Road Safety Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 3:06 pm on 22nd November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport 3:07 pm, 22nd November 2005

moved Amendment No. 1:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause—

"APPLICATION OF SURPLUS INCOME FROM SAFETY CAMERA ENFORCEMENT

In section 38 of the Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001 (c. 3) (unified power for Secretary of State to fund speed cameras etc.), after subsection (5) insert—

"(6) The relevant national authority may make regulations to permit in specified circumstances income from the enforcement of offences under subsection (2), over and above such income as is required to cover expenditure on the operation of a safety camera scheme, to be used in connection with the provision by the relevant local transport authority of local transport facilities or related environmental improvements, including road safety measures.""

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, before I begin I should first declare an interest as the leader of Essex County Council. Noble Lords will recall that this new clause is designed to enhance local road safety measures by permitting the hypothecation of surplus income from safety camera enforcement for expenditure by relevant local transport authorities on road safety measures. In short, it is intended to provide a source of funding that will enable local expertise to be translated into local road safety initiatives in a manner that is both responsive to and commensurate with the character of local problems.

My noble friend Lady Hanham moved a similar amendment in Committee and its considerable merits were duly debated. However, in the intervening period my attention has been drawn to an article published in the Times on 5 November entitled:

"March of the Speed Cameras Halted".

I was interested to read that, according to the author of the piece, when the Department for Transport publishes its annual report on the safety camera partnership scheme, it is to,

"announce reforms to the way in which the partnerships are managed and funded".

The article went on to state that these reforms would abolish the current practice of recycling speeding fines into the funding of new speed camera installations. Instead they would enable safety camera partnerships to use surplus revenue generated from enforcement,

" . . . in all aspects of road safety. Rather than being restricted to erecting more cameras, the partnerships would be able to use the money to make junctions safer and to improve the visibility of signs and road markings".

Those proposals sound remarkably familiar. I assume that the Minister has taken on board the logic of the original amendment and, if that is the case, I commend him on his farsightedness. However, as I have been unable to locate any official comment, documentation or amendments to that effect, I ask him to make clear the Government's intention on this important road safety issue. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. The Minister should be aware that there is a huge deficit in the amount of money available for local authorities to fund road safety schemes and there is always a waiting of list of schemes to be carried out. There is also a huge deficit in the amount of money needed for road safety education. The number of offices devoted to this task is very small indeed and the task is very large.

It would make people much more appreciative of speed cameras than they are if they could see that, as a result of the fines paid, money was being spent on schemes which everyone knows are needed. If, as they were under way, schemes displayed a notice saying "This scheme is being funded by the safety camera partnership" it would change many people's attitude towards speed cameras. It is the fact that this money is known to drop into the maw of the Treasury that makes people so resentful. I hope that in his reply the Minister will have some good news for us.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I support the amendment. As I read it, local authorities will be able to use this money to fund free bus travel, which has been declared recently as the Government's policy. I strongly support the amendment not only on the grounds already put forward but on those additional grounds.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, the amendment makes a great deal of sense. However, it is a sad reflection on our times that if people obeyed the speed limit at all times this debate would not be taking place today.

Photo of Viscount Tenby Viscount Tenby Crossbench

My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. I offer my apologies to the House for not being able to be present for the Committee stage. I shall not fall into the trap of an endless repetition of Committee stage, and certainly not into the trap of a Second Reading speech.

The amendment makes sense. At the moment we have a somewhat callous and mechanistic formula in regard to speed cameras which requires that there have to be so many deaths and so many serious injuries before you can even install one. Where there is surplus money—and here the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has stolen my argument because I was going to refer to the maw of the Treasury and the money disappearing into it—it must make sense that it is put into safety measures which everyone can see and understand. Who knows, perhaps it will make people more amenable towards the whole theme of speed cameras.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I recognise that the amendment is honourably intended to improve road safety—which is, of course, also one of the objectives of the Bill—but, as I said in Committee when we debated this issue, I do not think the amendment is required. I reiterate those arguments because they still hold.

The safety camera programme is delivering positive results under the current rules on what this money should be used for and there is no reason to change the rules to determine what can be funded by such income. Local authorities and the police are already funded by other revenue streams to enable them to fund local transport facilities or related environmental improvements, including road safety measures—although I recognise, of course, that there will always be a demand from such sources for extra resources because there are always useful ideas that can be implemented.

I should mention to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, that we intend fully to fund bus passes through other sources—that is, through the £360 million already scheduled for them. So that money is already to be made available and ought not to come out of road safety provision. I am at one with both Front Bench spokesmen about these resources being directed towards road safety.

I reiterate that the road safety programme is not there to raise revenue but has a distinct and different function—to strengthen the detection, enforcement and deterrence of speeding. My noble friend Lord Simon is quite right—we would welcome a decrease in resources and revenues from this base, as it would be an indication that law-abiding driving was taking place and fines were not being imposed.

It has been suggested that these resources go elsewhere and that this is some form of stealth tax. I made it as clear as I could in Committee that the present legislation demonstrates that that is just not so. It provides that the programme can be applied only to the deployment of cameras. That means that the police and local authorities have no incentive to deploy cameras for any reason except road safety-related to speeding.

It is important to maintain public confidence that that is the objective of the cameras and that the resources generated by the cameras are directed solely to that end. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said, in his usual persuasive way, that we ought to look at revenues in general. We will be undertaking a stock-take of the road safety camera programme so that we can learn from existing and past experience to develop the programme for the future. No decisions on this review have yet been taken, but I hear what the noble Lord says and we will take that into account when conducting the review.

I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that the principle is very clear. The cameras are there not to raise revenue but merely to ensure that drivers abide by the law. It is important that we maintain confidence in that respect, which is why I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for those comments and am pleased to hear that there will be a review. I am pleased to have been supported by so many noble Lords on all sides of the House.

My noble friend Lady Gardner mentioned bus passes. Although the noble Lord said that quite a lot of funding was available, it is not sufficient. In my own county of Essex, for example, free bus passes are available only in a district. They would not be available if someone wanted to go from Harlow to Chelmsford. The county council will increase the funding to make certain that free bus passes are available to the whole of the county. I know that that example is nothing to do with the amendment, but it shows how local authorities have to find money all the time to support people in this way.

