HL Deb 12 February 1991 vol 526 cc8-31

3.7 p.m.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the New Roads and Street Works Bill [H.L.], have consented to place their prerogatives and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Bill read a third time.

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 1: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

General environmental duty

( " .—(1) It shall be the duty of the concessionaire and the highway authority in discharging any of their functions under this Act to so exercise their powers as to—

  1. (a) ensure the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty and the conservation of flora, fauna and geological and physiographical features of special interest and the protection of sites, buildings and objects of architectural, historical or archaeological interests; and
  2. (b) ensure that any concession agreement includes such conditions as are required to mitigate any adverse effect which the special road may have on the natural beauty of the countryside or any such flora, fauna, features, sites, buildings, structures or objects.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no apologies for returning to the issue which was raised so eloquently on Report by the noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Norrie, and which I and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, supported. The proposed new clause is similar but not identical to those previously tabled. On that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Renton, argued extremely powerfully in favour of placing a "general environmental duty" on a concessionaire and on the highway authority in relation to the building of a new private road.

I in no way cast any doubt on the Minister's sincerity or integrity when I criticise his reply to that debate; but his response was extremely unsatisfactory. He advanced propositions regarding the adequacy of the planning procedures currently available—which he said would meet the anxieties expressed in the debate—without adducing a scintilla of evidence in support of that proposition. I must say that bare assertion is not necessarily the naked truth.

The Minister was strongly criticised on that occasion by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for adducing no authorities when it was critical that the House should be apprised of the base upon which those propositions were being advanced. The Minister said that there were 11 factors which would ensure that anxieties in regard to deficiencies in the procedure were currently deployed and therefore we had no cause for anxiety, or that all our anxieties should be allayed.

Although this morning I have seen a copy of the letter sent to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, I do not believe that the Minister has dealt adequately with the issue. In any event, correspondence between Ministers and noble Lords or Members in another place, while useful and helpful—as I have stated previously the Minister has been extremely helpful in that regard—is no substitute for legal provision. It carries no legal weight; it has no persuasive effect; and it is purely informative in terms of a debate that is taking place. Consequently I have no hesitation in tabling this proposition today.

Perhaps I may briefly rehearse again the arguments put before the House on 24th January by the noble Lords, Lord Renton, Lord Norrie, Lord Tordoff, and me, otherwise noble Lords will have to refer to Hansard, and there are no great incentives for doing that. I shall summarise the position as I see it. First, the Bill contains no provisions concerning the environmental effects which may follow from the building of privately-funded roads. Secondly, it does not deal with their effect on land-use planning policies, as was stated on the last occasion.

Thirdly, it is no answer for the Minister to assert that these considerations can all be dealt with satisfactorily in the concession agreement. That may or may not be the case. There would be no legal requirement for the concession agreement to deal with these matters. Under the new clause the concession agreement would have to include, such conditions as are required to mitigate any adverse effect which the special road may have on the natural beauty of the countryside or any such flora, fauna, features, sites, buildings, structure or objects".

The Minister said that that is likely to impair planning procedures. Again, that was bare assertion. How can those considerations impair the planning procedures in respect of the development of the new roads? I cannot see it. It is for the Minister to convince me. He has not yet done so.

Fourthly, it is not open to the Minister to argue that the matters we are seeking to introduce into the legislation are irrelevant or unprecedented. In the last debate ample precedents were cited. There are no fewer than nine different enactments from 1957 which bore the authorship or parenthood of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, when he was a Parliamentary Secretary. They include the Electricity Act 1957, the coal Act 1958, the Countryside Act 1968, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1985, the Agriculture Act 1986, very recently the Water Act 1989, the Electricity Act of the same year and the Coal Industry Act. They all import the kind of environmental considerations which we are seeking to import into the Bill. Why was it right to include them in those statutes but omit them in regard to this one? This legislation engages a new situation arising with the private roads that are to be built.

On several occasions the Minister asserted that in his judgment the existing procedures were satisfactory. Even if the Minister could not, even now, agree —though I hope the House will insist on it—I am sure that the matter will be reflected in the debates which will take place in another place. The Minister agreed fleetingly that existing procedures might—he said only "might"—be of relevance in relation to these matters (at col. 337 of Hansard.). If there is any risk that he is wrong how can he justify offering a complete negative to the proposition we advance? I say that there is more than a risk. In order to be on the safe side and because the Government would lose nothing by accepting the proposition, I suggest that it is something on which the House is entitled to insist.

Fifthly, I do not believe that there is any statutory requirement in Section 105A of the Highways Act or the 1988 statutory instrument to ensure that the matter will be adequately dealt with. Even at this stage I do not follow the Government's argument in regard to environmental impact assessment. Perhaps the Minister can bring his cogency to bear on the matter and persuade me at least about that point. I have said before that I do not believe that environmental impact assessment is mandatory in all cases. The Minister says that it is.

I suggest that it is not clear from the regulations; it is not clear when one looks at the instrument upon which the regulations were based; namely, the environmental impact assessment directive of 1985 which came into effect in 1988. The only requirement that exists is that the information gathered must be taken into consideration in the development consent procedure. The new clause, which specifically provides for an environmental duty, would provide a way to ensure that the developer bears a responsibility for the environment when he proposes plans and implements the project in question. I ask why there should not be mutually reinforcing, mutually complementary environmental duties, and a requirement imposed on the private sector developers for environmental assessment.

My sixth point relates to the pedigree of the new clause. It is not something that noble Lords on both sides of the House suddenly thought up. Many of us felt that there was a need to encompass such a principle in the Bill; and we were reinforced by the CPRE—certainly not a party political body—the local authority associations, and many others, which believed that the environmental effects of privately funded roads needed to be dealt with explicitly in the Bill.

If—and this is the case—those bodies remain concerned, notwithstanding the debate we have had in the House and the Minister's robust defence of an untenable position, that must give rise to considerable anxiety because they are bodies specifically concerned with environmental consequences. They fail to understand the arguments that have been adduced for the exclusion of the provision in the Bill. Without the protection afforded by the new clause, they believe that countryside protection and mitigation measures against the adverse effects of any privately funded road proposal are at risk.

