§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Lord Gray of Contin
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Almost exactly two years ago my noble friend Lord Mansfield introduced in this House a Bill which became the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. He said then that the Bill marked the beginning of the end of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Acts 1892 and 1911. That corpus of law—or at least a part of it—has been kept alive by the legislative equivalent of a pacemaker because together with the remnants of another venerable statute—the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878—it provides the foundation of Scottish roads law.
It is remarkable to think that at a time when a land speed record of more than 600 miles per hour has just been established, there should still be in existence roads legislation which pre-dates the internal combustion engine. There have been later enactments, of course—about 40 in all—which have tried to keep the law up to date. By common consent, however, the time is now overdue for thorough overhaul.
In the summer of 1981, a consultation document was issued on proposals for a Roads (Scotland) Bill. It is right to pay tribute here to the valuable help, before then and subsequently, of local authority highways officials nominated by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, in sifting the oldest legislation to see what was worth preserving. Our proposals of course covered recommendations from the committee of inquiry into local government in Scotland chaired by my noble friend Lord Stoddard. I think it right that we should pay tribute to the contribution that Lord Stoddard and his committee have made. We have incorporated certain of their recommendations in this Bill. At that time it was envisaged that, since consolidating legislation could only bring together existing provisions without material change, it would be necessary to have a two-stage process with a first Bill to modernize the ancient statutes and to introduce certain desirable new features in Scottish roads law, followed by a consolidating Bill prepared by the Scottish Law Commission. It was on the proposals for that first Bill that wide-ranging public consultation took place and on which a general welcome was received.
The Government then decided, when the present opportunity for legislation presented itself, to telescope the two stages of the process into one by introducing a codifying Bill, which could at once update existing provisions, embrace innovations and unify the whole. While therefore we now have a somewhat longer and fuller Bill than was originally foreseen, the consultation has not been invalidated, because the additions are essentially re-enactments of existing provisions. In summary, then, the Bill aims to provide in one document a codified, modernized, streamlined and improved body of Scottish roads law.
Having spoken briefly about the objectives of the Bill, may I now sketch broadly its principal provisions. Part I deals with public roads, that is to say those for whose maintenance a roads authority is responsible. The expression "roads authority" replaces "highway authority" and means the Secretary of State or a regional or islands council. Part II contains provisions 1404 on private roads: that is, roads for whose maintenance someone other than a roads authority is responsible. Both these parts are related separately to Part III which governs the construction of new roads, both public and private. Part IV, on improvement and maintenance of roads, in the main provides powers enabling roads authorities to improve the safety or amenity of their roads, while Part V, which provides controls over works in, and certain traffic on, roads is akin in nature to Part VIII, whose provisions are designed to avoid obstructions and other dangers on roads. Part VI is principally concerned with the stopping-up of roads and accesses which are dangerous or unnecessary. Part VII is mainly about bridges, including transfer of responsibility for them, but it also relates to effects on inland and tidal waters of road construction. Part IX brings together provisions relevant to land acquisition, compensation and certain questions of transfer of property and liability. Part XI sets out offence provisions, while Parts X, XII and XIII contain various miscellaneous, general and supplementary provisions.
I think the House would wish me to make reference to the provisions which contain some innovation. At the risk of appearing perverse, I propose to start at the end. A significant feature of the Bill is that Clause 143 provides a definition of "road" which replaces a multiplicity of expressions such as "highway", "street", "lane", and many others which have further bedevilled understanding of Scottish roads law. There is a price to pay—but the improvement is well worth it—in the form of consequential amendments to many existing enactments, which are set out in Schedule 8.
Furthermore, by disapplying the provision of the Bill from public paths and long distance routes created under the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 and from Recreational Land owned or managed by district councils, Clause 143 acknowledges another Stodart recommendation, that responsibilities for footpaths should rest with regions, but not in amenity areas. Clause 143 also makes the distinction which I mentioned earlier between "public" roads and "private" roads.
Perhaps I should just say here, because there tends to be confusion on the issue, that public roads are those which are kept on a roads authority's list of public roads under Clause 1 or 2 of the Bill and that, while a private road is the responsibility of private individuals, it is still a road over which the public has right of access. Whether a road is public or private today is largely a matter of historic accident; but there is provision in the Bill, as in previous legislation, (it is in Clause 15), whereby the status of a private road may be changed when it has been brought to a standard acceptable to the local roads authority. Because of the large amount of public expenditure which would otherwise be required, such change will still have to be mainly at the frontagers' expense.
I think it may also be helpful to explain, since it is not specifically stated in the Bill, that the new interpretation of "road" in conjunction with other clauses has the effect, first, of applying to the whole of Scotland some provisions, such as a right of appeal against a road being taken off the list of public roads, which previously operated only in the former burghs; and, secondly, of enabling roads authorities to 1405 construct cycle tracks. Previously there was some doubt about their powers to do so. I should also give notice that it is our intention to introduce, later, additional provisions on cycle tracks along the lines of those which I understand are also proposed to be provided for England and Wales by a Private Member's Bill in another place.
Having duly observed Sir Harry Lauder's injunction to "keep right on to the end of the road", I shall now return to the beginning and to Part I. The principal new feature worth mentioning here is that an obligation is placed upon the Secretary of State to keep, and make available free of charge, a list of roads for which he is responsible. Local roads authorities previously had, and continue to have, such a duty in respect of their roads, and it seems appropriate that it should apply to the public roads for which the Secretary of State is responsible.
On Part II, I should draw the Houses's attention particularly to Clause 16, which has its English and Welsh counterpart in the advance payments code in the Highways Act 1980. The clause enables the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring the prior deposit with a local roads authority of a financial security for roads for new private dwelling houses. My right honourable friend, the Secretary of State, is aware of considerable administrative problems for local authorities and of financial problems for private individuals through housing developersfailing—perhaps because of bankruptcy or other default—to complete roads for which the house buyer has paid in the purchase price of the house. The new provision is to ensure that a security, commonly known as a "road bond", is deposited to guarantee completion of the new road whatever fate may befall the developer. The requirement is not expected to add greatly to house building costs and should represent no hardship to any developer who is confident of completing the roadworks required. Improvements to the scheme may become necessary with the passage of time and in the light of experience. It is proposed in the Bill to provide for the "road bond" scheme by regulations. To be effective, the scheme will require a powerful sanction, perhaps a fine in the region of £1,000 per building. Because of the unusual nature of the regulations and the necessary severity of the sanction, Clause 135 provides that the regulations shall be made only if approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. It is also our firm intention, which has been conveyed to those concerned, to consult interested bodies such as the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Scottish Housebuilders' Association, the Building Societies' Association and The Law Society of Scotland on the proposed content of the regulations.
Two aspects of Clause 20 in Part III of the Bill may be of interest. First, while the construction consent required by anyone other than a roads authority for a new road is not a novel concept, the conditions which a local roads authority may attach to such consent will now enable it to insist on the provision of street lights, where appropriate, by the developers. This is in line with a recommendation by the Stodart Committee. Secondly, the appeal which can be made against the refusal, or the conditions, of a consent will in future be made to the Secretary of State, instead of to the Sheriff. 1406 The technical factors likely to surround such an appeal, which has a certain kinship with a planning appeal, make this change appropriate. Clause 131 of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to make procedural regulations for appeals and under these he may delegate decisions to an appointed person. In passing, I should mention that the same change in appeal provisions is made for the same reason in Clause 13 which enables a local roads authority to require a private road to be brought up to standard.