I am sorry to use my own county of Essex again, but, given the problems of this year's budget, all our money will go on road improvement and maintenance and there will be very little available for road safety. As I have mentioned in the House before—to some amusement—the main cause of death on the roads in Essex is people over 50 going back to riding motorcycles. The council is putting on road safety courses to help retrain people over 50, who are suddenly able to afford a Harley-Davidson, so that they do not kill themselves on the road. Money should be diverted towards that sort of measure.

Although the noble Lord said, quite rightly, that the cameras are not there to raise revenue, they do. That is why the amendment proposes that that considerable amount of revenue should be put into road safety measures, such as retraining and helping people. My own authority would be only too pleased to organise many more road safety training programmes if it had more money to do it. If this money were to go back to local authorities, those funds would be available. I was very disappointed by what the Minister said and I wish to test the opinion the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 166; Not-Contents, 125

Division number 1 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Road Safety Bill [HL]

Aye: 164 Members of the House of Lords

No: 123 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

Clause 7 [Driving record]:

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, we debated at length in Committee the implications of subsection (2)(e) and the unease surrounding a provision that gives the Secretary of State the power to make arrangements for other persons to have access to the electronic driving record. I am pleased to say that this concern was allayed by a government amendment to subsection (4). However, a number of important concerns remain with a project of this significance.

First, is the substitution of the counterpart with an electronic driving record a truly practical measure? In Committee, the Minister was probed on the type of persons or organisations that would be granted access to this new driving record. A number of different suggestions were made regarding the type of employer that might require such information.

To my knowledge, a vast number of employers, large and small, currently require prospective employees to hold a clean driving licence. This can be easily ascertained by the presentation of a person's driving licence for inspection, since the counterpart is a legal document.

What will happen under the driving record system? Many businesses and organisations will still require employees to provide that they have a clean driving licence. In the light of the amendment recently moved by the Government, does the Minister propose that on each occasion the Secretary of State should place a draft instrument containing the name of such a business—say, for example, a small courier firm—before Parliament, to be approved for access to the driving record computer systems?

That may seem like an absurd and ridiculous possibility, but the reality is that a large number of businesses require such information, and, since individuals will no longer be in possession of the legal documentation necessary to demonstrate themselves, these businesses will need access to the electronic driving record. A natural consequence will be a huge number of persons and organisations requiring access to the electronic driving record system, and this will present a number of serious logistical and security problems. Will the DVLA be responsible for the verification of the driving licences for employer inquiries, or will employers be granted access to the database? I am curious to know how the Government intend to address this system and eventuality.

Secondly, can we trust the integrity of the driving record? Without a paper copy to prove that we do not have any driving endorsements, how can we dispute information contained electronically? In Committee, the Minister stated that the DVLA would write to an individual every time that person's driving record was amended, thereby allowing that person the opportunity to challenge the endorsement.

Yet how would a person be able to do so in practice? At present, I imagine that it is decidedly unlikely that such a mistake could be made, because the licence available obviously has the endorsement on it. It can be presented to authorities, as we all know, if you have a conviction on a driving offence. Therefore, under the present system, it seems unlikely that a person will allow their licence to be endorsed without guilt of any offence.

As I understand from the Minister's explanation in Committee, under the proposed electronic driving records system, a person may request a paper copy of his or her driving record. However, unlike the counterpart, that will not be considered a legal document and will, as a result, not constitute adequate proof. The seriousness of that possibility is amplified by the growing trend in electronic identity theft. Once we remove privately held legal documentation and choose to concentrate valuable personal information in a single electronic system with no tangible mechanism for verification, how can we but increase people's vulnerability to fraud, as there are mistakes and computer errors?

Furthermore, judging by the Government's record on information technology—we all know how difficult some such systems are—is it wise to transfer all this important information on to such a system? The Government's latest foray into the world of budget information technology systems—the NHS project Connecting for Health—is not faring too well, running over-budget and over-time. Remember, this is a project that follows in the less-than-successful path of similarly expensive and ambitious IT projects created for the Passport Agency, air traffic control and the CSA. Will the Minister assure the House that the driving records project will not face a similar fate? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the way in which he introduced the amendment. As he recognises, Clause 7, which he seeks to amend, introduces the concept of a driving record maintained by the Secretary of State, which would be the official record of a driver's endorsement history. That would enable the introduction at Clause 9 of the new system that we propose of endorsement for all drivers based on inspection of the driving record rather than the counterpart.

I bear in mind what the noble Lord says about the difficulties with regard to technology and how we have to take care with a data bank of such significance. We think that it will take considerable time before we can commence the new system of endorsement. We cannot see it being in place in any fewer than three years, and it will probably be as many as five years before it is implemented. That is because we need to take care, as he indicated, of the creation of the new system. Noble Lords will recognise the complexity of any system that creates the necessary electronic links between the police, the courts and the DVLA, and establishes alternative procedures for all the other functions that the counterpart currently provides.

We have tried to identify all the persons who at this stage we envisage would require access to information held on the driving record. But it may be apparent, when we come to implement the new system, that others require access in order for the system to work. That is why we have the provision in the clause for the Secretary of State to make additions.

In view of the potential significance of the power to extend the categories in new Section 97A(2)(e), the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee recommended at paragraph 28 of its report that the affirmative procedure should apply. We are of course content to follow that recommendation, and we amended the Bill in Committee so that the affirmative rather than negative resolution procedure now applies to the power to make regulations under new Section 97A(2)(e).