My seventh point is that the Minister has said on a number of occasions that private developers should be under no greater duties regarding the environment than highway authorities. There is a strong case—I share the view of the noble Lords, Lord Norrie and Lord Tordoff—for imposing a somewhat heavier obligation. In fact, the reverse applies. I shall not argue that point now. The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, said that public authorities, including the Department of Transport, have an environmental duty under Section 11 of the Countryside Act 1968, whereas no similar requirement is imposed under the Bill on the private developer. If that proposition is right—I do not believe that it has been satisfactorily refuted by the Minister up to the present—it needs an answer. I hope that the noble Lord will insist upon it now.

I summarise the position in this way: the Minister seems to rely, at best, upon practice and usage. That is not necessarily the law. Noble Lords on both sides of the House have in the past expressed strong feelings —I hope that it is still their view—that the environment needs to be more specifically protected than is provided for by the Bill at present. If the Minister continues to assert that the available legal requirements, together with practice and usage, are satisfactory, then he needs to do what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, insisted upon last time, and provide, as he put it, chapter and verse in relation to the provisions upon which he relies. That is the task that the Minister should fulfil today. However, that is not enough in itself; the case goes rather wider than that.

On Report, with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, I introduced a new clause extending far wider than the new clause now proposed. We debated it fully, but it is a matter that will bear further discussion. I recognise that if the Minister was not prepared to concede the new clause tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, he will not concede mine. Of course we divided on the matter. Those wider considerations are important. Today we are dealing with a new clause which follows ample precedent. It is for the Minister to offer some significant reasons for abandoning those precedents which are contained in no fewer than nine different statutes. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said, on Report I moved a clause similar to the one he has just moved. As he pointed out, there are nine well-established precedents for it on the statute book. In his reply on Report my noble friend the Minister maintained that existing procedures provide all that is needed for protecting the environment when the new roads to be built under the Bill by private enterprise come into operation. I pointed out that he had not mentioned any statutory authority for his proposition that existing procedures did what was required, adding that we would return to the issue on Third Reading. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for taking that step and for deploying the case so fully.

Since Report, my noble friend has written to me about the matter and we have had several discussions for which I am grateful, although I must confess that he has not convinced me. The trouble is that the Highways Act 1980, as amended in 1988 by a statutory instrument using the Henry VIII clause power to amend the 1980 Act, and the EC directive refer only to the making of environmental assessments. Neither measure contains any obligation to implement the assessment. A road builder, if convenient and if he finds it financially desirable, can ignore part of the assessment. He will probably be wise enough to stick to most of it, but in law he could ignore the assessment altogether. He may be tempted to ignore part of it.

It is only fair to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, made clear, that the new Section 105A, introduced by the Highways Assessment (Environmental Effects) Regulations 1988, and the directive go into some detail, giving ample opportunities for the making of assessments; for hearing objections; and giving opportunities for consultation with other authorities and members of the public. That is all very good so far as it goes, but we must ensure that any highway authority or road builder, under the present law and under the Bill, shall have a duty to abide by the conclusions of the environmental assessment.

I shall not weary the House with the full contents of the eight pages of small print of the EC directive or with the lengthy statutory instrument, but I must mention in passing that together they constitute a legislative nightmare. I earnestly hope that the brilliant Scots lawyer who is now Secretary of State for Transport will do something about that. It is not fair to the users of our statutes that we should present them with such circuitous provisions. As I pointed out, although it may not have been quite clear on a first reading, there is a serious gap in the directive and the regulation.

Meanwhile, I hope that my noble friend Lord Brabazon will realise that there is great public anxiety about the way in which some road schemes affect the environment. I need mention only Twyford Down. I know that my noble friend is naturally anxious that those who build new roads under this Bill should be treated no better and no worse than highway authorities are now treated. That is understandable. However, he seems to suggest that as there is now merely an obligation to obtain an assessment of the effect on the environment and no positive duty to implement that assessment, we can leave it at that. Surely that is not good enough. Both the present law and the Bill must get it right.

On 10th December, after his appointment as Secretary of State, my right honourable friend Mr. Malcolm Rifkind said in another place (at col. 685 of Hansard): What has become clear in recent years is the extent to which a new dimension is relevant to the debate on transport —the environmental dimension and the impact on the quality of life of our people as a whole which the current transport circumstances inevitably produce". I am grateful to my noble friend, whom we all respect. I suggest that he should acknowledge what the Secretary of State said and either accept this new clause or give an undertaking that in Committee in another place the present law and the Bill will be put right by ensuring that a duty to implement the environmental assessment will be inserted and made clear.

Speaking for myself and I hope for noble Lords opposite, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, if my noble friend tells your Lordships this afternoon that he will invite the attention of the Secretary of State to what was said in the debate and ask him to consider putting the law right in the way suggested, I would not feel that the amendment should be pressed. I very much hope that he will go so far as to give that simple undertaking.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, perhaps I may start by referring to what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said at the end of his impressive intervention. I hope that the Minister will go a little further; he would probably need to before we could consider not pressing the amendment to the limit. To draw the point to the attention of his right honourable friend should be unnecessary, since no doubt his civil servants will anyway draw to his attention what has been said in this House today. If your Lordships do not find it necessary to press the amendment it will be because the Minister has given a rather stronger undertaking than that for which the noble Lord called; in other words, it will be a clear undertaking that the Government understand the principle behind the amendment and are prepared to support it in another place.

We have heard two excellent speeches on the amendment and I do not propose to say much more about it. Perhaps I may fill the gap which the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, was unhappily unable to fill. The quotation he sought was at col. 337 of the Official Report, In his speech the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said: We expect the same high standards to apply to the tenderers for concession agreements as currently apply for trunk roads, and indeed we shall not settle for less. I am confident that local highway authorities would not either".—[Official Report, 24/1/91; col. 337.] That is fine and something on which we ourselves would insist. Later, the Minister said at the end of the same speech: Privately financed roads must, and it is our intention that they shall, be assessed by the same environmental criteria as apply to the Secretary of State's roads". There is a difference between private roads and those built by the public authority. At the end of the day the public authority is responsible to the electorate; the private developer is not. The latter is responsible to his shareholders, and that is where the difference lies. That is why, with the best will in the world, we feel it is necessary to have on the face of the Bill the duty to protect the environment.