Part IV introduces new provisions in Clauses 32 and 33 (which I believe are both novel to United Kingdom roads statutes) and in Clauses 47 and 53. Clause 32 enables roads authorities to provide snow gates, such as noble Lords may have seen on the A9, where snow is liable to make conditions dangerous. At present there is a view that an order under road traffic legislation is necessary before such gates can be closed and there is some doubt as to who is responsible for closing them. The clause confers responsibility clearly upon the police and enables them to act instantly, as is right where safety is at stake. It also gives them a discretion to allow passage to emergency services vehicles.
In Clause 33 a new statutory duty is imposed in Scotland on roads authorities to take such steps as they consider reasonable to prevent snow and ice endangering safe passage over public roads. It implements a recommendation of the Stodart Committee and reinforces an existing common law duty.
Clause 47 extends an existing provision under Section 3 of the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act 1955, whereby roads authorities may enter into agreements with anyone prepared to contribute to the improvement of a private or unclassified road of benefit to agriculture or forestry, so as to enable agreements to be made for construction or improvement of any road. This arrangement, permitting voluntary joint funding of a project mutually beneficial to private and public interests, seems entirely sensible.
Clause 53, which has a precedent in the Highways Act 1980, will enable the Secretary of State to provide picnic sites and associated facilities in the vicinity of a trunk road. The Secretary of State will not himself provide meals or refreshments, but he may arrange for their provision by private enterprise. By virtue of Clause 4(2) he may delegate his picnic site functions to a general or district planning authority, and under Clauses 100 and 105 he may acquire land for the picnic sites either compulsorily or by agreement.
Part V contains new provisions in Clauses 56, 58, 59 and 61. Clause 56 in effect transfers to local roads authorities the powers of control over deposit of building materials in roads previously exercised by building authorities under Section 8 of the Building (Scotland) Act 1959, which is consequently repealed by Schedule 10 to the Bill. The vesting of control in the authority most directly concerned seems to us a sensible move. Clause 58(l)(a), read with 58(5), enables the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring items, such as builders' skips, which are placed on roads to be suitably marked so as to be immediately visible to oncoming traffic. With an increasing number of skips on our roads, this is a safety 1407 measure which I hope may commend itself to the House.
In Part VII, Clause 74 is completely new. It enables the Secretary of State, by order, to amend or repeal any enactment so that the opening of a swing bridge may be ceased or restricted if he feels that the number of passing ships has so declined as to warrant his taking such action. The clause attracts notice and objection procedures in Schedule 1 to the Bill, and provision is made for special Parliamentary procedure if a navigation authority lodges, and does not withdraw, an objection to an order.
Clause 94 in Part VIII has its provenance in the Highways Act 1980. The intention of the clause is to enable roads authorities to exercise a degree of control over roadside trading on trunk and principal roads. It does not apply to well-established open-air fetail activities like licensed markets nor to milk or newspaper selling.
As regards the rest of the Bill, Schedule 7 may present a formidable aspect in the number of offences which it lists. It needs to be said that it would have been much longer if all punishable actions in the codified acts had been included. It will, for example, no longer be heinous for a blacksmith to have his shutters open after twilight descends. Those who do not possess a tumble drier will no longer be open to prosecution if they hang linen on a hedge. These and other offences more appropriate to the age of the horse and carriage are not being saved. In passing, I would make a respectful bow to paragraph 96 of Schedule C to the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878, dealing with offences, which in its original form consisted of a single sentence—in the grammatical, not the penal sense—of 981 words. It is not mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records, perhaps it should have been.
On the subject of omissions, I should draw attention to the repeal, in Schedule 10, of Section 3 of the Roads Act 1920 which requires my right honourable friend to report annually on his proceedings under Part II of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act 1909, which enables the Secretary of State to construct roads and to make grants and loans to local highway authorities. This requirement, imposed in the days before rate support grant replaced specific grants, appears to have outlived its usefulness. It involves the publication of a report which is expensive for its size, which has a very low sale and which contains information which can fairly easily be obtained elsewhere by anyone interested. I doubt whether anyone will mourn the passing of such a document.
I have I believe now covered the points of principal interest in the Bill. Those involved in Scottish roads administration have long desired a single container, as it were, for the tools of their trade. I hope that, after its consideration by this House, they will find that this Bill gives them one. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to the House. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time—(Lord Gray of Contin.)
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Hughes
My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Lord the Minister for having so helpfully gone through 1408 the whole of this long Bill in a matter of 20 minutes. To a certain extent that has tempered what I was about to say. When it was stated that we were now to proceed to the Bill, I was tempted to ask for the Second Reading to be deferred. I object to this Bill being taken on a Thursday, and on a Thursday when it must have been known to the authorities that it would not come up early in the afternoon. For more than a fortnight now it has been predicted that the mini-Budget Statement was to be made this afternoon. It was obvious that that would take up quite a bit of time in your Lordships' House. I did not object at the beginning because, had I wanted to carry through my objection seriously, I could have divided the House and there would have been a grave danger that the noble Lord the Minister would not have been able to muster 30 votes to keep the House sitting. I did not do it then for that reason.
However, I point out that anyone who wants to get back to Scotland, for instance, on the last plane for Edinburgh will have to leave the House in the next 30 minutes. Anyone who had not made arrangements to go by air but had hoped to go on the sleeper train would have little chance of finding a vacant sleeper to Edinburgh or Glasgow at this time on a Thursday afternoon. I hope that this fact will be taken into account by the Minister in the future. I used to object—and I had the support of my noble friend Lord Ross of Marnock when he was Secretary of State—to Scottish business coming on either on a Monday or a Thursday because of the difficulties that arise on Monday in getting down and on Thursday in getting away. But, as I say, my comments on this were tempered by the way the Minister dealt with the Bill.
I have not gone through all the 147 clauses and 10 schedules to the Bill in detail. I got my copy of the Bill only a week ago today. Had I attempted the whole job I should have had to devote the whole of every working day in the last week to the purpose, which I was neither able nor willing to do. I found that a useful approach was to look at the explanatory and financial statements at the front of the Bill. In looking at them, I found that of the 147 clauses 93 are specified as merely codifying other provisions of the Bill. Another 13, Clauses 34 to 46, may also fall into that category. When the Minister replies I should like him to assure me and the House that I am correct in assuming that all the clauses which are said to be codifying only do not make any change in existing law. It will then be easier for us at future stages of the Bill to confine ourselves to the remaining clauses where some change or other is noted. Three of the schedules are similarly stated to be codifying.
I turn now to the explanatory memorandum, I have referred to the fact that many of the clauses are codifying. I looked up the word "codify" in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. It is defined as:to reduce (laws) to a code".The Bill is supposed to be codifying in modern language, but I wish that the Minister had been able to provide a clue to the code. The Bill is far from easy to understand. To do one's job properly, one would have to look up every one of the Acts being incorporated in the Bill. On that basis, the noble Lord the Minister would have been lucky to get the Second Reading of the Bill this time next year.
1409 I looked at the 1878 Act, which, incidentally, was the one to which the noble Lord made reference and which is one of the ones which is being repealed in its entirety. One useful thing that I found in it was that in those days it was the practice to put the interpretation clause at the beginning of the Bill. That is worth looking at. It is much easier to turn to Clause 3 to find out what something means than to go to Clause 145. I do not know why the practice was changed.