That means that regulations prescribing persons other than those detailed in the Bill to have access to the driving record would be subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament. I maintain that that safeguard meets the anxieties of the noble Lord regarding this very difficult question. I am at one with him in recognising that the matter raises significant technical issues of implementation. That is why we intend to take our time and to take great care over the procedure. We recognise how important this record is. However, I think the noble Lord will recognise that to delete from the Bill an opportunity for the Secretary of State to add additional persons to the list through regulation rather than to introduce primary legislation would constitute a great limitation, if only because we have also given the clear assurance that any regulation adding names will be brought before both Houses. I hope the noble Lord will recognise that the powers which are sought here are subject to effective parliamentary scrutiny and that he will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I thank the Minister for those comments. He did not respond to all my points. I hope that he will reflect on them and write to me. I still do not understand why the Government need to introduce this system. The public do not like having endorsements but at least those are recorded on driving licences and are known about. I do not believe that the storing of endorsements on a computer system will be popular with the public. I am not certain how the system will work. The Minister assures me that it may be five years away. On the other hand, five years can pass quickly. I hope that the Minister will reflect further on the matter and before Third Reading communicate any further points that he believes noble Lords should be aware of. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

moved Amendment No. 4:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—

"ENDORSABLE OFFENCES

(1) In section 15 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52)—

(a) in subsection (1), for "fourteen" substitute "sixteen";

(b) in subsection (3), for "fourteen" substitute "sixteen".

(2) In Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (prosecution and punishment of offences)—

(a) in the entry relating to RTA section 14, in column (6) insert "Obligatory.";

(b) in the entry relating to RTA section 15(2), in column (6) insert "Obligatory";

(c) in the entry relating to RTA section 15(4), in column (6) insert "Obligatory"."

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to provide for a measure that was omitted from the Road Traffic Act 1988. I have been advised on the matter by the police who seek to fill this gap in the previous legislation. That legislation allows the police to prosecute someone driving with a child passenger when the latter is not wearing a seat belt provided the child is 14 years of age and under. When the relevant person reaches 17 years of age he is deemed to be responsible on his own account and he can then be prosecuted for not wearing a seat belt. Apparently, no one aged 15 or 16 can be prosecuted for not wearing a seat belt. The purpose of the amendment is to complete the cycle to enable the person driving the car to be prosecuted when travelling with a child up to the age of 16 when the latter is not wearing a seat belt, as a person aged 17 can be prosecuted on his own account for not wearing a seat belt. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord both for his accuracy and his brevity, which I shall try to match in my reply. I understand his concern that as persons under 16 cannot be charged with the offence we are discussing there is an apparent gap in the law. I am at one with him in seeking to ensure that compliance with seat belt laws extends as far as possible. We have no doubt at all about the efficacy of seat belts as a road safety measure. That applies to young passengers as much as to drivers and others. I share that objective with the noble Lord.

There is no doubt that getting people to wear seat belts has made an enormous difference to road casualty figures, and the noble Lord is seeking to build on that. As I explained in Committee, the two proposals made in this amendment raise wider issues about law enforcement and levels of fines. Consistency is also important, and the issues should be considered as a whole and not piecemeal, offence by offence.

Reference was made in Committee to what Home Office circulars say about young offenders. Home Office Circular 7/97 advises that fixed penalty notices can be given to 16 and 17 year-olds. Home Office Circular 92/85 advises that fixed penalty notices for road traffic offences should not be given to younger juveniles. That is simply because they may not have the money to pay. If the fines are to be realistic, how do they pay such an amount? If they do not pay, parents or carers may find themselves, as guardians, with an unexpected summons in respect of a fixed penalty notice. It is therefore police policy not to issue fixed penalty notices to juveniles for failure to wear a seat belt.

However, that does not mean that the police cannot deal with juveniles; they can take whatever action they consider appropriate. They can, if necessary, charge someone with an offence, which means a summons to appear in court. It is not true that the courts cannot deal with people under the age of 16. The normal penalty for seat belt wearing offences would apply, which is a fine up to a maximum of £500. It remains the Government's view, as I said in Committee, that it would be unwise to change the arrangements just for this one offence until we have properly considered the wider question in the round. It was explained in Committee that the Home Office is addressing the issue of juveniles, and I hope that the House will recognise that wider issues are involved.

It was explained in Committee why the Government consider that the endorsement of licences with penalty points should be reserved for the most serious driving offences. Having regard to that and to the structure of penalties generally, the Government believe that the proposed level 2 fine of £500 is appropriate for the offence of not wearing a seat belt. Endorsement, which automatically increases the fixed penalty fine from £30 to £60, would put the offence on a par with speeding and traffic light offences. I put it to noble Lords that they are not the same level of offence, not least because of the danger to other road users caused by the other offences, which scarcely would apply with regard to the seat belt offence. The best approach is to continue our constant attempts to educate drivers about the importance of seat belts, supported by police enforcement as appropriate.

I am not complacent about rates of seat belt use; we campaign constantly to get them higher because we are not satisfied. Even 93 per cent compliance by people in the front seats of cars is too low, and there is still a problem with children in the rear of cars. Nevertheless, we have been making considerable progress with compliance in recent years. I accept that there is a lower level of wearing of seatbelts for adults in the rear of cars, and we intend to continue to campaign and work on that problem. I hope the noble Lord will recognise that there are difficulties with his amendments, although I entirely share his objectives. We have good reasons why we want to consider the offences within that context, and I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport 3:45 pm, 22nd November 2005

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. However, I have to say that the fact that he might consider the introduction of changes along with other amendments at some time in the future is similar to a kick in a rugby match that goes out of sight over the stands. It does not deal with the problem that the police confront day after day. If, in bringing forward the Act, there was real determination in the department to actually do something about it, I would be more impressed. I should like to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 134

Division number 2 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Road Safety Bill [HL]

Aye: 69 Members of the House of Lords

No: 132 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet) 4:00 pm, 22nd November 2005

moved Amendment No. 4A:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—

"PEDICABS

(1) The appropriate national authority may make regulations providing for—

(a) the application of relevant enactments to pedicabs; and

(b) the enforcement of relevant enactments in relation to pedicabs.

(2) The regulations may, in particular, make provision—

(a) identifying the person against whom enforcement action may be taken if there is a contravention of a relevant enactment;

(b) for the registration of pedicabs by specified authorities and the provision and display of registration plates on pedicabs;

(c) for the payment of fees for registration;

(d) for the making of registers available for inspection and sale;

(e) for offences relating to registration;

(f) for transitional arrangements.

(3) The Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974 (c. xxiv) is amended as follows.

(4) In section 15(11) (parking on footways, grass verges, etc.), in the definition of "vehicles", after "means" insert "a pedicab (within the meaning given by section (Pedicabs) of the Road Safety Act 2005),".