If some of the Acts already on the statute book relating to the building of roads were brought before your Lordships today, it would be insisted that even in Bills dealing with the public building of roads a strengthening of the environmental duty would be necessary Many of these provisions were on the statute book in the days before our new enlightenment to which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, referred. We ought to do everything in our power to ensure that every Bill that comes before your Lordships' House and goes on to the statute book contains specific environmental provisions in so far as the Bill has an impact on the environment.

It is not merely a matter of producing an environmental assessment but of writing on to the face of the Bill a duty for the people who will have the great good fortune to build these new roads. Perhaps I may say once again that I have no ideological objection to the building of private roads. That is not my purpose in supporting the amendment. I do not wish to put such restrictions on the building of these roads that the private developer would not be able to build them. That is not my intention at all.

Today we need a much clearer view of the damage that can be done to the environment by the building of roads and the increase in traffic that comes from the roads. Therefore it is essential that we pat on the face of the Bill the strongest possible environmental protection that we can. Unless the Minister is prepared at least to accept the principle that lies behind the amendments, I hope that your Lordships will follow us into the Lobby this afternoon.

Lord Norrie

My Lords, I believe that all the arguments have been well rehearsed. All I wish to say at this stage is that the provision and use of transport featured strongly in the Government's environment White Paper. If the Department of the Environment can accept a general duty of care for the environment under the Water Act and if the Department of Energy can accept comparable arrangements under the Electricity and Coal Industry Acts, why cannot the Department of Transport do likewise?

The environment White Paper has established green ministers within each department. On 10th December the noble Lord, Lord Renton, referred to the environmental dimension in transport policy within the Department of Transport. Yet in my opinion there is no recognition of its importance in this Bill. Could my noble friend follow the lead of other government departments at this late stage?

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, made a strong case showing that the provisions in the amendment are not covered by current legislation; thus I look forward to the Minister's reply with interest.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, regretfully I have not followed the course of the Bill up until this point in time. I rise with some diffidence on that account. However, the depth of my feelings and my long association with environmental matters compel me to rise. Having spoken in your Lordships' House on a number of occasions when we were discussing the construction and routing of roads, I feel I must make some remarks although they are not new in any way. I must remind your Lordships of the quite exceptional damage that road building causes to open landscapes and the environment in general.

No one could argue that more roads should not be built, but the private enterprise feature of the case we are talking about means that the commercial motive will undoubtedly weigh in all cases against the environmental protection aspects. Such has been the feeling of the public over the past decade about environmental matters and the landscape and countryside generally that I question whether the Government can afford not to accept this amendment and to do everything possible through this means to limit the damage that will inevitably be caused by the building of private roads.

3.45 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, in rising to respond to the amendment, I believe it would be helpful to your Lordships if I first said a few words about roads and the environment in general. My noble friend Lord Renton quoted from a speech made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State which referred to an environmental dimension in transport matters. We are all environmentalists now. However, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I point out that the staff at the Department of Transport and their predecessors have been environmentally inclined for many years, indeed since before the Second World War when the Road Beautifying Association gave advice—we can still enjoy the results of that advice —on the planting of ornamental trees on roads such as the A.24 from Dorking to Leatherhead or the old Crawley bypass.

It was in 1956, the year when the first length of motorway was opened, that it was realised that independent advice was needed not only on making roads more attractive but on selecting the routes they should follow. Since its inception in that year, the Landscape Advisory Committee has been involved from the earliest stage of route proposals. Its advice is not shouted from the rooftops or expressed in letters to The Times, and the value of its contribution is perhaps not generally realised, but it is taken seriously within the department.

If I may be allowed one more date, I should say that it is now 30 years since the department appointed its own landscape architect. Now each regional office has its own landscape architect, and consultant environmental specialists are regularly employed. A recent development has been the use of a landscape clerk of works during the construction of specific schemes.

The department's commitment to good practice is developing and improving. The report of a major consultancy on the environmental treatment of inter-urban roads is expected this year. Regional staffing has been increased and £2 million was allocated this year for environmental improvements on existing roads. I am sure that is a measure the Road Beautifying Association would have welcomed. But now our concern extends much further—to the preservation of hedgerows as well as the planting of new trees; to the sowing of wild flowers on verges, and to less visible measures like drainage to protect the delicate ecological balance of neighbouring sites, or tunnels for badgers to cross the road. We have even constructed an artificial sett at a secret location.

All trunk road schemes are environmentally assessed. The criteria include traffic noise, visual intrusion, air pollution, community severance and the effects on agriculture, heritage and conservation areas and on all aspects of ecology from dormice to listed buildings. The methods are set out in the department's Manual of Environmental Appraisal which is a pioneering handbook of procedures. It is now being revised and we are discussing that revision with organisations such as the Nature Conservancy Council (which has been involved in training sessions for our road engineers) and English Heritage. We also expect shortly to receive the report of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment on giving monetary values to environmental effects. That is an important topic. The committee advised us against such a course previously, and some environmental organisations are strongly opposed to that concept. We have also commissioned research on the methods available for undertaking such assessment.

As your Lordships will be aware, road schemes are also subjected to economic assessment, and we are constantly refining our methods in that area also. We bring the two assessments together in an assessment framework, which includes the effect of doing nothing as well as the proposals for improvement, and that is made available to the public.

We do not, and we should not, claim that building new roads and improving existing routes has no impact on the countryside or the environment more generally. But our policy is clear. Wherever possible roads are kept away from protected areas such as areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest, and where there is a risk that a proposed scheme will affect such an area it is examined with particular care to establish that a new road is needed and that the route has been chosen to do as little damage to the environment as practicable. In national parks the Government are committed to ensuring that no new trunk route will be constructed or an existing road upgraded unless there is a compelling need which cannot be met by any reasonable alternative means. Special attention is also paid to the effects of new roads on inalienable land owned by the National Trust.