I also looked at the 1949 Act relating to special roads. The definition in the Bill took me nowhere. I read the 1949 Act through in its entirety just after lunch today. The noble Lord, Lord Stodart of Leaston, took it from the shelf, had a preliminary look at it and said that he would leave it to me. I read it through; it was not a long Act. This may be a confession of stupidity but I must admit that I am no wiser about what a special road is after reading the Act than I was after reading the definition in the Bill. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what a special road is. The term obviously does not relate to the type of vehicle allowed on the road, because it seems to cover everything from a juggernaut to a bicycle. Presumably the term relates to the purposes of the road. I think that we should all be grateful if the noble Lord could tell us exactly what it means.
May I say in passing that putting the Bill into modern language obviously does not include putting it into a better form for easy reading? Although the noble Lord the Minister has not managed to get a clause of over 900 words without a full stop, quite a number are much in excess of 100 words without a full stop. If you were listening to the minister in the kirk uttering such a long sentence without a full stop, you would go to sleep sooner than you do at present.
I come to some questions on various parts of the Bill. My first point relates to Clause 1, but the same applies in a number of other places. I know that this is not a new procedure. I am certain that I have put Bills before your Lordships' House which included this provision, but we are supposed to be putting the Bill into more modern language. Why in lines 13 and 14 of Clause 1 do the words appear:(and without prejudice to this subsection's generality)"?I do not know what that means, unless it is put in on the belt and braces principle. The clause seems to cover everything that a local authority might want to do. If the phrase has any meaning at all—and I do not necessarily assume that it has—it must be so that something which has not been foreseen and covered in the Bill may be brought in. I do not think that is desirable. It means that to some extent we are legislating in the dark: we are legislating for something to be done which is not laid down. I mention Clause 1, but, as I say, the phrase appears throughout the Bill in a number of other places. It is perhaps draftsman's shorthand for, "If I have omitted anything, this brings it back in".
There is provision for roads either to be deleted from or added to the list of public roads. The procedure is laid down. It is possible, however, that a road might be accidentally omitted from this present list which is in either the list or the register which is presently maintained under existing legislation. I do not see any procedure in the Bill for remedying such a 1410 deficiency if it should arise. I think it is something which is most unlikely to arise, but it is possible. We see from time to time how somebody going over a list is interrupted and resumes perhaps at the wrong place. This could happen and I think there ought to be some provision to enable it to be dealt with if it should take place. That query arises on Clause 1 and obviously the same point arises in relation to Clause 5, which deals with the Secretary of State's list.
In Clause 5, subsection (2), line 27, the words "in that regard" appear. One of the things we try to do here is to reduce any unnecessary wording. I just wonder, in passing, what these words add to the value of this particular clause. I do not expect the Minister to answer it. He can perhaps tell me some time afterwards what the thing does, and I wonder whether it would cause any difficulty if these words were left out.
Much more important, Clause 5(9), says,A local roads authority may contribute towards the costs incurred by the Secretary of State in the construction or improvement of any trunk road".The Minister will know how often in Parliament when the word "may" appears in a Bill people try to alter it to "shall". The argument which is always used by the Minister, whatever the Government, is that in legislative terms "may" can include "shall". I want to be quite certain that in this case "may" does not include "shall" and that the opportunity for a local authority to contribute to the Secretary of State's expense is something which remains as a voluntary matter for them so that, if they do not wish to contribute to the Secretary of State's expense, they are under no obligation to do so. I hope the Minister can confirm that this is a matter which is entirely within the discretion of the roads authority because, if not, then this is bound to be the subject of an amendment to the Bill.
I turn now to the financial section of the Bill. It is stated in relation to Clauses 1,19,29,32 and 143, that the expense of carrying out these functions by the roads authorities will be met within existing capital provision. What is intended by that? We know how tightly the authorities are being controlled at the present time and, if new functions are being placed on them which involve expenditure, and which may involve expenditure of a capital nature, if it is intended that this will be carried out within existing capital provisions, what other provisions are going to be cut out to make it possible?
Alternatively, does "within existing capital provision" cover the possibility that the Secretary of State will have increased in a future year the capital provision to take account of any extra expenditure in that direction?
Then we come again to the same sort of thing. In Clause 15, the statement is made that,no noticeable increase in local authority expenditure is expected.Of course, it depends what is meant by "a noticeable increase." The Secretary of State seems to have been able to have noticed an awful lot of expenditure being carried out by Scottish local authorities of a fairly small nature but what he has been interested in is what they amount to in the aggregate. I think the authorities are in the same position. Any increase, whether 1411 noticeable or not, which is added to the expenditure, adds to their problems at the end of the day in a period when the Minister is being so tight on what is regarded as reckonable expenditure by the authorities concerned.
Then the Minister has referred to Clause 20, where the conditions for the construction of a private road will include the developer having to provide lighting. In most authorities, or in many authorities in Scotland, while the developer had to provide the road at his cost, the lighting was regarded as a function of the local authority, so this, of course, is a matter where expenditure, in some cases at least, is being transferred from the public authority to the developer and obviously at the end of the day that must result in an increase in the price of houses which are being constructed. Given the Government's desire that as much as possible should be done for people purchasing houses rather than renting houses, I should have thought it was hardly in their interests to take yet another step to increase the cost of houses to the purchaser.
The Minister also referred to Clause 33, which deals with snow clearing, and it is said that this also will result in expenditure to a minimal extent. It certainly will increase expenditure in Edinburgh where up to the present by their by-laws they have thrown the cost of clearing the snow off the pavements on to the frontages. This, in fact, will make it a rate-borne burden in Edinburgh. One knows, of course, that in Edinburgh the interpretation of their motto was, "Only God can get anything done in Edinburgh", and it may be that Edinburgh, whose reputation is not amongst the most generous of authorities (they would say they were the most careful of authorities), will perhaps not clear snow off the pavements as fast as they have required other people to do it in the past.
I have reached the sort of time that the Minister took in dealing with the Bill, and other things which I might have said I will leave for saying at another time. I welcome the Bill in its entirety. It is a good thing that all these various pieces of roads legislation should be brought together and those parts which I may not like about the Bill, depending on what the Minister has to say in elucidation, depend on the extent to which the Government are creating responsibilities for the local authorities without necessarily undertaking to make provision to avoid them becoming yet another burden on local ratepayers. With these comments, I am quite happy to support the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Lord Stodart of Leaston
My Lords, my intervention will be brief, for a reason which will enable the House to see that I cannot but agree with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, about the timing of this debate. Owing to an engagement that has long been made I have already had to ask the indulgence of my noble friend because I may not be present to hear his reply. I shall also, I am afraid, have to say that to the noble Lord, Lord Ross, and also possibly to others of my noble friends.
My excuse for intervening at all lies in the fact that three years ago I chaired the committee to which my 1412 noble friend has referred, which examined the functions of regions and districts in the two-tier system of local government in Scotland which has operated since 1975; and various responsibilities in respect of roads occupied quite a lot of our time. I hope that I am not being guilty of being smug or self-satisfied when I express pleasure at some of our recommendations appearing in this Bill, as certain others did in the Local Government and Planning Bill and the Civic Government Bill.
Several clauses of the present Bill have a familiar look about them. My noble friend has referred to them. I would merely say how encouraging it is for those who give up their time to sit on a committee to see so many of their recommendations adopted by the Government, with unusual speed, in legislation.