(5) The London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 (c. iii) is amended as follows.

(6) In section 4(5) (penalty charges for road traffic contraventions), for the words "motor vehicle" there is substituted "vehicle".

(7) In section 4(16), the definition of "motor vehicle" is omitted and the following definition is inserted at the end—

""vehicle" means a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads and a pedicab within the meaning given by section (Pedicabs) of the Road Safety Act 2005.".

(8) In this section—

"the appropriate national authority" means—

(a) in relation to England, the Secretary of State;

(b) in relation to Wales, the National Assembly for Wales;

"pedicab" means a cycle constructed or adapted—

(a) to seat one or more passengers; and

(b) for the purpose of being made available with a driver for hire for the purpose of carrying passengers;

"relevant enactment" means—

(a) section 15 (parking on footways, grass verges, etc.) of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974 (c. xxiv);

(b) Part II of the Road Traffic Act 1991 (c. 40) (traffic in London);

(c) Part II of and Schedule 1 to the London Local Authorities Act 1996 (c. ix) (bus lanes);

(d) regulations made under section 144 of the Transport Act 2000 (c. 38) (civil penalties for bus lane contraventions);

(e) Part 2 of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 (road traffic and highways);

(f) regulations under section 72 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 (c. 18) (civil penalties for road traffic contraventions);

(g) any other enactment relating to road traffic regulation, specified in regulations made by the appropriate national authority, which provides for the service of penalty charge notices or notices to owner on the owner of a vehicle;

"specified authority" means—

(a) in Greater London, Transport for London;

(b) elsewhere in England and Wales, a traffic authority."

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, before speaking to the amendment, I remind the House that, first, I am a member of a local authority and, secondly, I am a magistrate who deals with road traffic offences.

I have been briefed by Westminster City Council on this amendment and it is also supported by Transport for London. It brings us back to a rather unusual mode of travel, of which there have been a couple in this Bill—that of pedicabs. I am sure that many noble Lords have seen them—they are cycle rickshaws. As a mode of transport, they are becoming increasingly popular, particularly with tourists, and I am told that around 200 now operate in the West End each day. Although they provide a useful and exciting service for tourists, they are probably causing an increasing number of problems.

As more and more pedicabs appear on the street, they tend to congregate at particular locations, such as Covent Garden tube station and outside theatres, and they are beginning to cause problems of obstruction. Apart from that, the specific problems that they cause arise from the fact that they park on footways and partly on the carriageway, thus obstructing both pedestrians and general traffic; they park on pedestrianised areas, causing obstructions in areas around theatres, including dangerous obstructions around fire escapes; and buses have been forced out of bus lanes into general traffic, which is clearly a safety hazard—though the briefing does not say to whom. There have been examples of pedicabs blocking the routes of ambulances.

Despite that, there are currently no means by which a local authority or other highway and traffic authority, including Transport for London, can control pedicabs. They are not registered, and not licensed with anyone in London. There is no legal means by which the city council can register or licence them itself. Currently, they are effectively treated as pedal cycles, which means that they do not have an easily identifiable registration number which could be used to issue a penalty charge notice. In short, the problems which the city council faces, and other councils are likely to face in the future, are almost incapable of being dealt with.

The London Local Authorities and Transport for London Bill included proposals for bringing pedicabs under existing traffic legislation until the proposals were rejected by the Opposed Private Bill Committee. The proposals under that Bill would have meant that pedicab operators needed to have every pedicab registered with Transport for London, in much the same way as other vehicles are licensed with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. They would also have to carry registration plates. Those, in turn, would have allowed enforcement action to be taken against them when they were contravening parking or other moving traffic regulations.

The proposed content of the Bill covered only registration, not licensing—as indeed does this amendment. It would not, therefore, have introduced any controls on the operators or drivers, the state of the vehicles themselves, or have required insurance to be carried. It is hoped that full licensing will eventually be achieved or required if they continue to be the attraction they are currently.

Westminster City Council's evidence shows that there are very good reasons why the issue of registration needs to be dealt with as swiftly as possible. This should not have to wait for the implementation of a future licensing regime. It is not easy to understand why the Opposed Bill Committee was not convinced of the need for registration, but it was not. The problems would appear to have been opposition from the petitioners and the Government, all of whom argued for regulation by another route, and the prospect of regulation by such a route being on the horizon. But it is not clear what that regulation route is, and any future Transport for London Bill could not introduce the powers to issue penalty charge notices for traffic conventions because a Transport for London Bill cannot address issues that are of concern to both Transport for London and to the London local authorities.

Furthermore, if legislation is required for licensing, this cannot be achieved through a London Local Authorities and Transport for London Bill, because licensing is only a concern for Transport for London. So whatever way you look at it, it does not look as though it is going to be possible. That is why registration is needed so desperately. London local authorities and Transport for London cannot issue penalty charge notices for parking and moving traffic offences to pedicabs without it.

Pedicabs pose potentially serious road safety problems in and around the West End. I also remind noble Lords that people are carried in these pedicabs. They therefore need to be safe before people clamber into them. They are also, I understand, becoming increasing costly, although of course registration would not deal with that. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I rise very briefly to support what the noble Baroness has said. I have personally been quite inconvenienced by the said vehicles around Leicester Square station. They are used, certainly late at night, in a pretty reckless fashion.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I too support the amendment. I travelled home recently in a bus going up Oxford Street. It was obstructed several times en route by one of these pedicabs. The bus driver had a lot of very powerful comments to make about it. I strongly support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

My Lords, perhaps I may give a little support from this side—though I do not know how much support. I thought I would do so because I feel that, in the West End and the places that the noble Baroness has described, pedicabs are becoming something of a menace. One aspect that the noble Baroness described was the safety of people who may or may not know what the legal position is, but they may be tourists and not realise the dangers.