There will be times, even when the interests of nature conservation have been carefully weighed, when these have to be overridden by more pressing legitimate interests; for example, a bypass which the people of a town or village desperately need to improve their environment may impact on an area of much loved or protected countryside. There are many hard choices to be made, and decisions will continue to be controversial on occasions. But much can and is being done to ensure that the impact of road improvements is mitigated. There are even positive gains. During the preparation of the M.40, the Nature Conservancy Council supported the department's proposals at public inquiry because they involved a net gain as a new habitat was created by planting blackthorn for the black hairstreak butterfly. There was a spin-off as valuable research experience was gained on the recolonisation of that butterfly. For many wild flowers, road verges prove the last refuge from weedkiller. Over 600 species, including 27 of the rarest, are found on road verges, and on the A.1 a site of special scientific interest has been designated because of a rare plant.

I hope that I have made our commitment to a "general environmental duty", to take the words of the amendment, clearer to your Lordships. We shall insist that privately financed roads are environmentally assessed to no lower standards than publicly financed roads, that they are designed as sensitively and that their adverse effects are properly mitigated.

Noble Lords may ask why I cannot therefore accept this amendment, or at least the speech behind it. It is because it singles out privately financed roads, while our underlying philosophy is that privately financed roads should be treated like conventional ones. They should be treated no more and no less favourably as regards their appraisal and authorisation. If it were appropriate to enshrine a general duty in statute it should be done for all roads. However, to do so would be beyond the scope of this Bill. I shall of course draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Renton.

But in any case a general provision is not needed or justified. The requirements for environmental assessment are part of Community law and will apply alike to publicly and privately-financed roads. We are committed to the highest standards in selecting, designing and building our roads. Privately-financed roads will not escape the net. Let me stress once and for all that the statutory procedures which apply to the authorisation of publicly funded special roads will apply to the toll roads provided under this Bill in exactly the same way. The only difference is that there will be an additional order—the toll order required by Clause 6. The reason why I can say this with complete confidence lies in the very first clause of the Bill. Clause 1(1) defines a concession agreement in terms of a "special road". "Special road" is defined in the Highways Act 1980 and includes existing motorways. Clause 1 applies the Highways Act provisions to concession roads in the same way as they apply to other special roads, except where the Bill provides otherwise. The provisions of the Highways Act which apply include the authorisation procedure in Section 16—the procedure by which publicly funded motorways are authorised. They also include—and this is the crucial point—the requirements of Section 105A on environmental assessment. Those requirements relate to, but do not restrict or supersede, the requirements of Council Directive No. 85/337/EEC on environmental assessment and apply to roads for which the Secretary of State is the highway authority. Section 105A is now part of the Highways Act 1980, though, as noble Lords have said, it was added later by regulations under the European Communities Act 1972. To complete the story, there are comparable provisions which apply the Council directive to local authority special roads.

My noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, questioned the legal obligation to implement such an assessment. The legal weight of requirements of the Council directive and Section 105A of the Highways Act lie in Schedule 2 of the 1980 Act. The environmental requirements are essential procedural requirements. If they are not followed, application can be made to have the authorising scheme under Section 16 struck down. That is clearly provided in paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 of the 1980 Act.

The mandatory assessment is clear from the Council directive. Article 2.1 states that: Member States shall … ensure that before consent is given, projects likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue of their nature, site or location are made subject to an assessment with regard to their effects". The concessionaire is not a free agent in that respect. The schemes and orders authorising the road are made by a highway authority. They are subject to public inquiry. Any failure to take due account of environmental matters would be challenged in the courts and the order could thus be quashed.

My noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Norrie and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, quoted precedents in other Acts, notably the electricity and water Acts of recent years. However, those deal with cases in which the private concern seeks its own authorisation for its own development. In the case of concession agreements the private concern will act under the authorisation of the Secretary of State, whose authorisation requires compliance with the directive.

My noble friend Lord Renton expressed the wish that we could make that clearer in the Highways Act. No doubt one day Parliament will enact a consolidation of the Highways Act 1980 which will make that provision and other additions which have already been made to that Act more easily accessible. However, your Lordships know that consolidating Bills, like all legislation, must take their turn in the queue. Meanwhile, I am assured that the legal works of reference used by practitioners incorporate Section 105A in the printed text of the Highways Act 1980 and that copies of the directive are readily available to practitioners. Nevertheless, I shall, of course, draw the attention of my right honourable friend to what my noble friend said on the matter.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before my noble friend moves on perhaps I may remind him that the Highways Act 1980 was a consolidation Act and contains between 200 and 300 clauses. That point is linked with his statement that to amend the law as suggested would be beyond the scope of the present Bill. However, if he looks at the Long Title of the present Bill he will see that it is pretty wide and that in any event only a very small amendment to the Long Title would be necessary in order to enable the law to be strengthened in the way suggested.

Perhaps my noble friend will mention that point to his right honourable friend. I am grateful to him for saying that he will in any event invite the attention of his right honourable friend to what noble Lords have said.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I may not have made clear earlier that I will mention that point to my right honourable friend. I had intended to make that clear and I happily do so again.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, asked me to give chapter and verse in my explanation of my refusal to accept the amendment. I hope that I have done so. I have given the assurances which I believe your Lordships required. I hope that your Lordships will therefore agree that the amendment is unnecessary. Far from clarifying the relationship between Part I of this Bill and the Highways Act, I submit that it would confuse it further. I hope, but I do not expect, that I have satisfied the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I agree entirely with that last proposition. It is the only point on which I am able to agree with the noble Lord.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, raised some extremely cogent points which were not answered satisfactorily by the Minister. The Minister's chapter was$$$ very short and his verse left a little to be desired.

One of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, quite rightly addressed was the great complexity of the law as it stands today. The directive was agreed at my very first Council of Ministers meeting. I did not negotiate it and cannot claim responsibility for it, but on a number of occasions I said that I thought that it had too many lacunae and that it was too permissive. My recommendation to the Commission was to re-examine the position within two or three years of the directive coming into operation. I see no reason to resile from that position today. One reason is that major projects can be undertaken and be free of the rigours of environmental impact assessment. That needs to be looked at, but it is a wider issue.

