Transport Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 9th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions 8:00 pm, 9th November 2000

My Lords, I am grateful for the general welcome for the amendments. I hope that I can respond to some of the points that have been made. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, asked what authorities other than local authorities would be involved. In London it could be the GLA. Although, initially, individual consents may be given, that may change in time.

We hope to issue guidance as soon as possible. That almost certainly means next year. As regards my view on speed limits in rural lanes, the road safety strategy, and my frequent elaboration of it, indicate that I believe that in many cases 60 miles an hour--that is the default speed on single carriageway roads--is not appropriate in many rural lanes. However, each local authority can assess the appropriate speed for an individual rural road or lane.

As regards the issue of priority or precedence, I accept that our amendment differs in this respect from that tabled by the Liberal Democrats at an earlier stage. We believe that we can achieve that objective through existing powers. We believe that the absolute priority that is established in some Continental legislation is not appropriate. We are considering the position, say, on a zebra crossing where pedestrians have the right of way but they are expected to cross in a reasonable time. Where children are playing in a home zone, clearly one would expect the car to slow down. However, one would also expect a provision whereby the children would make way in order for the car to reach its destination.

To lay down precedence in absolute terms would not be appropriate. We are talking here about the obligation on the car driver and other road users to act reasonably in the context of the road that they were using. A home zone would be marked by clear signs. Whether or not they would be the signs described by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, such zones would have designated low vehicle speeds which could be 10 miles per hour or lower. All the existing important provisions as regards due care and attention, consideration for other road users and so on would apply. If one adds all that up, creating a new offence of failure to give precedence, given the difficulty that might arise in certain situations, would not add very much.

We are proposing that there would be a special reference and special supplement to the Highway Code explaining how road users should behave in home zones. I hope that that answers most of the questions. I commend the amendment.