''The appropriate national authority may, at the request of any person, agree to arrange for the services of a traffic officer to be provided . . . subject to the payment of a charge.''
I think that the clause envisages dealing with the organisers of special events, such as the recent Robbie Williams concert at Knebworth, after which those who had been to hear the singer perform found themselves stuck in traffic for five or six hours while seeking to leave the area. Clearly, chaos resulted from that pop concert.
However, if, under the clause, a responsible organiser, realising that the tickets are selling like hot cakes and that many people are likely to arrive in vehicles, alerts the local police, what does he get for his pains? He gets a bill for the services of the traffic officers who come along to manage the traffic.
Conversely, the fly-by-night concert promoter who plans a one-off event in an area decides not to bother because he knows that a bill may follow if he requests the assistance of traffic officers. He goes ahead with his concert without any assistance, and his profits are bigger because he does not have to pay the fee, even
though the chaos and disruption to members of the public and those attending the event is far greater.
There is injustice in that, and the clause may also break a principle in asking a private person to pay for the services provided by a police officer or someone acting in that role—a traffic officer, for example—on the highway.
The wording of the clause is strange:
''The appropriate national authority may, at the request of any person, agree to arrange for the services of a traffic officer to be provided to that person''.
Those, and not ''to be provided on the highway'' are the words, so what does the Minister envisage? If a promoter is having an event that requires traffic management on the highway and in the margins of the car park on private land, will traffic officers manage the traffic on both the highway and the land hired by the promoter? It could be inferred from the clause that the traffic officer could discharge his duties on private land as well as the highway, so will the Minister clarify the situation? If that is not the intention, why does the clause not refer merely to the traffic officer being provided to manage traffic on the public highway?
The simple answer is that the services supplied to the person for a special event such as a concert would be provided to them as the event organiser. Traffic officers would operate as the police do now—the police may also charge for a special event—and would be involved only on the highway
and in matters relating to the throughput of traffic on the highway.
The clause should be welcomed as it benefits the organisers of large events, who have no commercial interest in chaos outside their events because people will either turn away or not come back the next time. It is in their commercial interest to ensure that roads are clear and that traffic flows properly. The clause provides for negotiation and for traffic officers to make a charge for the services that they provide on the motorway or trunk road network.
Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 4.