At the risk of sounding repetitive, the issue is better dealt with in guidance. I agree with many of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East and the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire. We have no interest in preventing utility works that benefit individuals, businesses and the whole economy, and local
authorities will be well aware of the importance of utility services to their communities.
Duties relating to network management must be considered in the context of existing legislation. Utility companies already have a statutory right to carry out work to install or maintain apparatus. The duty placed on highway authorities in part 2 of the Bill will not interfere with that; the network management duty deals more with co-ordination and the way that works are carried out.
As I said in the little note given on guidance, good practice and advice on techniques and approaches to network management will cover, among other things, the co-ordination and direction of utility street works and authorities' own works. That broadly covers the time issues that the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire raised. When drafting secondary legislation and guidance to underpin the permit scheme, we will try to ensure that highway authorities take into account the disruption that may be caused by their works. We will also ensure that they do not discriminate unfairly against utility works.
A small tetchy point about amendment No. 135 is that it does not specify with whom the ''reasonable period'' is to be agreed. One must assume that the traffic manager will have to agree with himself the time frame for carrying out the work for the authority that employs him.
The wider point made by the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire on amendment No. 135 is fair. It was also made by my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East. I assure them that, as indicated in the little aide-mémoire on statutory instruments and guidance in relation to part 2, we will take account of the points in guidance.
I personally cannot foresee how the highway authority could reach a position in which it was co-ordinating and directing street works in general in its area and fulfilling its statutory network management duty in clause 16 without the system suggested by the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire, which involves start and end dates, timing and getting on with works when they are ready to be done, rather than coning areas off, as we have all seen in the past. I cannot see how anything else could happen without contravening the network management duty.
With the assurance that those matters will be dealt with in guidance and as anticipated by the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire and my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East, I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw the amendment.