I dissented from what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said only in regard to the concluding passages of his speech in which he asked the Minister simply to invite the attention of the Secretary of State to our concerns. I am sure that the Secretary of State, as an extremely diligent Minister and in preparation for the debates that will be held in another place, will read in the Official Report the debates that we have had here. Simply to ask the noble Lord to do that—which he willingly agreed to do—is nothing like sufficient to allay our concerns. Therefore, we shall have to take the opinion of the House.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, drew attention to the fundamental difference between private developments. Private developments may prove to be a very good idea. They may supplement the capacity of highway authorities, including the Secretary of State, to undertake major construction. It is therefore all the more necessary that we should protect the environment specifically. That was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.

I go further and say that this is a test of that committee of Ministers who are supposed to assess their own departmental policies against environmental requirements. It is a test which the Minister has indicated his department is not prepared to carry out very forcefully.

The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, asked why the Department of Transport could not behave like other departments. I do not want it to behave like some other departments! Nonetheless, the Minister did not respond adequately to the point about precedent.

I turn now to the Minister's response. He touchingly told us that the Department of Transport was environmentally inclined and had been environmentally inclined for many years. It is not inclination that we want; it is commitment. The fact that the department has employed landscape architects and has done all these lovely things to embellish the roads is not a sign of the sort of commitment that people in this country are demanding, particularly in the light of the Government's own assertions in their own paper on the environment which is so critical.

This is not a very radical proposal to put before the House. It is common sense; it is not all that radical. If the Minister wants to be tested on his own department's inclinations, what about the Nazeby debate? What about the way in which it threw overboard the considerations about protecting a major environmental heritage? What trust do we have in that sort of conduct?

The Minister said that economic assessment and environmental assessment would be brought together. However, as this would not be done satisfactorily or in a sufficiently comprehensive manner, it is all the more necessary to examine the possibilities. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, was right in saying that it is not too much to expect, within the Long Title of the Bill, that that could be done. It does not require much imagination.

There is a very big difference between an obligation to carry out an environmental impact assessment and an obligation to implement the assessment. That is a point, among many others, that the Minister singularly failed to address in his response, which left a great deal to be desired. I feel that we have to test the opinion of the House.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he is wise to suggest pushing the amendment to a vote. My noble friend offered to draw the Secretary of State's attention to what had been said. In the hope that he will be swayed by the arguments, we are more likely to get what is wanted. But if the noble Lord pushes the amendment to a vote and the vote goes against it, the Minister will be entitled to say that the House voted against the proposal. I suggest to the noble Lord—he is an experienced parliamentarian—that the wisest course is to allow the Bill to proceed on the basis of the undertaking given in the hope that the impact of the argument will be of service in the other place.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, is this within the rules of order? It is now clear that the noble Lord had sat down.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, I prefaced my remarks with the phrase, "Before the noble Lord sits down". The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, should be aware of the procedure.

Lord Clinton-Davis

. My Lords, I am not as familiar with the rules here as I am with those in the other place where they are often avoided. I am however familiar with the interventions of the noble Lord, Lord Hamar-Nicholls. I have seen him in operation over a few years, and I do not find his entreaty in the least beguiling.

4.3 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?: Their Lordships divided: Contents, 96; Not-Contents, 110.

Division No. 1
Addington, L. Kilbracken, L.
Ampthill, L. Kirkhill, L.
Ardwick, L. Listowel, E.
Attlee, E. Longford, E.
Barnett, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Birk, B McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Blackstone, B. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Blease, L. McNair, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Marsh, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Bottomley, L. Mayhew, L.
Broadbridge, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Mishcon, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Molloy, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Monkswell, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Monson, L.
Carter, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mulley, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Newall, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Nicol, B.
David, B. Norrie, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Northfield, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Ogmore, L.
Ennals, L. Parry, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Peston, L.
Ezra, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Falkland, V. Prys-Davies, L.
Foot, L Richardson, L.
Galpern, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Gladwyn, L. Roll of Ipsden, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Sainsbury, L.
Salisbury, Bp.
Grey, E Seear, B.
Grimond, L. Selkirk, E.
Hanworth, V. Shepherd, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stallard, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Stedman, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hirshrield, L. Strabolgi, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Underhill, L.
Hunt, L Whaddon, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. White, B.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Jay, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Jeger, B. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E
Jenkins of Putney, L. Winterbottom, L.
John-Mackie, L.
Acton, L. Blatch, B.
Arran, E. Blyth, L.
Astor, V. Boardman, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Borthwick, L.
Beloff, L. Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Bessborough, E. Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bridges, L. MacLehose of Beoch, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Manchester, D.
Butterworth, L. Mancroft, L.
Caithness, E. Margadale, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Merrivale, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mersey, V.
Carnock, L. Milverton, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Morris, L.
Carrington, L. Mottistone, L
Cavendish of Furness, L. Mountevans, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cockfield, L. Munster, E.
Colnbrook, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Nelson, E.
Cottesloe, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Onslow, E.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Orr-Ewing, L.
De L'Isle, V. Oxfuird, V.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Palmer, L.
Effingham, E. Park of Monmouth, B.
Elibank, L. Pender, L.
Elles, B. Quinton, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Reay, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Renwick, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Rodney, L.
Gainford, L. Roskill, L.
Gainsborough, E. Saint Albans, D.
Gisborough, L. Selsdon, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Shannon, E.
Shaughnessy, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Harmsworth, L. Strange, B.
Harvington, L. Strathclyde, L.
Haslam, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E
Henley, L. Swinfen, L.
Hesketh, L. Terrington, L.
Hood, V. Teviot, L.
Hooper, B. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Trefgarne, L.
Ilchester, E. Tryon, L.
Jeffreys, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Waddington, L.
Killearn, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Knollys, V. Westbury, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Wharton, B.
Long, V. Whitelaw, V.
Lyell, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Wynford, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 13 [Further provisions as to charging of tolls]:

4.10 p.m.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 2: Page 8, line 34, leave out ("which specifies maximum tolls").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 2 I should like also to speak to Amendment No. 3 which is tied in with it. The amendment would exempt disabled people who are entitled to vehicle excise duty exemption—that is, those with mobility allowance—from tolls on the new toll roads. The amendment tabled by my noble friend the Minister at Report stage exempts disabled people in receipt of vehicle excise duty exemption only where tolls are subject to a maximum. In effect that means that the exemption will apply only at estuarial crossings and bridges and where there is no convenient free alternative. That will not include most of the new toll roads.

