Clause 48 - Qualifications of supervisors and operatives

Traffic Management Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 3rd February 2004.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To what extent has the clause been the subject of discussion between local authorities and the

utilities? It appears that there is not much reciprocity. All the burden is on the utilities—the statutory undertakers—to identify people who are named and suitably qualified. However, we all know from our experience that often one of the problems when dealing with local authorities is finding somebody at his desk, by his telephone or at his laptop who is prepared to accept responsibility for answering a question. Even if one discovers the identity of that person, it is often quite difficult to get them to phone back. When he makes the regulations, perhaps the Minister will give regard to the need for reciprocity in the exchanges of names and addresses.

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

In the wider context of the Bill, that is something that can be considered. However, all the clause does is to build on what section 67 of the principal Act says about the qualifications of supervisors and operatives. Of course there is no reciprocity, because the clause refers to the supervisors and operatives of the undertakers. The hon. Gentleman's point concerns the wider Bill rather than the clause. We think that section 67, which the clause amends, is not as tight as it should be on the qualifications of supervisors and operatives. The hon. Gentleman's comments are entirely inappropriate, but may have some relevance in the wider context.

I do not like the language and I find it terribly unhelpful. We should not talk about reciprocity as though we face a them-against-us situation or a conflict, where everything that the local authority does or seeks to do is an imposition on the utilities, which are constantly trying to break free from the yoke of oppression imposed by local authorities. That is fatuous nonsense that we do not need to discuss now, or indeed in connection with anything in the Bill, which starts from the premise of broad support across all parties and is not partisan. The ideological haze in which the hon. Gentleman sometimes conducts himself is terribly unhelpful.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.