I am inherently in favour of competition, and therefore I am perhaps not so impressed by what the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said about taxicabs. I have a feeling sometimes that taxicabs go unduly close to these people because they dislike them and the competition. Can the noble Baroness give one or two facts, maybe from Westminster council, about the numbers involved? Are we talking simply about Westminster or a rather larger area; and do we have any facts about insurance? I imagine there are not any, but I should be glad to know if there are. That sort of thing would help us to determine whether there is a need for this action at this time as distinct from keeping an eye on it.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I cannot support this amendment. It seems to me that this is the ultimate taxi driver's revenge, as my noble friend Lord Borrie has hinted. The only time I have used one of these things was about six years ago when I got married, to come from the register office in Marylebone down to your Lordships' House. It was great fun with my wife. These things may be irritating to other people, but that is not a reason per se for saying that they should be banned or controlled.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said that they sometimes park on the footpaths and they park on carriageways. So do cars, all the time. They get in the way of buses and bus lanes. So do bicycles and motor cycles. They are not allowed in there but they still do. And they block routes of ambulances. Well, so do cars and bicycles. They are at least environmentally friendly. I suspect that there is a problem of insurance as my noble friend has indicated. There does not seem to be much competition in the charges that they charge. But I am not persuaded that that is a good enough reason to try to regulate them. We have not heard from any noble Lord what number of accidents they are reported to have caused, or how many people have been killed, if any, or seriously injured. I tend to agree with my noble friend Lord Borrie: I think that this is the taxi drivers having a jolly good go at getting the competition off the streets.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, in this short debate, we have heard that there are differences of opinion about this issue. The Government's attitude is that we are aware that there is a problem and that there are anxieties, but we think it is premature to act in primary legislation now. The noble Baroness prayed in aid Transport for London as having anxieties. She is right: it is concerned about it. It is examining the whole situation in the round to see what kind of regulation may be necessary. It is exactly the body that should do that.

This is a London issue. To respond to my noble friend Lord Borrie, who asked some pertinent questions of the noble Baroness, pedicabs outside London are subject to license by the licensing authorities, so we are discussing only a London issue. Because of that, Transport for London is the body to examine the position as a whole. We want it to give full consideration to the matter and come up with a scheme that will work. There are problems with the scheme proposed in the amendment. We are by no means convinced that the registration scheme proposed in the amendment would be a proper or comprehensive system of regulation. There is a risk that regulation will be taken by the public as conferring a greater degree of control and safety insurance than may be the case. That is why we need to consider the totality of the position—all the anxieties raised by both my noble friends need to be considered.

The scheme that Transport for London will bring forward will also be directly relevant to the second leg of the concerns underlying the amendment: enforcing traffic and parking offences. Identification and tracking down of offenders is crucial. I recognise that that is a problem with pedicabs at present. Licensing as now proposed in London will provide just that means of identification as part of the wider system of control. Pedicabs are already subject to police control and enforcement in moving traffic offences. I recognise the issue of civil enforcement of offences. The department is considering that closely. We are very willing to hold further meetings with all interested parties, but we want Transport for London to take the lead in introducing a new licensing regime. It is the proper body to be able to tackle the issue in the round.

As I said, we do not need primary legislation for other local authorities, because they are subject to licensing at present. The noble Baroness has raised an important issue on which we want action. It may not need primary legislation and we should leave it with the proper body to emerge with proposals. On that basis, I hope that she will feel that her problem is being addressed and that she can safely withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, is he aware that it raises a most unfortunate parallel with minicabs when he says that outside London all these things are already regulated but in London they are not? It took years before we got regulation of minicabs in London. Why should London, as the capital, be disadvantaged? I am still unclear about what he said about TfL having the power. Does the Minister mean that TfL has the power already or not? I thought that the whole purpose of the amendment was that TfL did not have the power.

I also ask the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, to accept that I never mentioned cabs. I was travelling in a bus—a large double-decker bus. It was the driver of the bus who was complaining.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 4:15 pm, 22nd November 2005

My Lords, we do not know the scheme and the requirements that TfL will propose, therefore we are not in a position to make that judgment. The clause the noble Baroness proposes contains clear imperfections. We are concerned that the issue should be tackled but we respectfully maintain that it is not for Parliament to reach a decision before Transport for London has fully considered all the issues and proposed a scheme. We await the outcome of its deliberations and will assist it with everything that it requires in its proposals.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, once again there is prevarication. It is extraordinary how we manage to lose opportunities on the basis that we can find other legislation in which to bring forward road safety requirements.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, I think that I said that there were 200 pedicabs, but the number is rising by the minute because it is quite easy for an unemployed person, for example, to hire a pedicab, set off and earn some money with it. It will be an increasing attraction with time. I am certain that no insurance is involved. That puts people sitting in the back of a pedicab in some peril if it tips over and they are hurt. At present, in London, it is primarily Westminster City Council that is affected because it has most of the theatres and tourist attractions.

I do not know whether there have been any accidents or injuries. I would much rather that there had not, and I am sure that that is the case. A pedicab is an unusual and innovative way of getting around London. The question is what we do to ensure that they do not cause trouble.

I reiterate to the Minister that there seems a dichotomy between the roles of Transport for London and the London local authorities in this regard. According to my brief, any future Transport for London Bill cannot introduce the powers to issue PCNs for traffic contraventions because such a Bill cannot address issues that are the concerns of both Transport for London and the local authorities. Transport for London can consider it until its head drops off but there does not seem to be legislation by which it can do anything further about it. Furthermore, if legislation is required for licensing—we are talking about registration because licensing appears to involve those difficulties—it cannot be achieved through a London local authorities and Transport for London Bill because licensing is a concern only for Transport for London. That is the conundrum with which we are left in waiting for a licensing system to be introduced.

I hear that the noble Lord will not support my amendment and I will not push it today because I need further information so that at Third Reading we are clear on the answers to some of the questions raised. It would be unfortunate if the Government did not support a registration system, which is on a lower level than licensing and could be implemented in the Bill to provide at least some control over pedicabs at an early stage, before they cause too much trouble.