That is not a concession at all. There is currently a reduced rate for holders of VED exemption or orange badge holders at many tolls or bridges. The House will know that at previous stages of the Bill I have tried to get exemption for all orange badge holders but I have now reduced it to VED exemption holders only. At Report stage my noble friend the Minister said that he had been in correspondence with the Joint Committee on Mobility for Disabled People, the Spinal Injuries Association and RADAR, explaining his views. All those organisations wrote to him stating that a toll was a tax on mobility and that disabled people should be exempt from tolls on the new toll roads.

Those organisations also reiterated their view that disabled people in receipt of vehicle excise duty exemption should be exempt from tolls on the new toll roads. A toll is effectively a tax on mobility, and one that able-bodied people can avoid. It is not one that disabled people who are transport-handicapped can avoid. The principle of exemption for disabled people from certain motoring taxes such as petrol tax and vehicle excise duty is long established and should be continued in this Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I shall be very short. I support to the full the arguments that have been adduced on this and on previous occasions by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen. If the Minister is not prepared to respond adequately I believe that the opinion of the House should be tested. I have nothing to add to the many debates that we have had on this matter. The onus is now on the Minister to satisfy us that he is taking it sufficiently seriously.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, in rising to support this amendment, to which my name is added, I have little more to say, save that almost by definition the roads we are talking about are roads that will be the "best route"; otherwise the commercial undertaker would not build the road. The reason why people will not always use them is the tolls. These "best routes" should be available to the maximum possible for people who suffer from disabilities. That is why I support this excellent amendment. I hope that by now the Minister will have got round to understanding what the amendment is about and will make a concession in regard to it.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Swinfen and also to the noble Lords, Lord Clinton-Davis and Lord Tordoff, for putting down these amendments. I am glad to see that in these amendments my noble friend has accepted that the orange badge scheme would not have been a suitable basis for exemption and eligibility for vehicle excise duty exemption should be the means by which we, or, more precisely, the concessionaires of privately financed roadways, should ensure that the charging of tolls on road facilities does not restrict the mobility of people with disabilities. Given that the number of those eligible for vehicle excise duty exemption is not great, we believe that the private sector would not have hesitated to offer exemption from tolls to disabled people on any road or crossing, whether or not there were free alternatives. On the other hand, I recognise the importance to my noble friend and the groups to which he has referred of a statutory exemption and the strength of the arguments which he and other noble Lords have brought to bear.

We are keen to promote the interests of those who have disabilities and to take all steps possible to improve their mobility. In practice I do not believe that a statutory exemption on facilities authorised under this Bill for those already claiming VED exemption would be objectionable. I am therefore willing to concede my noble friend's arguments and to accept his amendments. I can also give the House the assurance that a parallel amendment to apply the same exemption to tolls referred to in the Scottish part of the Bill will be tabled in another place.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for his concession. I am glad he has acted in this way because it saves me from pressing the matter to a Division as I would otherwise have done. I am also grateful to him for saying that a suitable amendment to the Scottish part of the Bill will be brought forward in another place.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 3: Page 8, line 35, leave out ("which is subject to a maximum").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 3. I have already spoken to it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 66 [Duty of undertaker to reinstate]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 4: Page 38, line 35, at end insert: ( "( ) He shall ensure that when reinstatement takes place this includes any reinstatement of any existing measures designed to facilitate the convenient passage of disabled persons or other persons using the street.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is intended to ensure that any existing measures such as tactile pavements and dropped kerbs are replaced when streets are reinstated after repair. Arguments in favour of this amendment were well aired at Committee and Report stages. It is vital that street works should not result in a deterioration of street access. It should not need to be stressed how important dropped kerbs and tactile pavements are to blind people and wheelchair users.

I quote from col. 442 of Hansard of 24th January 1991 when the Minister said: Such matters are best left to codes of practice … but tying us to what is written on the face of the Bill could be of disbenefit to the people affected by the amendment".

We accept that the Bill is not the place for precise details; they should be left to codes of practice. However, there should be some reference in primary legislation to the fact that existing provision must be replaced. The problem with codes of practice is that they are exactly that—codes—and are therefore not legally binding.

This amendment also states that provision which is of benefit to other persons using the street must be replaced. It is obvious that street works may affect provision of various amenities for able-bodied people as well. That is what I have tried to cover at the same time, and it means that I may have the wording slightly wrong. Dropped kerbs are also beneficial to people with prams—not only to the babies in them but to the mothers pushing them—and to people using shopping baskets on wheels. I beg to move.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I should like to support this amendment. We debated the point at length during earlier stages. At Report stage I referred to tactile pavements and in particular to the one outside St. Stephen's entrance, and your Lordships will remember that the Government were able to use their influence on Westminster council to ensure that there was a replacement. I have to say to the Minister that it has not yet been replaced and I look forward to the day when it is.

It is clear that to remove suddenly the existing provision whereby wheelchair users and the visually handicapped are accustomed to having assistance at these places can have a devastating effect. Even if the Government cannot accept the wording—as the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, pointed out, that may be a little difficult to achieve—nevertheless I hope that they will in principle accept that this amendment ought to go on the face of the Bill as a measure of the Government's intention to assist people who have such difficulties.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I support my noble fiend the Minister in this amendment. I believe that an earlier amendment was not acceptable to the utilities in that it was proactive and meant that the utilities had to put in something which was not there. As this amendment reinstates something which was there, it is quite acceptable and I support it.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis put his name to this amendment and on behalf of the Opposition I should like to say that we fully support its terms. If, by any chance, the Minister feels that he cannot accept the wording, I hope that he will accept the principle and pass the provision on to the other place to ensure that it is incorporated in the Bill when it is discussed further. We support the entire principle of this amendment.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, my noble friend will know from an earlier debate on a similar amendment that I am entirely sympathetic to the objective. However, I argued that the detailed guidance to be included in the approved code of practice was the proper place for the requirement to reinstate features provided for the assistance of blind and disabled people.