Most points to be made about the Bill are for the Committee stage. I wish, however, to raise a point about the part that is headed "Private Roads". I wish to ask my noble friend whether anything in Clauses 13,14 or 15 remedies what my committee regarded as an extraordinary situation when we were told about it. According to the interpretation clause, a private road means,any road other than a public road",and a public road is,a road which a roads authority have a duty to maintainWe were told of a stretch of road which, if my memory is correct, is in the county of Fife. I think that I can go even further and say that it was in a village that is possibly known to my noble friend as he speeds from the city of Edinburgh to play golf at St. Andrews. The village is called Largo. We were told of a stretch of road in that village which was a private road in that the frontagers had the duty of maintaining it, but along which cars and heavy traffic rumbled every day as it was part of the direct route from, I suppose, Kirkcaldy to St. Andrews. We put a question to the Scottish Development Department, and we received an answer which I have with me. The answer was:A road becomes a highway when the local highway authority takes it onto the list of roads to be maintained. It then becomes the direct responsibility of the authority. All roads are therefore considered to be private until adopted by a Highways Authority, and this could include the main street of a village. There is a difference in legislation between urban and rural areas. Within burghs if the frontagers bring a road up to the required standard and ask the Highways Authority to adopt it, then the Authority is required to do so. However, there is no such obligation on Authorities in the landward areas".Largo, I am fairly certain, is in a landward area. A further fact, which the answer did not reveal but which we subsequently ascertained and reported, is that both within the old burgh areas and outside them, frontagers could be required to bring private roads up to standard and local authorities had discretionary powers to pay part or even all of the cost. But not all authorities did. This caused us to recommend with some strength that it should be a clear duty of highway authorities to bring up the standard and maintain all public thoroughfares which are an integral and essential part of a recognised road system. We excluded, understandably, any roads that were private accesses or dead ends. Can my noble friend say, in his reply, whether the problem that I have adduced will be solved by the Bill?
1413 Secondly, I wish to deal with lighting as referred to in Clause 34. Hitherto, regional councils have had permissive powers to light roads for which they are the highway authority. District councils in areas covered by the Burgh Police Acts and local legislation have been obliged to light all streets and other places where lighting is necessary. Now the new roads authority is having its permissive power exchanged for a mandatory one. That is a very good move.
I intend to make one oft-repeated moan about the drafting of the Bill. I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, says. The Bill starts by saying that it codifies and modernises the statutes embodying Scottish roads law. My noble friend made the point that we have at least got the definition of what is a road. I can remember that in the sittings of my committee we took a long time in trying to discover the difference between a street and a road, and where a road turns into a street. I went back to the Local Government and Planning Act, where I found the definition of a street. It was very long. It seemed that provided it was composed of every conceivable material that one could think of, it was a street. But now a street has become a road—and very good luck to it!
If we are codifying and modernizing, I wonder whether it would not be possible—if modernization is the objective—to use in the Bill the language that all of us use every day. I hardly ever urge my wife to walk on the footway rather than the middle of the road. Is a footway the same as a pavement? That is very difficult to discover. I think, but only by looking back to Section 25 of the Local Government and Planning Act, where "street" is defined and from what I read and interpret there, that a footway in this Bill is what most of us call a pavement.
One really has to scour the pages of this Bill to get any help. Footpaths are mentioned several times in Clause 17. Footpaths, footways and verges get a part to themselves, with a nice little heading in Clauses 61 and 62. But what is a footpath, and what is a footway? One turns to the interpretation clause, but it contains practically nothing positive. All one finds is that on page 92 the Bill states, in subsection (2):Where over a road the public right of passage referred to in the definition of 'road' in subsection (1) above—I cannot think that the draftsmen, so clever as they are, could not find it simple to make these matters positive, at the end of the clause or the end of the part, rather than indulge in what seems to me to be their favorite delight—about three double negatives in every description. With those encouraging words, I give my blessing to the Bill.
- (a) is by foot only, the road is in this Act referred to—
- (i) where it is associated with a carriageway, as a footway; and
- (ii) where it is not so associated, as a footpath".
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Lord Strathclyde
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the Minister for the trouble he has taken in going over the Bill with us. We are equally keen to congratulate my honourable friend. He does not like me to call him that but we worked amicably together for a number of years. He was my friend during that time and remains so, although he is certainly on the opposite side of the fence to me. I shall not worry your
1414 Lordships by going over at great length the contents of the Bill. I only want to ask one simple question to which I should like an explanation; namely, is there anything in the Bill or in existing legislation which makes it the duty of road authorities to provide kerbstones along the verges of our main roads? That is something which presents very great danger to traffic moving along the roads at the speeds which are allowed by legislation today. It is a very dangerous business. So far as I can discover there is nothing about it in the Bill, but I thought that the Minister might be able to explain the situation to us.
I do not want to say any more. Discussion of the contents of the Bill should be dealt with at the Committee stage and not today. Therefore, thanking again both the Minister and my noble friend who has spoken for the Opposition, I will resume my seat.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Lord Ferrier
My Lords, I should like to begin by expressing sympathy and agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said about the timing of this debate and how it is carried on. It is only the statutory 12 days since the Bill received its First Reading. Therefore, it is manifest that amateursor people who are not official or who are not attuned to the type of subject that we have listened to for an hour from people who know the business inside out, have difficulty finding anything to say without risking the feeling that what they say need not be said at all.
Let me begin my remarks by formally welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Gray. I have not seen him before at the Dispatch Box. I will say no more than that because we must get on with this discussion—we can leave that matter to another time. I give my support in general terms to the Bill. It is manifest from what we have heard in the last hour that there is a great deal still to be done on it. It is also manifest that there has been a definite misjudgment in the timing of its discussion in this House. Indeed, had I not had my name down to speak in this debate I would have intervened earlier during the mini-debate on Lord Cockfield's Statement which seemed to me to be a bit of a trial in that one cannot face up to affairs like that without seeing them in black and white. We shall all be able to see the Chancellor's figures when we see Hansard in the morning.
I have skimmed through the Bill—indeed, that is all that I can do. I have also taken the advice of the Chief Whip as regards the points I wish to raise. There is one particular point which I want to raise which I do not see covered by the Bill. I wonder whether the existing provisions now embodied in the Bill provide adequate powers to the Secretary of State in respect of road planning by local authorities which may involve environmental considerations or considerations of overall policy for purposes other than those of purely local relevance. It is to that end that I consider it prudent to take account of the present problem in Edinburgh. I say that because at this particular time a storm is brewing in respect of road planning.
A proposal to proceed with the construction of what is called the "western relief road" has been mooted by the existing local authority involving expenditure of something like £28 million on a plan which does not appear to many people as having taken into account 1415 all the relevant issues and all the relevant alternatives, particularly on the question of timing. I have just been talking to the secretary of the Cockburn Association on the telephone who tells me that the Lothian Region Structure Plan of August 1982, which was approved by the Secretary of State in October 1982, already clearly gives priority to the by-pass road in paragraphs 77 and 78, which also set out the reasons for his decision in that respect.
I make no apology to your Lordships for mentioning the by-pass because your Lordships know quite well that I have mentioned it off and on for the last quarter of a century. In fact, if it were not for the patience which has been imposed upon me by a quarter of a century of endurance I might have been more impatient than I am today. I only hope that I do not delay your Lordships too long; I personally am booked to go back to Scotland tomorrow!
