessary for him to stop in order to avoid an accident or reasonable for him to do so in order to give way to other persons using the road.

(5) A person who causes or permits a vehicle to stop in contravention of regulations under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100; and at the end of paragraph (g) of subsection (4) of section 69 of the Transport Act 1968 (conviction on numerous occasions of certain offences to be a ground for revoking, suspending or curtailing an operator's licence) there shall be added the words "or in regulations made under section 6 of the Road Traffic Act 1974".

(6) In so far as regulations under this section prohibit the stopping of a vehicle on any part of a highway,—

  1. (a) the prohibition shall have effect notwithstanding any provision made under any enactment, other than section 23 of the 1967 Act, before the coming into operation of the regulations, being a provision designating as a parking place, or prohibiting or restricting the waiting or stopping of vehicles on, any portion of that part of the highway, and
  2. (b) to the extent that it conflicts with regulation under this section any such provision as is referred to in paragraph (a) above shall cease to have effect (but without prejudice to its continued operation with respect to things done or omitted to be done before the regulations came into force), and the highway authority shall, as soon as practicable, take such steps as are requisite for removing any traffic sign indicating that any such provision is in force with respect to the portion of the highway concerned.

(7) For the purposes of this section "urban junction" means a junction of two or more roads, at least one of which is a highway which—

  1. (a) is a restricted road for the purposes of section 71 of the 1967 Act (30 m.p.h. speed limit); or
  2. (b) is subject to an order under section 74 of that Act imposing a speed limit not exceeding 40 m.p.h.; or
  3. (c) is subject to a speed limit not exceeding 40 m.p.h. which is imposed by or under any local Act.

(8) In this section— appropriate authority", in relation to any highway, means the authority having power, otherwise than by virtue of section 84A (reserve powers) of the 1967 Act, to make an order under secetion 1 or section 6 of that Act, in relation to that highway, road" means any length of road, and subsections (1) and (2) of section 104 of the 1967 Act (interpretation) and section 107 of that Act (exercise of regulation-making powers and parliamentary control thereover) shall apply as if this section were included in that Act.—[Mr. Graham Page.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This clause deals with the prohibition of parking near road junctions in towns. Those familiar with the ancestry of the Bill will know that this clause was in the Bill introduced by the last Government. Many of those who have been dealing with the Bill throughout will therefore be familiar with the clause. The principle is the same as that with which we are familiar in road safety law. It has for many years been recognised in the prohibition of parking at the approaches to pedestrian crossings. In such instances the prohibition has worked well. It has been accepted willingly by the public and has saved lives.

Figures for 1972 show that parking near to urban road junctions caused 6,000 serious accidents, including fatalities. I do not think that we can ignore such figures. I am sure that the Committee ought to take note of them and endeavour to legislate to prevent such accidents. When people are seeking to obtain the provision of a pedestrian crossing or a speed limit, they frequently ask, "Do we have to wait until someone is killed on this road before we obtain protection?" In this case we have the figures for those killed and seriously injured. Here is the evidence.

The clause tries to prevent these sorts of accidents. I say at once that it is permissive for the Secretary of State to make regulations prohibiting parking near urban junctions. Such junctions are defined at the end of the clause, in subsection (7), as junctions where at least one of the roads is a highway which is restricted as to a speed limit of either 30 mph or 40 mph.

The length of road which would be restricted is limited under the clause to a distance of not less than five yards and not more than 30 yards from a junction. The specification of not less than five yards is dependent upon the point at which the junction is measured and, where appropriate, allowance would have to be made for this. The specification of 30 yards is the extreme limit.

There is flexibility in the proposed regulations, including flexibility relating to action which local authorities may take. The clause gives specific guidance by way of such figures as I have mentioned, but in other respects it is flexible. For example, not every council estate would be subject to the regulations. The regulations would be made with commonsense to ensure that they were applied in appropriate circumstances, that is, where accidents were likely. There is what I might described as an escape clause in subsection (4).

The regulations would mean some inconvenience to some motorists in regard to parking, but almost every road safety provision is an inconvenience to drivers. However, if these provisions are responsibly administered serious disturbance to people's way of life can be avoided, and any inconvenience caused would not be unbearable when weighed against the safety which could result.

If the proposed regulations made street parking more difficult, thereby forcing those who are responsible for provision of off-street parking to take more action than they do at present, I would be among many people who would be very happy. We need much more off-street parking. Without it roads will become clogged with parked cars. The more that roads are cluttered with parked cars, particularly at or near junctions, the more danger there is both for drivers and those crossing the roads.