If the Minister has any further thoughts on my amendment before Third Reading, I would be grateful to hear them. I shall seek further views from Westminster City Council and Transport for London. For today's purposes, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3 [Endorsement: all drivers]:

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 5, I shall speak also to the other three amendments tabled in my name, which concern minor drafting errors and omissions in Schedule 3, to ensure that all relevant legislative references are properly updated to take account of the provisions in the Bill concerning the new system of endorsement. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

moved Amendments Nos. 6 to 8:

Page 80, line 25, leave out "appropriate person" and insert "fixed penalty clerk"

Page 82, line 18, leave out "entry relating to section 99" and insert "entries relating to sections 98A(7) and 99(5)"

Page 83, line 37, leave out "(4)" and insert "(4)(b)"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Photo of The Earl of Dundee The Earl of Dundee Conservative

moved Amendment No. 9:

Before Clause 11, insert the following new clause—

"TARGETED BREATH TESTING

(1) Where a police officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes that—

(a) incidents involving persons driving on a road or other public place while unfit to drive through drink or drugs may take place in any locality in his area, and

(b) it is expedient to do so to prevent their occurrence, he may give an authorisation that the powers to administer preliminary tests conferred by this section shall be exercisable at any place within that locality for a period not exceeding 24 hours.

(2) If it appears to an officer of or above the rank of superintendent that it is expedient to do so, having regard to offences which have, or are reasonably suspected to have, been committed in connection with any activity falling within the authorisation, he may direct that the authorisation shall continue for a further 24 hours.

(3) If an inspector gives an authorisation under subsection (1) he must, as soon as it is practicable to do so, cause an officer of or above the rank of superintendent to be informed.

(4) This section confers on any constable in uniform power to administer a preliminary breath test, a preliminary impairment test or a preliminary drugs test pursuant to the provisions of sections 6A to 6D of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52).

(5) A constable may, in the exercise of those powers, administer any preliminary tests he thinks fit whether or not he has any grounds for suspecting that alcohol or drugs have been consumed.

(6) A person who without reasonable excuse fails to co-operate with a preliminary test in pursuance of a requirement imposed under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale and four penalty points or discretionary disqualification or both.

(7) Any authorisation under this section shall be in writing signed by the officer giving it and shall specify the grounds on which it is given and the locality in which and the period during which the powers conferred by this section are exercisable and a direction under subsection (2) above shall also be given in writing or, where that is not practicable, recorded in writing as soon as it is practicable to do so.

(8) Where a preliminary test is administered by a constable under this section, the driver shall be entitled to obtain a written statement that the test was administered under the powers conferred by this section if he applies for such a statement not later than the end of the period of twelve months from the day on which the test was administered.

(9) In this section—

"vehicle" includes a caravan as defined in section 29(1) of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (c. 62);

"preliminary breath test" means a test as specified in section 6A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52);

"preliminary impairment test" means a test as specified in section 6B of the Road Traffic Act 1988;

"preliminary drugs test" means a test as specified in section 6C of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

(10) The powers conferred by this section are in addition to and not in derogation of any power otherwise conferred."

Photo of The Earl of Dundee The Earl of Dundee Conservative

My Lords, this amendment would allow the police to undertake targeted breath testing for a maximum of 24 hours where an inspector believes that drinking and driving may be taking place. The same amendment was moved in Committee in June when the Minister said that he and the Government were reluctant to accept it. However, since then, two new pieces of information have become available. First, the figures published in Road Casualties Great Britain: 2004 indicate a continuing rise in drink-driving fatalities. In 2004, 590 people died in crashes involving illegal alcohol levels—a rise of 10 people over the previous year, and a level which is higher than that in 1996. The problem of drinking and driving remains a major road safety issue, especially as the number of road deaths fell by 8 per cent between 2003 and 2004. If the Government are not prepared to encourage target breath testing, what other policies and initiatives do they favour?

The second piece of new information is the figures published earlier this year by the Home Office covering breath testing by individual police forces. There are significant variations between police forces in England and Wales in the number of tests carried out per hundred thousand head of population from 390 in Hertfordshire to 3,390 in Derbyshire. While it is wrong to take that figure as the sole criterion for judging a police force's commitment to reducing drinking and driving, nevertheless, the disparities in the figures raise questions about how seriously each force takes action on this issue.

The current legal position already allows discretion to the police officer to ask for a breath test on suspicion, although that applies only to an individual suspect rather than to a collection of people. This amendment would remove that ambiguity and enable police forces to do a better job where targeted breath testing can provide a useful deterrent. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I support the amendment, although I do not think that it goes far enough as I strongly favour random breath testing. Particularly with all the new changes in the alcohol laws, this problem will get worse rather than better.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I support the amendment because it goes just far enough.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I agree completely with the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am in danger of pouring cold water on so far a unanimous House. I admire the ingenuity of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, in the way in which he has constructed his amendment. We had not seen anything like it—or similar to it—until he proposed it on 27 June in Committee. We recognise the skill that has gone into the construction of the amendment and its objectives, which seek to ensure that we make our roads safer by greater control over drinking and driving.

As noble Lords will recognise, there is a wide range of approaches to breath-testing policy. This one gives additional and free-standing powers to the police to establish what might be called campaigns of testing for a limited time and in a limited locality. The safeguard for the law-abiding motorist is that these campaigns must be authorised by a reasonably senior officer, as the noble Earl indicated, and that someone who is required to be tested can request a written statement to explain the circumstances of the test. I see this as a helpful concept in taking public support with us on the question of breath testing. I say that because, despite the assertion of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, she will recognise that the concept of random breath testing does not command universal assent.

Nevertheless, while it was suggested by some that this proposal would not go far enough—although in the case of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, it would go just far enough—for the Government it is a step too far, given the current practice of the police in their enforcement procedures against drink-driving. The police are content with their existing powers in this area and we would not wish to widen them.

Since we last discussed this proposal, we have available further drink-driving statistics which show that while the number of road fatalities where alcohol is a factor has increased, at least the overall number of accidents has gone down from 12,400 in 2003 to 11,220 provisionally for 2004. I am also pleased to report to the House that since the publication of the joint Home Office, Department for Transport and ACPO Roads Policing Strategy, two well-attended conferences have been held on roads policing. The first was held by ACPO in October and the second by the Police Federation just last week. That shows that the police are taking this issue very seriously.

