Clause 1 - Road safety grants

Part of Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 21st March 2006.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport 11:15 am, 21st March 2006

I do not know of the initiative to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, and I would be worried if my Department were applying pressure so specifically. He may want to drop me a line about the project and I shall certainly look into it.

We do not intend the clause to be used to allow any form of road engineering. Were we to do that with a one-off grant to a particular local authority, I have no doubt that all the other local authorities would plough in and say, “We want some, too.” That would then begin to bring into disrepute the local transport plan programme and all the other mechanisms that are in place to distribute road engineering funding fairly.

Having said that that is not what we intend, one might ask whether the clause could be used to remove a road or a piece of engineering work in the future. I will ask my lawyers to reflect on that, but my interpretation of the clause is such that if it could be argued that the measure in question was entirely a road safety measure and that that was the only rationale for it, the provision could legally be used for that purpose. I will write to the right hon. Gentleman and tell him whether the lawyers confirm that that is the case, but we certainly do not intend the clause to be used in that way.

Perhaps I may take the Committee back to where we started. Back in 1988, the then Government had what I thought was a very good idea: they wanted to encourage demonstration projects to be carried out by the most appropriate voluntary organisations or other expert groups, so they drew up a measure to enable them to provide those groups with money. Clearly, the groups would not be the sort that would carry out   engineering works on our roads; they would engage with local communities, teaching kids how to get to school more safely, helping cyclists and motorcyclists, and carrying out similar projects. However, the 1988 Government did not intend to prevent themselves and future Governments from giving money for the same purposes to local authorities.

We want the clause to enable us to use local authorities to carry out demonstration projects in the same way as the 1988 Government intended to use voluntary organisations and others. That is how we want to use the clause, although on first reading it might appear that, if they wanted to, the Government could use the money in the way that the right hon. Gentleman suggests. However, as I said, I shall write to him on the matter.