As a matter of interest my noble friend queried the legal aspects of the codes of practice. I merely draw his attention to the following clause, Clause 67(4), which deals adequately with that point. I have reflected on the arguments put forward by noble Lords and accept the strength of feeling expressed on all sides of the House on this matter. I regret that my noble friend's present amendment is technically defective in a number of respects. Moreover, an amendment to the corresponding Scottish provision will also be required. However, I accept the amendment in principle and suitable amendments to the Bill with like effect will be brought forward in another place.

With that assurance, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments. I looked very quickly at subsection (4) of Clause 67 and I note that it says: The Secretary of State may issue or approve for the purposes of this section codes of practice". It says "may" and not "shall".

However, I am sure that codes of practice will be issued. I am delighted that the Minister is prepared to bring forward a more satisfactory form of words to be inserted in the Bill in another place. For my own education I should be very interested if he would be kind enough to arrange for me to receive a copy of the wording. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment on the undertaking that he has given.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An amendment (privilege) made.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. In doing so I should like briefly to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in these debates.

It is somewhat unusual for a Bill of t his kind to be taken first in this House rather than another place; though as it happens there is an excellent precedent in the Public Utilities Street Works Act 1950, which Parts III and IV of this Bill are replacing. This has involved dealing with quite technical legislation which has not been through the refining fire of Commons Committee and Report. One consequence of that, I fear, has been a rather large number of government amendments, the vast majority of which have been purely technical. I should like to thank all noble Lords for their patience and good humour in dealing with these rather tedious aspects of the Bill.

I am glad to say that these technicalities have not stood in the way of serious and well informed debate on the substance of the Bill. This House prides itself on taking the longer and broader view, avoiding the cut and thrust of adversarial politics, and I am glad to say that, although noble Lords on the Opposition Benches have often disagreed with the purposes of parts of this Bill, they have done so invariably in a courteous and civilised manner. In that respect I should like particularly to thank the noble Lords, Lord Clinton-Davis, Lord Underhill and Lord Tordoff.

This Bill has travelled a long way since it was first brought before this House. Second Reading took place on 20th November last year, which seems an age away to me—I do not know how other noble Lords will feel. Since that time it has been greatly improved, mostly in points of detail but also in some more fundamental respects. Without deviating from our essential policy we have been able to accommodate a large number of points raised by noble Lords on all sides of the House. In particular, we have made better and more explicit provision for the needs of disabled people. I believe that my noble friend Lord Swinfen should take particular credit for having achieved many useful additions to the Bill in respect of the disabled. He has certainly been a champion of their cause. I am sure that these changes will be welcomed, even if they do not go as far as some noble Lords would like.

In Parts I and II of the Bill we are providing a new framework for privately financed roads. I have every confidence that the private sector is keen and ready to take up the challenge. The response to the schemes that the Government have suggested has been very encouraging, and I am sure that this Bill will provide a further boost to the initiative.

Parts III and IV of the Bill have been widely welcomed by your Lordships. As all noble Lords agree, reform of the law on utility street works is long overdue. As a result of the amendments made in this House there is now a more clear and workable set of powers and duties for highway authorities. Again, I wish to thank noble Lords opposite for their contribution to this part of the Bill. I also thank my noble friends Lord Brougham and Vaux and Lord Lucas of Chilworth who raised interesting points. I am pleased that in this part of the Bill we have been able to take account of the needs of blind and disabled people.

As I said, I expect that further improvements will be made in another place as a result of the work put in hand following debates on these issues. In short, I commend the Bill to your Lordships and hope that it will have as successful and trouble-free a passage through another place as it has had through this House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I join the Minister in thanking all those noble Lords who have participated, extremely constructively, in improving the Bill in a number of material respects. As regards Parts III and IV, we said at the very outset that this is a necessary Bill. It is necessary to preserve the balance which had been achieved as a result of the degree of co-operation that had been undertaken by the highway authorities and public utilities in conjunction with the Government. I am glad to say that, up to the present at least, that balance has been preserved. That is not to say that all room for improvement has gone. There are still areas in Parts III and IV which deserve improvement. However, it is most important that the co-operation that has existed between the highway authorities and the public utilities should continue. It needs to go on in terms of development of the codes of practice to which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, referred and also to determine whether in due course of time new regulations need to be introduced to amend the provisions of this Act (as it will be) in the light of changing developments. Certainly one of the interesting and useful aspects that the Government have pursued in this Bill, and on which we have supported them very largely, is that it is necessary to do much by way of statutory instrument rather than new legislation.

I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, in having persuaded the Government—naturally, with our support—to undertake real improvements in this Bill for the disabled. That will redound to his credit for many years. I am proud that we on the Opposition Benches were able to participate very fully with him in that regard. We still have doubts about some elements of Parts I and II of the Bill. In our judgment, the environmental issues have not been sufficiently addressed. Members in another place will undoubtedly return to that theme.

When the Minister congratulated us on our civilised behaviour, I hope that he was not surprised. We try our best. As I have indicated on a number of occasions, the Minister has always been courteous and helpful and has written to noble Lords when he promised so to do. I have received a battery of letters from the noble Lord. I have never received so much correspondence, even from constituents. His example of ministerial helpfulness should be followed.

Finally I should like to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Underhill who with his great experience has been a constant source of support to me, to the local authority organisations, to the public utilities, to groups representing the disabled and to many others who supplied us with very useful information that facilitated our work on the Bill.