Our short debate today indicates how clearly noble Lords recognise that this is a problem which needs to be tackled. However, I repeat that, first, the police are content with their existing powers; secondly, we discuss regularly how the police enforce the existing law; and, thirdly, we have seen an improvement in one set of statistics. I am not at all complacent about the situation and we all know of the problems in this area. I hope that the noble Earl will accept that his amendment would not add to police efficiency, while at the same time acknowledging that we share his concern about this issue. I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of The Earl of Dundee The Earl of Dundee Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but on the case for targeted breath testing I should reiterate a couple of points. First, we have failed to sustain a proper reduction in drink-driving casualties; and, secondly, all the studies have shown that effective enforcement and the fear of being caught present real deterrents. I hear what the Minister says when he offers encouraging statistics, and I note his assertion that the police are content. Nevertheless, further thought should be given to this matter before Third Reading. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 [Alcohol ignition interlocks]:

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 16, leave out lines 14 to 17 and insert—

"(12) Where an alcohol ignition interlock is fitted to a motor vehicle as part of an approved alcohol ignition interlock programme relating to an offender, a person commits an offence if—

(a) he interferes with the alcohol ignition interlock with intent to cause it not to function or not to function properly, or

(b) he is a person other than the offender and provides or attempts to provide a specimen of breath for the purposes of the alcohol ignition interlock with intent to enable the driving (or continued driving) of the vehicle by the offender."

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 10 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 11 to 13. Clause 13 gives the courts the power in certain circumstances to offer offenders the opportunity to participate, at their own expense, in an "alcohol ignition interlock programme". Where an offender agrees to this, his overall period of disqualification may be reduced.

In Committee the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, questioned what would happen if a person other than the offender provided a specimen of breath to allow the offender to drive the car. I note that he has tabled an amendment to that effect today, which I hope he will withdraw when he has heard my remarks.

My response then and my view now is that the risk of the wrong person giving a breath specimen, or at least of this happening without detection, is low. A strong deterrence factor is that the offender, having committed money to the scheme and having the opportunity to drive again, will not risk throwing it all away. He has everything to lose. Nevertheless, I concede the point made by the noble Earl that a person who provides or attempts to provide a specimen of breath to enable the offender to drive the vehicle should not go unpunished, because it would be a serious interference with the law. We therefore propose to amend the provisions set out in new Section 34D(12) to provide not only that an offence will be committed where a person interferes with the alcohol ignition interlock with intent to cause it not to function or not to function properly, but it will now also be an offence for a person other than the offender to provide or attempt to provide a specimen of breath with intent to enable the offender to drive or continue to drive the vehicle. Government Amendment No. 10 substitutes a new subsection (12) into the proposed new Section 34D of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 to achieve this. Government Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 are consequential amendments arising from Amendment No. 10.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his contribution. I hope that, in view of our constructive response, he will both support our amendments and withdraw his own. I beg to move.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport 4:30 pm, 22nd November 2005

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for accepting my suggestion that there might be a loophole. I shall obviously not move my amendment—the Minister's amendment is much better drafted—but I take it that the Minister intends it to be legal for a sober person to release the alcohol ignition interlock so that a person other than the offender, who may have been drinking but is not necessarily over the limit, may drive the vehicle. That is the effect of the drafting. I suspect it is what the Minister intends because he will have considered the issue very carefully. It is a little peculiar—I do not know why would we want anyone to be able to drive a vehicle when they have been drinking—but if that is what the Minister intends, I am quite content. I am grateful to the Minister for his action.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for that contribution. The intention and the achievement is as I stated when I moved the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

moved Amendments Nos. 12 and 13:

Page 19, line 26, leave out "Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988" and insert "Schedule 1 to that Act (offences to which certain sections apply)—

(a) in paragraph 3, after paragraph (a) insert—

"(aa) an offence under section 34D(12) of this Act,", and.

(b) in paragraph 4, before paragraph (a) insert—

"(za) an offence under section 34D(12) of this Act,".

(4) In Part 1 of Schedule 2 to that Act"

Page 19, line 29, column 2, at end insert "etc."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

moved Amendment No. 14:

After Clause 14, insert the following new clause—

"RETRO-REFLECTIVE MARKINGS

In the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52), after section 80 (approval marks) insert—

"80A RETRO-REFLECTIVE MARKINGS

The Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument require the fitting of retro-reflective tape complying with ECE 104 to international category vehicles N2 and N3 and on goods trailers under the international classification 03 and 04 newly registered in the United Kingdom.""

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, this is a simple, straightforward amendment that would require the fitting of retro-reflective tape on the side of new heavy goods vehicles. The Government acknowledge that they have the power to act in the UK and that research indicates that they should act to introduce such a measure. During the debate in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, said:

"Yes, the powers exist and yes, because of the updated research, we are reconsidering the matter".—[Hansard, 4/7/05; col. 440.]

Yet the Government opposed the proposal at the recent meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and continue to resist action in the UK.

The regulatory impact assessment published as part of the consultation found that,

"There is a cost benefit for fitting line or contour markings to newly registered HGVs greater than 7.5t."

The study by the Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute at Loughborough University, which informed the RIA, found that mandating ECE 104 for HGVs newly-registered in the UK would save lives without putting a disproportionate burden on the industry. At a recent UNECE meeting it was decided to progressively make ECE 104 retro-reflective tape mandatory on the side and rear of HGVs in all UNECE countries. This will apply to all new types of HGVs from 2007, but newly-registered HGVs only from 2011.

However, we understand that the UK was the only country to oppose even this very modest proposal. Indeed, given the UK's excellent reputation for road safety, it is disappointing that it is so out of step with the other countries. Furthermore, the DfT has recently completed a consultation on making ECE 104 retro-reflective tape mandatory on the side and rear of HGVs. The consultation closed on 16 September.

In a House of Commons Written Answer on 18 October, the Government said that the results of the consultation would be published shortly. They have still not been released. We are aware of at least 16 positive responses to the consultation from road safety groups, industry bodies and parliamentarians.

Further evidence points to the benefits of introducing such a measure. A study by the European Commission published in late 2004 found that there was a cost benefit in requiring all new HGVs in the European Union of more than 3.5 tonnes to be fitted with this tape. The Loughborough study, commissioned by the Department for Transport and published in May 2005, found that for the UK:

"There is a cost benefit for fitting [ECE 104 retro-reflective] line markings to newly registered HGVs greater than 7.5t".