The clause was included in the Bill introduced by the previous Government and I have always regarded it as beneficial towards road safety. Many accidents have been caused by cars parked near road junctions in towns and I believe that there is a complete justification for the clause.

I hope that the Minister will accept the clause. It is not like new Clause 4, on which we were debating a matter of major policy. This clause was considered fully before its introduction into the previous Bill and it was also considered when that Bill was presented to the House. It is not a matter of great policy. It is a permissive clause, allowing the Secretary of State to make regulations.

If the Minister accepts it, even at this stage, he need have no fear about drafting. I do not claim authorship of the clause. I have stolen it from the previous Bill and it was drafted by Parliamentary draftsmen. The Minister need have no fear about having to act on the clause immediately. He will have time to consider the regulations, and so will the House itself when the regulations are put before it.

Mr. Mulley

In his usual persuasive way the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) has made a strong case for serious consideration of restricting or preventing parking near junctions. I do not quarrel with his general proposition, because we all know that, in the nature of things, there are more accidents at junctions than on other parts of roads. It is a matter of concern that, although it cannot always be proved, there is evidence to suggest that some accidents are due to the vision of drivers being affected by parked vehicles.

However, it is one thing to realise that there is a problem at junctions and that parking at junctions may be part of that problem and quite another to apply a universal ban on parking at every junction of every road in the United Kingdom. I am trying to be consistent with what I said in Opposition when we discussed this matter. What is necessary is to apply the restrictions where there is evidence to suggest that in fact there have been accidents, not to apply it to many roads and back streets in residential areas where, because of the application of the 30-yard to five-yard rule, it would be practically impossible to park, because the roads are too short. That would prevent people from parking in areas where they now park, perhaps because they have no garage, and where they do no harm to anybody and where there is no evidence to suggest that there has been an accident in the locality for 10 years or more. That is the objection to using a universal ban.

I know that the clause was seriously considered and would not have appeared in the previous administration's Bill if it had not been, but in Clause 8 we are giving an additional power to local authorities to deal with road safety.

The new clause begins by saying that the Secretary of State may make regulations. Is it a Government's function to determine these matters at every junction in the country? Is not that a matter to be dealt with by the local authority concerned?

I accept that the consequence of that is that local authorities must have the necessary powers. As the right hon. Gentleman probably knows, there are powers under Section 1 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 to impose bans at junctions. On the other hand, there are constraints in those powers in that the consent of the Secretary of State is required in every case and there is the possibility, therefore, of a public inquiry and so on. What is reasonable is to give local authorities larger and easier powers to designate no-parking areas where there is clearly the evidence or possibility of an accident and to let them get on with it. We accept that there should be a distinctive form of road marking so that people may know their rights because of the possibility of uncertainty in some areas about whether it is 30 yards or five yards.

The clause in the previous administration's Bill was widely criticised on a number of grounds by a number of bodies. An attempt was made to reintroduce it in another place where the noble Lords were very kind to the previous administration. Indeed, some noble Lords tried to change my Bill into an exact version of the previous administration's Bill. As a result of the arguments there, the clause was withdrawn.

It is right to say that without going for a universal blanket ban, we should see whether we can achieve the very proper objectives which the right hon. Gentleman and others had in mind to reduce the number of road accidents. Let us see whether we can cover the matter by subordinate legislation, but if accidents continue we shall have to take a hard look at the matter. We are as concerned as the right hon. Gentleman to do something about these accidents, and I hope that, in view of what I have said, he will withdraw the clause.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

The Minister knows how to win an argument against me. He has only to allege that I am depriving local authorities of powers. He knows that that is the last thing I wish to do.

The Minister drew our attention to a statute whereby the local authorities may be able to deal with the problem. I hope he is right and I should like to look further into the matter. If he agrees to discuss the subject with me at some time to see whether we can provide for this matter within the regulations in respect of local authorities, I am sure that that is the best way to proceed. We shall then be dealing with specifically difficult roads rather than seeking to achieve our ends by means of blanket provisions. I am grateful to the Minister for accepting the principle that we must deal with the question of parking too close to corners, and I hope that we shall be able to look into Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act.

Mr. Mulley

I give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. I shall be delighted to discuss the matter with him, and I shall welcome his assistance on this difficult matter.

Mr. Page

Having had the Minister's assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

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