A protest group in Edinburgh whose title and watchword is "Beware" organised a public meeting on the subject last Sunday. I attended that meeting and, indeed, addressed it. I also listened carefully to the views of the people who were there, and it seemed to me that the great majority of those taking part had come to protest that the proposal of the western relief road had not been thought through sufficiently. Indeed. The Scotsman headed its report with the words:Anti-road campaign 'may be making headway' ".That certainly seemed to me to be the burden of those proceedings and individuals were urged to demand that there should be a public inquiry on the subject and that is the matter that I should like to raise tonight. I put down a Question for Written Answer to that effect some time ago and I received a reply on the 10th saying that it was a matter for the local authority and therefore not one in which the Secretary of State felt disposed to interfere. That is what he has said about my letters for 25 years. Therefore, it was no surprise to me. At the same time I could not resist chuckling that the Member for Leith, Mr. Ron Brown, received the same type of reply to a similar question. It seemed to me that the Secretary' of State was finding it difficult to know what to say when protests reach him from individuals who are so completely, utterly and absolutely at the opposite ends of the political spectrum. That is why I appreciate the difficulties of the Secretary of State.
However, I have burdened your Lordships for years with pleas about the by-pass and I believe that the city should have a by-pass. We all know that. There is no need for me to go on about it unless it is to draw attention to the new circumstances arising out of this Bill and the new circumstances arising out of the completion of the by-pass at Berwick. It is now a fact that Edinburgh is the only town between London and Inverness which has no by-pass. That is a very serious matter. As my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth said earlier, all over the country the volume of traffic is continually increasing.
My second point, which I think is a new one, is that out of a total of about 11 miles, which is its total length, only three miles of the by-pass has been built and at the western end it is not in any way connected 1416 with the existing road system, although it does connect at the A702. It is now carrying 15,000 vehicles a day which are obviously relief vehicles from the internal traffic in Edinburgh. The route is not readily accessible for the carriage of through traffic which is what this Bill should enable the country to provide.
The meeting to which I have referred appeared to be satisfied that the pattern of Edinburgh's traffic will significantly alter when the by-pass is completed in 1990, which I gather is the target date. Alas! no longer is it possible for an adequate road system in Edinburgh to be available for the Commonwealth Games in 1986. Incidentally, I see from Hansard of 4th November 1959 that I was assured that the by-pass road was included in "the 20–year plan". Those 20 years were up five years ago. The fact is that the Scottish Office seem consistently to have been unable to face the situation. On one occasion in 1961 I was chided with suggesting my by-pass road because it would cost between £2 million and £4 million. The Minister went on to ask: "Would it be worth while?" I think that £78 million is the present estimated cost of the completion of half of it. I shall resist the temptation to go on binding about this and will stick to the Bill, which is what we are worrying about. I hope that the Secretary of State will have power to take charge when a local authority tends to take in hand some road works which are out with the needs of the local authority for purely local purposes and which, by their construction or otherwise, interfere with the planning appreciation of a city as a whole.
There remain two ways whereby the current relief road problems may be further examined. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Gray will be able to advise me of these at some later date. I am advised that when a planning application reaches the local authority the authority can hold its own inquiry by appointing a reporter. Alternatively, the local authority can reject the application out right, thereby bringing the Secretary of State into it willy-nilly. Therefore, perhaps my noble friend can confirm to me that his right honourable friend has something of that sort in mind.
Whatever is the case, it is proper that we should place on record that this bitter dispute exists arising out of the planning allowed by present legislation and that the wider question of Edinburgh's environment is involved. I believe that it might be wise to tighten up this Bill in this respect. Further, it should be on record that there exists a genuine and outspoken feeling that all is not well and that long-term judgments in the present instance may be influenced by short-term considerations with the approaching local elections.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, drew attention to the word "speical" in relation to special roads. It is inevitable in considerations of the Bill and the by-pass that inevitably the by-pass will be "trunked". As soon as it is completed, it will inevitably become a trunk road and part of Euro Route 15. As such, Clause 5(2) may want examining.
I conclude by repeating what I said earlier. I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Gray for introducing the Bill with such care. It is quite impossible to understand all he said until we have more time to consider it. I should like to thank the 1417 noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for what he said about the difficulties of our present situation.
§ 6.26 p.m.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for the clarity and the brevity with which he introduced a very long Bill. It was quite impossible to go into all the details, but he emphasised those of great importance. It is, of course, correct procedure to amend a Bill first and, if necessary, to consolidate it afterwards, because consolidation gives extremely little liberty to change matters, and I am certain that that is right. I am not quite certain that the word "codify" is correct. I believe that it is a question of amendment and re-enacting and I do not know whether any of the clauses stand exactly as they did before.
The phrase "modern terminology" which has been used lacks at least one element and that is brevity. Modern terminology has a great way of saying things at immense length which in many cases could be said a good deal shorter. I agree with my noble friend Lord Stodart that in this House we can never stop trying to persuade the draftsmen to use the language which the people of this country fully and completely understand, so we always try to impress this on them.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, became entrenched in that dangerous ground of "shall" and "will". I rather congratulate the Government here; on quite a number of occasions they have used the word "shall", which means a duty. They have imposed duties on the Secretary of State so that we can say that the Secretary of State has failed in his duty. That is a very useful and valuable power. We have a duty to maintain the roads, to light the roads and, most difficult of all, to remove the snow. This is a duty which must concern a great many local authorities. There are no duties concerning obstruction of view, to which I shall draw attention, referred to in Clause 80. That falls in the "may" category, but I believe that it should be transferred to the "shall" category. Indeed, I go further and say that I should like to see a general obligation that whoever is in charge shall ensure that the roads are safe. The most important duty with regard to roads is to ensure that they are safe for traffic to pass through them. I should like my noble friend to consider whether that cannot be transferred to the slightly higher category.
Perhaps I could give an example of which I happen to know. Sometimes local authorities dig ditches. Where do they put the soil when they dig the ditches? I know of cases where they have put it on the side of roads, dangerously, or moderately dangerously, obscuring the view. A proper procedure should be a clear duty.
I should like to raise another point on branches. I am not very clear about the position of branches and whether the onus falls on the owner of the land on which the tree is growing or whether the local authority is supposed to take action. If the onus falls on the owner of the land, it is more difficult to get action taken. I am not sure whether in certain cases it should not be directly the responsibility of either the local authority or the Secretary of State himself.
There is nothing here about signposting. Signposting is important, particularly in a country which is dependent on, or at least is very much indebted to, the 1418 tourist industry. I should have thought that there ought to have been some obligation in that respect.
I should like one other obligation possibly associated with it, and that is to state the authority responsible for the road. This is a confused matter. With the passing of a recent local authority Act people in many cases are confused as to who really is responsible for the roads. It would be a valuable reform. If it is a good road, then the authority, whoever it be—the Secretary of State—can be proud of the road, and why should he not be?
There is one clause which is extremely good, and that is Clause 93. The ratepayers may serve notice on the local authority if they are dissatisfied. I do not know whether that is new or not, but it is proper that the ratepayers should be free to do that. It is a complicated Bill. I do not know whether my noble friend would think of letting us have Notes on Clauses. It is not a controversial Bill. Many of us would be glad and pleased just to have a little help on it.
I agreed with one point that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde mentioned. Why do we have vertical kerbs at the sides of these roads? They are dangerous. I do not know why this is universal practice. I have raised this point once before in Parliament. Why not have a curved or slanted edge to the kerb so that if you hit it you do not hit yourself so hard that you might have an accident? I do not know why these kerbs are shaped in this way, but it is only rarely that you see one with a sloped side. I do not know whether it is possible that we can deal with this as it does not actually come within this Bill.