All the evidence is in favour of it. The Department of Transport's own study found that mandating ECE 104 would not only save lives but also reduce road safety-related costs. The Government have found that the measure will save lives and is cost-effective, but have continued to drag their feet about it. All arguments against making ECE 104 mandatory on the side and rear of HGVs newly registered in the UK have been countered. It should be made mandatory. The overwhelming majority of vehicles can easily be fitted with this tape. The number of vehicles which cannot is minuscule. The Government should ask the industry to find ways of dealing with that small number.

The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, acknowledged in Committee that the Government have the power to act in the UK, as I said earlier, and the research indicates that they should act. Why do they continue to oppose this proposal? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I hope the Minister may have some good news for us, but, like the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, I have heard the terms "shortly", "early in the new year" and "later in the year" so often that I wonder whether those in the Department for Transport have a calendar or clock, or whether time, for them, is measured in seasons.

On 7 November, three people were killed on the southbound hard shoulder of the M1, when their car drove into the back of a lorry. The head injuries were quite dreadful. That is exactly the sort of accident we could stop. The means of stopping it are easy to envisage and to find, and it could be done very simply. I fully support what the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, has said and I await the Minister's response.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hanningfield for moving his amendment again. In respect of the word "shortly", I was advised that the special types general order would be coming shortly, and that meant 10 years.

I am convinced about the effectiveness of the materials, but I have two concerns. First, I am not convinced that a competitive market exists for this material. Perhaps the Minister has done some work on this and can tell us whether he believes there is a competitive market for it.

Secondly, I believe that older vehicles are slightly more prone to involvement in side impact accidents, which are very serious. So if we go down this route, the material ought to be applied to all vehicles after a period of, say, four years, rather than just new vehicles. Heavy goods vehicle trailers, for example, can have quite long lives of 10 or 15 years. If it is a good idea, the material should be applied to all heavy goods vehicles after a few years.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, is correct that it should be applied to all vehicles, but I get the impression that in this case perfection may be the enemy of the good, and it would be better to start with the amendment. This is a no-brainer. Of course the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association will oppose it. They would, wouldn't they? In the same way, the road safety organisations will support it. We need to think about the effect and the cost.

How long are we going to wait and how many more people are going to be killed in the way illustrated by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, before we get on and do this? Apparently, the powers exist. Let us get on and do it. I cannot understand how we can oppose this in a European forum. I hope that the Minister has brought the good news that we are going to go ahead tomorrow.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, asked whether there is a competitive market for these fittings. If they benefit road safety and reduce the number of people killed and injured on the road, that is totally irrelevant. It is the lives of the people who might be injured that one has to take into account.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, drew attention to a fatal crash on the M1, where a car went into the back of an HGV. That could have been a car going into the back of a car, which would have resulted in exactly the same thing; that is, people being killed. Why is this regulation not being applied to all vehicles? I refer to the amendment in Committee. I still think that it should be applied to all vehicles. I give the example of going round a corner and meeting side on a vehicle that has crashed into it. You would not see it in darkness or you might not have sufficient time to brake. You might crash; you might kill yourself. The regulation should be applied to all vehicles.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, a competitive market is important because one manufacturer is advising us to go down this route. We were caught out in the past with spray suppression equipment for heavy goods vehicles. One manufacturer managed to get Parliament to agree to fit spray suppression equipment. It was quite expensive; the whole fleet was fitted with it; and we subsequently realised that we did not need it. So it is an important point.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, you can already see vehicles which have been fitted with reflective tape on the roads now. You can see that it works.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am glad that noble Lords expect me to be the harbinger of good news. I am always a harbinger of good news because I bring the Government's view on these complex issues. I begin by apologising for the absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, who replied to this debate on the previous occasion. She is unfortunately ill with food poisoning, so noble Lords will have to put up with my answer today.

As we indicated then, this amendment is unnecessary because powers to regulate the use of the material in question already exist. The issue with which we are faced is that Europe is concerned to provide a whole series of regulations for all types of heavy goods vehicles. Compliance with these regulations will become mandatory in the UK through the forthcoming introduction of a European system of,

"whole vehicle type approval for new goods vehicles and their trailers".

This approval system, which will provide a regulatory framework against which vehicles can be assessed, is being developed by the European Commission and member states.

As I have indicated, UK regulations already permit the use of ECE 104 tape. If we began work now to change UK regulations to mandate the tape, there would be only a short period before the introduction of the amended regulations and that of the European approval system. We do not consider the cost and time that would be needed to make these changes separately to be justified, given the small benefit which would be achieved by a slightly earlier introduction. I am not underestimating the importance of the concept for road safety, but we are talking about a very limited period between our capacity to introduce the limited powers that we have and the whole vehicle position which the European Union is developing.

The introduction date for that has still to be agreed, but it will be mandatory for all new goods vehicles and their trailers. Therefore, the House will recognise that we do not see that we would derive benefit from acting on powers which already exist in legislation. But in any case the amendment is unnecessary, because we enjoy those powers at present. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise the strength of that argument.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, does the Minister agree that his argument would have more force if he told us when the new regulations would come into force?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, the answer is, "not just yet". But let me just make the obvious point—nor would any regulations that we proposed within our own powers. All that I am indicating is that the gap is marginal between achieving what we could create, operating unilaterally, and complying as we shall be obliged to with the European requirements. That is the why I am resisting the amendment.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. We have had an interesting debate. This is a road safety Bill, and we on these Benches are interested in implementing as soon as possible real measures that save lives. Some things that we have discussed might help—but then there are others that have been proven to save lives, and this is one of them. All the evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, such as accidents on the M1, suggests that these strips could save lives—and we can all cite incidents of that kind. The Minister referred to a whole tranche of European regulations; there may be some that we decide not to implement or that we delay implementation on over time. In this amendment, I am proposing 2007. That still gives two years for the industry to prepare, and it is a date that would be effective. If the European legislation arrives too fast, it would give us time to tie in with that European legislation. I should like to test the opinion of the House on whether we should introduce these tapes in 2007.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 14) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 163; Not-Contents, 146.

Division number 3 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Road Safety Bill [HL]

Aye: 161 Members of the House of Lords

No: 144 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.