I wish the passage of Parts III and IV well. When the Bill comes back to this House for consideration of amendments, I hope that it will be further improved.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, an important debate is due to begin shortly and I shall not speak at length. I echo the sentiments that have been expressed from the Government Front Bench and from the Labour Party Front Bench. I welcome the interventions from all sides of the House. At an early stage I welcomed the first essay of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, in relation to a Transport Bill. He will have realised by now that this is a very exclusive and almost private club to which few people are admitted. We have received assistance from the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, and good contributions have been made from all sides of the House.

I shall not repeat the matters which disappoint me: for example, the fact that I did not make much progress in relation to the near monopoly situation of toll roads.

Noble Lords will remember that at Report stage we discussed Amendment No. 132 that was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux. The amendment concerned the proportion of allowable costs that would be allocated between the utilities and the highway authorities. I suggested that a difficulty might arise if the proportions which were being written on to the face of the Bill were changed. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, in asking the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment, made it clear that the proportions had been agreed between the utilities and the local authorities.

I asked the Minister whether there was a system of arbitration, if there was to be change in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has been good enough to write to me. He has explained the situation as he sees it; namely, that the Government do not expect that there will be changes in the proportions and that the situation has resulted from some fairly hard bargaining between the parties concerned. I should like to ask the noble Lord to consider the matter further before the Bill reaches another place. There may be occasions when one or other of the parties strongly desires to have the proportions varied but be unable to convince the other. It may be that in that event the Secretary of State is the arbiter, but at the moment the position is not entirely clear.

I thank the Minister for the courtesy that, as always, he has displayed in handling the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, stated, if the Minister cannot answer a question on the spot, he will reply in writing. That is extremely helpful. We all try to improve Bills. This Bill is in two parts, one of which is more political than the other. We have all longed for the second part since the Horne Report was produced. There is no doubt that holes in the road are a curse to the average citizen and there is very strong feeling about that subject on all sides of the House. If we have done nothing else, we shall have helped the average citizen to get about his town or city without having the road dug up under his feet once a week. We shall have made life better for road travellers and pedestrians. If the Bill can be improved in another place, so be it. However, I think that between us we have done a good job.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, we have listened to some very useful debates on this subject, particularly in relation to Part III of the Bill. There is now a more clear understanding between the utilities, the local authorities, and the Government as to the provisions of the Bill. Many discussions have taken place between the utilities and officials from the department. Those discussions, together with our debates, have been instrumental in influencing changes to the Bill which go some way to restoring the balance. However, there is still more to be done and discussions are continuing in areas such as works after major road works and arrangements to be adopted where undertakers cause obstructions—to mention two areas that are of concern to the utilities. Those matters are to be be discussed by the Highways Authorities and Utilities Committee, and the Government have indicated that they will consider amendments if necessary.

There are three other serious issues which have only been discussed with officials: liability for damage or loss caused (in Clause 78); offences (in Clause 91), and the need for adequate defences to be included on the face of the Bill in a number of clauses. I hope that discussions will prove fruitful in relation to those matters.

When the Bill becomes an Act, it will undoubtedly modernise the execution of street works generally, replacing out of date and bureaucratic methods with sensible procedures that are more in tune with today's pace of life.

I should like to thank my noble friend the Minister and his department for their work in relation to the Bill to ensure that a proper balance is struck between the needs of the road users and those of utilities' customers. That balance, which has been painstakingly negotiated within the HAUC working parties, should not be compromised during the remaining stages of the Bill, which we look forward to seeing on the statute book in the near future.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I propose to deal with a point that was raised at Committee and at Report stage; namely the issue of whether or not police costs on the new toll roads will be met by the concessionaires. I shall not rehearse the arguments again. The Minister wrote to me after the Committee stage, in answer to a question that I had put to him. He stated that the Association of Chief Police Officers had not been consulted by anybody in relation to that matter. Since the Report stage I have received a letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers which gives their opinions on the question. Given the importance of the matter, I propose to quote their view. The overwhelming majority of my colleagues believe that Police resources should be funded by the concessions. The Chief Officer of Police for each area in which, roads are built should determine the additional resources required and the establishment increased accordingly. The concessionaire should meet the financial implications, after early agreement with the Police, based on existing formulae for optimum Police presence and road safety considerations. It adds: If the tolled roads are of Motorway standard, the responsibility of emergency telephones, matrix signalling and extra Police Control Room staff, will have to be addressed". That is the view of the Association of Chief Police Officers. I refer to it for the interest of the House and in particular to draw it to the attention of Members of the House of Commons who will consider the Bill. As was pointed out by my colleagues in Committee and on Report, that matter should be dealt with on the face of the Bill.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for their kind remarks. What little I have been able to do for disabled people could not have been done without the support of noble Lords who put their names to my amendments. They were the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Clinton-Davis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, who is not present today. I thank the Minister too for the way in which he has responded.

The Minister when moving the Motion that the Bill do now pass said that all noble Lords had behaved in an extremely civilised manner. I regret to advise him, and he knows well, that that is not entirely true. I remember that in Committee I responded to his remarks by suggesting that he had offered someone a glass of milk only for them to find out that it was sour. After reading Hansard I think that my remarks were harsh. I apologise to my noble friend and wish to put that view on the record.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I am grateful for the kind words expressed about me and my officials in the Department of Transport. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said that there is room for further improvement in the Bill when it reaches another place. I am sure that he is right, but only time will tell whether his ideas of improvement and mine are the same. However, I endorse his comments and those of my noble friend Lord Brougham and Vaux in saying that we hope that the highways authorities and utilities will continue to co-operate. We have welcomed their past co-operation.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, whom I also thank for his kind words, asked me to add to my comment on a matter that he raised at an earlier stage; it concerned the proportion of costs and whether arbitration would be a proper procedure. I can only say that I shall look further into the matter and write to him.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, again raised the issue of the costs of policing the new special roads and he quoted the views of the Association of Chief Police Officers. I responded in detail on Report, but we have not finally decided on the matter. I no doubt it will be raised in another place when the views of ACPO will be taken into account.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Swinfen for his apology for having suggested that my offer of a glass of milk was a glass of sour milk.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

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