§ Lord Ferrier
My Lords, may I suggest that a bevelled kerb is regular in a number of English counties, and I think in parts of Lanarkshire. Bevelled. They call it a bevelled kerb.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is correct in what he says, but it is not common in this country. May I perhaps slightly improperly ask the noble Lord a question? When was the last M road completed in Scotland? Can he tell us when the next road will be physically started? It is a disgraceful situation.
I say that tourism is important. You travel up the M.6 until you nearly reach Gretna Green and then the M road stops, and you go into what might be thought of as a land of savages where they have not learnt to build roads properly. It is a little harsh that in passing that boundary you should see a sharp distinction, because tourism is immensely important. We have suddenly realised in recent years just how important it is. I think I am right in saying that Sir Frederick Ogilvie, who was one of the governors of the BBC, was the first man to write a book on the economics of tourism. That was only about 50 years ago. It is now recognised as an immensely important industry. Although I must admit that the western entry into Scotland is a good deal better than the eastern one into Scotland, I think that if we get away from that sharp division between the two that would be anadvantage.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, this is a formidable and fascinating Bill, and I think we have 1419 been a bit unfair to the Government by suggesting that this was an unfortunate time to proceed with it. I want to congratulate them on the improvement in the handling of Scottish affairs. The last time we had a Scottish debate it was midnight—and that was only just over a week ago. I am glad to hear noble Lords laughing. They were not here that night; but, sadly, I was.
I say that it is a formidable Bill, and it is an important one. There are 147 clauses and 10 schedules. That is no mean Bill. When we heard this was coming we asked what kind of Bill was it. The whisper went, "Oh, it is just consolidation". It is not consolidation. This is explained in the Explanatory Memorandum. It,codifies and modernises, with certain innovatory' provisions"—I gather they mean new provisions. This is one of the matters that I want to come to.
For part of my time during the war I was deluged with codes and codifications. Of course the whole purpose of codifying is to make obscure, so that the ordinary person cannot understand the message that is being passed from the one area to the other. I have to congratulate the Government again: they have succeeded in this particular Bill, because I defy anyone to understand a great deal of it. I must say that the noble Lord, Lord Stodart, was terribly wrong when he came to the question of footpaths and footways. It is clearly defined as to what a footway is and what a footpath is. One of the troubles about it is why should we bother? One of the reasons is to comply with the Countryside Commission because there are footpaths there where there are no carriageways, and so they are going to be footpaths. Anywhere else they are footways.
We should have told the person who wrote the Explanatory Memorandum, because he uses "footpaths" when he really means "footways". That is on the front of the Bill. That is not the only thing. Incidentally, when I was a young Back-Bench MP, I used to say. "There are four errors in this Bill; four mistakes in this Bill". I proceeded to tell them two of them, and made them search for the rest. There are errors in this Bill. I am not going to mention the number; but I trust that the civil servants will now get busy looking for these errors. I am less generous than I used to be in respect of helping them in that particular way.
There are 40 Acts, and 14 of them are being wiped out. It is amusing the ones that are being kept. I should have thought that the Tramways Act 1870, and more especially the Military Tramways Act 1897 may have been due for the scrap heap. But no, we are just making changes in respect of them. Not to mention, of course, the Railway Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act 1845. It evidently has an important and useful piece of work still to do.
Codifying, modernising and introducing new provisions is not the kind of thing that we used to know as consolidation, and of course you cannot amend a Consolidation Bill. Every single clause in this Bill can be amended. Not only that, but we can dredge up out of our own imaginations other changes to all these other 36 Acts which are mentioned and put them 1420 forward. There is an infinite possibility. I can see the noble Lord. Lord Gray, smiling. It is because he knows quite well that after tonight he is not going to be handling the Bill. He is going to leave it to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. Wise man!
When I hear the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, moved to talk about the dangers of the present kerbs, and the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, as well, I do not know whether they have been on the Ayr to Glasgow road in the past two or three years, or looked to see what has been happening. The kerbstones are being replaced with the ones that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, suggests should be used. That is a trunk road—and that is under the management of the Secretary of State for Scotland—so, the Government are doing one or two quite good things.
What surprises me is that it is just a single carriageway, albeit with four lanes, and has not been made a dual carriageway. That should have been done a long time ago. When the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, talked about the Edinburgh-Leith Road and the by-pass, and said that he was going up to Scotland tomorrow, I felt that I would need to cancel my night sleeper; but he was quite kind to us. I shall leave him to sort that out, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Gray, will be able to tell him the powers in respect of inquiries that are in this Bill. Not that it would help many people there. But we are not doing this because suddenly modernisation is long overdue, to get rid of the turnpikes, road commissioners from the last century and all the business of nailing notices on church doors and toll bars. We are doing it for the simple reason that we reorganised local government 10 years ago.
The Bill and the need to do this has been lying around for some time. A lot of work has been done on it. That is why the dust was blown off this preparatory work that has been piling up on the shelves of the Scottish Office. Some of the Acts under which some of the powers exist are due to end next year, so this must be done by next year. To think that those sleuths of draftsmen have been combing through all these Acts and wherever they found a "street" out it went! They are all now "roads".
I notice that one of the Acts is called the Public Utilities Street Works Act. Every reference to a "street" in that Act has been taken out but it is still being called a street works Act. We need to change the title now to a road works Act. Even the Minister said that he had talked to "highway officials". They are no longer highway officials under the Bill, they are road officials. "Highway" goes. This is where we carry this modernisation so stupidly far. Everyone knows what a highway authority is, but now they will be "roads authorities" or "local roads authorities". "The road authority" will be the Secretary of State. I think they have overdone it in respect of some of the things that have been done.
The schedule changing the Public Utilities Street Works Act 1950 contains about six or seven pages. There is page after page getting rid of the words "highway" and "street". It will be fascinating to find how many mistakes have been made in that schedule. I hope that we shall be given a little more time for consideration of what we wish to do with this Bill before we get to the Committee stage than we have had between the printing of the Bill, which was on 3rd 1421 November, and its becoming available to most of us four days thereafter just over a week ago. I hope that there will be more time between this stage and the next stage of the Bill. I like to read and understand a Bill and decide what I want to do.
Although there is codification and modernisation, there are very important changes in the Bill. I have counted about 31 new provisions. We should bear in mind that giving new powers and new provisions to the Secretaries of State and to local authorities means they are being given power to spend money. We must watch it very carefully. If power is given to spend money on useful things, one wonders whether there is any hope of their ever being able to do those things, be it kerb stones or picnic areas. We are kidding ourselves, taking pride in having brought the legislation up to date and standard and then denying the roads authorities the money to do these desirable things.
I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, is back in his place. I do not think there will be very much hope in the speeding up of the Edinburgh by-pass arising from the Statement we have had today, so his 20 years will probably be further extended. Still I hope he lives long enough to see it, when we consider the speed with which Glasgow got their trunk and ring roads, that shows the difference between the two cities in respect of road works. I appreciate, however, that Edinburgh has considerable problems with its link road and trunk road.
I am glad that we have got rid of some of the confusion that was brought to our notice by my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon and his committee of inquiry and that the Bill deals with such questions, albeit those of footways and footpaths, and the other question of street lighting and other developments. Two important matters raised by Lord Stoddart's committee were questions of snow clearance and snow gates. We now have a statutory obligation upon roads authorities for road safety and handling these hazards. We do not need it, because it is already there in common law. But we know that throughout the whole of Scotland a fall of snow takes people by surprise. It is not supposed to snow in the cities in wintertime. I wonder why Edinburgh city council did not appreciate the fact that the Scottish Rugby Football Association, with good reason, put under-pitch heating into Murrayfield. But if one tries to get through Edinburgh roads in the wintertime, quite apart from snow there is just pure ice, and one discovers just how dilatory some local authorities can be. I do not just speak of Edinburgh, I can mention many another place which pays no attention to the hazards of roads and does nothing about them. Now, it is a statutory obligation.
That must be followed up, because to get grit or salt on roads requires expenditure of money. When we read these things we say, "That is fine, now the obligation is on them", but then we read the financial memorandum and we find that there will be no additional monies available, whether for capital or current expenditure. This is not really good enough. I trust we shall go into this a bit more when we come to the Committee stage.
Someone asked about special roads and I was as mystified as anyone else. I was going round with the 1949 Act and did not get any greater elucidation from 1422 that. Then I realised the one way to get elucidation: ask the Minister. Where are the special roads in Scotland? How many of them are there? When were they built? Are there likely to be any more built? The next thing will be that, if there is none, if there have been none and are not likely to be any, let us scrub the thing altogether.
There is a provision giving power to stop up roads. I do not disapprove of that, but then we come to this question of the taking over of private roads. I have a very good recollection of Mr. Emrys Hughes in another place on a Bill in the Scottish Grand Committee speaking for about two days on the subject of giving the right to frontagers for the taking over of a private road and maintaining it thereafter, it having been brought up to standard. His main concern seemed to be one noble Lord, whose name I shall not mention, but he spoke about it for two or three days. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, remembers that occasion. But it is an important point and an important point was made by one noble Lord opposite. If private roads are part of the ordinary ongoing thoroughfares of a town, they should be maintained in the same way as the rest. Normally with a new development the people living there have paid for the road. It is right that they should contribute and pay for the road and bring it up to standard before it is taken over. The question, at their discretion, is: what is going to be paid by the local authority? I do not necessarily object to that. But I am glad to see that that has been clarified not only for the old borough areas, for it was always there in respect of the boroughs, but now has been extended to the landward area. I think that was a point on which one noble Lord sought enlightenment.
There were two points raised by my noble friend Lord Hughes. There was the point about the obligation which is now going to be placed upon a developer opening up a new private housing scheme to make a deposit in respect of the road works. This is virtually an insurance against something happening so that they failed to do the work. It has happened in Scotland but not an awful lot. I can remember it happening in a particular part of Ayrshire, where it created tremendous problems not just in respect of the roads but in respect of people whose houses were not completed or whose houses were completed but whose garages were not completed. I remember one house which was only half built but was more than half paid for when suddenly the person building it went bankrupt. I think it is sensible that we should do this.
When it comes to the other question, that of making it an obligation on the developer to pay for street lighting, I do not know what has been the reaction of the construction industry, but it will mean an increase in the cost of building; it will mean that houses are going to cost more. I have to be careful about this because I remember being concerned with an Act of Parliament which did the same thing in respect of main drains and sewers. What we did in that Act was to put in a provision ensuring that it did not apply immediately on the passing of the Act but that there was a right of the Secretary of State to introduce it by order. We may well do the same thing here if this is not a convenient time from the point of view of wanting to encourage people to get their houses and to get them as 1423 reasonably priced as possible. We could look at that. It is a very important aspect of the change that is being made.
Let us not think that this is an unimportant Bill. From that point of view, it is a very important Bill indeed. There is also the question of the roads authority and the owner or occupier in respect of a crossing, and of vehicles being driven across a footway. Does that just mean across a pavement into their own homes? I see it happening more and more that people get rid of their front garden, they concrete it, and, instead of building a garage (or perhaps they cannot build a garage), they drive across the pavement and leave the vehicle at the front of the house. Is this what is in mind here? Very often, they have to jump the kerb and there is no proper replacement of the kerb. Is that what is intended in Clause 61?
The question of the picnic area arises. Did I understand the Minister of State to say that the Secretary of State is not going to provide food but that he is going to pass it over, or could pass it over, to somebody else to do a bit of catering on the side—with further building, no doubt, some distance from the trunk road? Is that the intention there? I do not necessarily object to it, but I want to know what is going to happen. I think we have to be pretty careful about licensing people in respect of sale of goods just off a trunk road. I do not know how far off the trunk road it is going to be. We have always been concerned about limiting trunk road entrance and egress as much as possible.
We will give the Bill a welcome at the moment. We hope that it is passed on to the Lord Advocate that we are just not going to take it for granted. I know that we are going to be very busy and that another two Scottish Bills got their First Reading today. The fact is, of course, that we can handle it here. In the other place, the Government cannot man two Scottish Committees. There are so few Members of the Conservative Party in another place because the Labour Party has an overwhelming majority. I do not want to make the Minister of State blush in respect of this but he knows the reasons why they cannot man the committees. One of the reasons, of course, is that he is not there now. We look forward to an informative and creative Committee stage. I am sure the Government will bear in mind what we have said about the time of the bringing on of Scottish business so that, suitably chastised by what has been said by Members from this side and from their own side, they will do a little better next time.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Lord Gray of Contin
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate not only for their interesting and constructive contributions but for the welcome which they have given to the Bill. There will be things about which we shall wish to talk further but the principle is accepted on all sides of the House, and for that I am very grateful.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, after welcoming the Bill, raised the question of the timing of the Bill. That point was also raised by a number of other noble Lords. They will all appreciate that that is not a matter 1424 for me; but I have no doubt that those whose responsibility it is will note the remarks that have been made. For the interest of noble Lords I would mention that there is in the Printed Paper Office a table of derivations which noble Lords may find useful and that before Committee stage we shall be producing Notes on Clauses which will also be helpful to noble Lords. We hope to produce them towards the end of next week.
The noble Lord asked about lighting by private developers and suggested that this might add considerably to the cost of new houses. That point was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. We do not anticipate that this is going to be a major item. The estimate which I have been given is approximately £120 to £140 per house. So far, objection to this has not been taken by the construction industry; although it is true to say that they have not been consulted individually on this. Nevertheless, we believe that it is a step forward. I also agree with the comments which the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, made—I will deal with them later—on the other requirement which we have so far as private house building is concerned, particularly in relation to lighting. I do not think that any of us who in another place took part in debates or represented constituencies there did not at some time during our parliamentary careers come across the frustration caused to house builders who found that certain aspects, either of road building or lighting, were not completed because the developer had gone bankrupt or for some other reason. So I believe this is a major step forward in the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, also asked me in a question on the codifying clauses whether I could give him an assurance that where a clause was described as codifying there would be no change in the law. I cannot give him that absolute assurance. The language is "modernised" and "other minor improvements incorporated". But I can give him an assurance that there is no substantial new law included in any of those clauses.
§ Lord Hughes
My Lords, there are some cases where the reference is to codifying and to minor improvements. When I listed those which had no change I excluded from my list any which had a reference to "minor improvements"; and those which I listed relate to the clause only being codified in modern language.
§ Lord Gray of Contin
My Lords, yes; I would not go so far as to give the noble Lord an absolute assurance because I do not feel qualified to do so. What I can say is that there is certainly no new substantial law where there is a change in codification. Without consultation, I would not care to commit myself to an absolute assurance; I would rather check the matter first. But I can give him the assurance that certainly no substantial new law is involved.
§ Lord Hughes
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt again. I think that what the noble Lord has said is perfectly reasonable, but if there are any of the clauses related to "codifying" only where there is any change in the law, can he perhaps write to me before the Committee stage and let me have details of which the clauses are—with of course a copy to my noble friend?
§ Lord Gray of Contin
My Lords, I will do that with pleasure. What I was really trying to do was to avoid a pitfall for myself where the change, for instance, of one word might slightly change the meaning. I therefore did not want to commit myself, but I will certainly write to the noble Lord. He also asked me what a special road was. Again, his noble friend raised this question. Most special roads are motorways, though not all. The Edinburgh outer city by-pass is also being built as a special road. A special road is intended for limited classes of traffic. In addition, electricity boards or telecommunication boards have no automatic right to dig up these roads to lay apparatus.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, may I interrupt? If you are talking about an Edinburgh by-pass, surely that will include lorries? Special roads very often may not always include lorries but I assume that all lorries and such traffic could go by them?
§ Lord Gray of Contin
My Lords, I see no reason why they could not. That is not one of the principal qualifications of the special road. The noble Lord asked, as did others, about public expenditure. We believe that roads authorities will welcome the additional powers in the Bill, but they realise that they cannot escape the government's overriding need to control public expenditure. As regards the extra powers in the Bill, we believe that local authorities will welcome them. The noble Lord also asked whether, if a local authority missed a road from its original list, this would have an effect. If the original list ought to have included the road, the local authority will be able simply to add it to their list. There is no difficulty about that, and perhaps it is inevitable that at some time there may be somewhere an error of some sort; but it can be easily rectified.
The noble Lord drew attention to Clause 5 and local authority contributions to trunk roads. We anticipate that this will be a rare occurrence. For example, the inner relief road in a town, carrying a lot of local traffic, will be used only where the regional council agree to contribute. That is the answer to that query.
The noble Lord also asked the meaning of the phrase:(and without prejudice to this subsection's generality)".This refers to Clause 1(1). The words are intended to show that the powers referred to thereafter are illustrative examples of what is encompassed within "maintenance" and that they are not exhaustive.
The noble Lord, Lord Stodart, who explained to me his reason for not being able to be with us this evening, drew attention to the vexed question of maintenance of private roads. In their report, the noble Lord's committee acknowledged that it would be an intolerable burden for roads authorities to be obliged to assume maintenance responsibility for all such roads. No matter how one tries to qualify such an obligation, however, it inevitably carries the risk of an unacceptably high level of public expenditure. The noble Lord mentioned a particular road: he referred to a road in Fife. While the Bill cannot meet the Committee's recommendations, it tries at least to address the problem and thus continues the discretionary powers of local roads authorities to contribute to the cost of making up a private road and to take over 1426 responsibility for a private road. Even if it has not been brought up to standard, that would be the case. The Bill also now makes it obligatory for a roads authority, on request, to take over a private road which has been made up to standard. Previously, in the landward areas, it was at the authority's discretion where to do so and frontagers who had made the road up could still find themselves responsible for the future upkeep. Also, Clause 16 of the Bill, requiring a deposit of securities for new private road associated with housing, should ensure that the problem will diminish in the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Stodart, also asked me a question regarding lighting. I have to tell him that therecommendation on lighting was one which we felt unable to accept. We discussed the matter with COSLA and they were not at all happy with the Stodart recommendation. We considered all the existing statutory provisions and we felt on balance that the existing provisions were satisfactory.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, raised the question of kerbstones. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked me a direct question on that subject and I have to tell him that Clause 27(a) allows a roads authority to provide and maintain raised paving between a footway and carriageway for the purpose of safeguarding persons using a public road. A footway includes what is known as a pavement in urban areas. On some busy rural roads a narrow side-strip of tarmac, separated by a white line from the carriageway, is also sometimes preferable to a kerb. I think the noble Lord was suggesting that in fact that would be the case.
The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, whose interest and efforts over many years in connection with the Edinburgh by-pass and the western relief road we are all aware of and very much appreciate, raised the question of those roads with me. I have to say to him that so far as both roads are concerned, these are local projects. The Edinburgh outer city by-pass, being local, has a timetable for constructing each of the four remaining sections and this is a matter for the Lothian Regional Council. The Government, however, recognise the benefits that the completed by-pass will bring to through traffic on the trunk road network, which is estimated to form about a third of all traffic on the by-pass. Financial assistance is therefore being provided to Lothian with the aim of enabling them to complete the project broadly within the decade—
§ Lord Gray of Contin
The Government are not aware of any other local authority road projects in Scotland which have the same significance for through traffic on the trunk roads. If any are put forward which meet this test, they will certainly be considered on their merits for financial assistance at that time.—
§ Lord Ferrier
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? He mentioned the power of the Secretary of State to control the outlay of finance. What is he going to do about the proposed outlay of £28½ million which is contemplated by the Edinburgh District Council for the western relief road?
§ Lord Gray of Contin
My Lords, I was just coming to the western relief road, if my noble friend will wait 1427 for one moment. The proposed western relief road clearly raises issues of considerable local importance for Edinburgh, but they are not national issues which would warrant the intervention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. The road would not directly affect the fabric of the historic centre, whatever indirect effects it might or might not have on traffic congestion. Unlike the outer city by-pass, it does not provide a link in the national road network and its construction is not a precondition for the eastward extension of the M.8 to join the by-pass.
The Government, of course, are in full support of the completion of the by-pass so soon as resources and procedures allow, and because 33 per cent, of the estimated traffic will use it to move from one trunk road to another, we have agreed to pay 33 per cent, of the cost. Because the issues raised by it are local ones, we consider that it would be inappropriate for the Secretary of State to call in the planning application for the western relief road. But that does not rule out the possibility of the Secretary of State holding an inquiry at a later stage in the possible event of Lothian Regional Council appealing against the district council's planning decision, or in the context of objections to compulsory purchase orders by those whose land might be affected.
A propos of what was said by my noble friend Lord Ferrier, perhaps I should clarify the question of the power to hold inquiries. Under Clause 130, the Secretary of State may hold inquiries in connection with any matter under the Bill where he is authorised to act; as well as under planning Acts and land acquisition statutes where necessary. My noble friend Lord Selkirk asked whether roads authorities have a duty to keep roads safe. This duty already exists in common law. They have a duty to take reasonable steps for this purpose, but this Bill gives them the powers which they need.
My noble friend asked me when the last motorway was completed in Scotland. The M.8 at Baillieston, east of Glasgow, was completed in 1980. The next one due for completion is the M.74 Gratton to Millbank section, starting this winter. My noble friend also referred to Clause 93 and asked whether the power given to ratepayers to complain is new. This power was previously in the Barbed Wire Act 1893, but was in a different form; so it is not absolutely new.
In his speech, the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, made a number of very useful and interesting observations. He raised the question of special roads, with which I have dealt, and also the question of lighting, with which I have also dealt. I have no further notes on the noble Lord's comments, but I think that, since he was winding-up the debate, a great many of the points which he touched upon had been dealt with by earlier speakers, and I believe that I have dealt with them in my remarks.
I am very grateful to all those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate for their contributions, and I know that we look forward to making progress with the Bill through your Lordships' House in due course.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.