My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Kinnoull.)
My Lords, before we decide whether this Bill should be read a third time this afternoon, I feel that the attention of the House should be called to what happened last week. On Wednesday of last week the Bill was on the Order Paper for Third Reading on Friday. On Thursday, the day before it was due to be debated, it was discovered that it had been postponed until today. I say "it was discovered" because there was no discussion, so far as I am aware, with the noble Lords who had been interested in the Bill. There was not even any advance intimation to noble Lords who were interested. I am quite sure that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, had no intention of being disrespectful to your Lordships but I think that we are entitled to know why this change was made.
Your Lordships will recollect that on Friday our business was finished at about a quarter past 12 so there was plenty of time. All noble Lords concerned with this Bill had already made arrangements to be here on Friday. May I also remind your Lordships that at the Committee stage the noble Earl, Lord Avon, in speaking for the Government, called attention to the fact that if any amendment were adopted the Bill might be lost.
This is a ploy to which we are unfortunately well accustomed as we approach the end of any session. We always resent it—and rightly resent it—unless the Bill is one of transparent urgency. I submit that this Bill is not in that class. I will return to that point in a few minutes, but before doing so may I refer your Lordships to the Second Reading debate, which took place on 23rd July. The noble Viscount, Lord Long, was speaking for the Government on that occasion. He intervened in the debate in which a number of points of detail had been raised. May I read what he said? Your Lordships will find this in column 477 of Hansard. The noble Viscount said:
"I might remind your Lordships that we are a revising Chamber. I hope that this Bill is accepted for Second Reading and that it will go on to Committee stage as does any other Bill that comes before us. I hope that the suspicions may now disappear and that we shall be able to do our work without having to worry about what had gone on previously. In other words, we must 'do the corrections'".
A little further on (at col. 479 of Hansard) the noble Viscount, again referring to something that had been said by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said:
"Obviously your Lordships in Committee will consider these problems. These matters will need further debate and there is no better time than in Committee".
There is no suggestion there that it would be impossible to accept any amendments, and I venture to suggest that if that had been stated at the time, possibly the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, would have sought to divide the House again at Second Reading as he confessed he was tempted to do. If we had realised that no amendments were going to be considered, we could have taken a very different view about the Bill as a whole.
In any case, does this argument about time really hold water? It is not for us to criticise procedure in another place or indeed to understand it. I would hate to think that if the other place really wanted a Bill like this before the end of the session they could not find time to deal with one or two amendments—or perhaps I should say could not have found time if we had passed the Bill with these amendments on Friday. I admit that the loss of these three days makes a difference at this stage of the session, though I am sure that that cannot have been in anybody's mind when the Third Reading was postponed. I hope not, anyway. I am told that the other place finished their business yesterday at a quite unusually early hour, and I really cannot accept the view that it would have been impossible to find time for this Bill if indeed we had passed some amendments on Friday.
A few minutes ago I said that I did not consider this Bill urgent. May I explain my reason for saying that? As I understand it, the Government have not completed discussions with all the interested parties on the nature of the regulations to be made under the Bill and that is why we can in fact get from the Government very little information as to what the regulations are going to contain. When the discussions are completed the regulations will have to be drafted.
I suggest therefore that, even if the Bill were to be passed today, it would be some time—several months—before the first hump could be raised. Why not therefore let this Bill die and let the Government introduce into the next session a better thought-out Bill? While that Bill is going through this House—and I am suggesting introducing it into this House—discussions can continue. I hope that before the Bill reaches it final stages here the Government will be able to tell us that the discussions are complete, and I hope everything is agreed. Then the Bill can go forward to another place as an agreed measure. I see no reason on earth why it should not pass into law by Easter. Then the first hump can be raised little, if at all, later than the date on which it could be raised if this Bill is passed today.
One final word. If this Bill was to be defeated or, better still, if the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, decided to withdraw it, we would express to him great sympathy. I had the privilege once of piloting a Private Members' Bill through your Lordships' House. I know how much work is involved even when one gets support from the relevant department of Government. If he were to take that course I firmly believe that we would get a better Bill, and that, after all, is the object which the noble Earl and all of us have in common. I will of course listen to what noble Lords have to say, but my present inclination is to vote against the Third Reading of this Bill. I hope that noble Lords from all parts of the House might feel inclined to do the same.
My Lords, may I echo briefly the concern expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon? It will be recalled that at the Committee stage I inquired about the passage of this Bill, assuming that your Lordships decided to pass the Bill with amendments, because while it is not an epoch-making Bill, we thought that it would be useful for this Bill to pass. I asked, if the Bill were amended, whether there would still be opportunities for it to pass through the other place or whether that would make the situation very difficult. I also asked whether, if it were passed without amendment, we would have assurances from the Government that the regulations would be satisfactory and the consultations satis- factory to meet some of the points made in the amendments. I had tabled five amendments, at least two of which believe would have greatly improved the Bill regarding its administration.It was with some surprise that I found that the Bill was not due to be considered on Friday as originally arranged. I must ask the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and also the Minister, for an explanation. If it means that this House has lost two or three days when amendments could have been made, and they could have been raised in the other place, then I should have thought, putting it colloquially—and I will not say that I was deceived—that I was given the wrong impression regarding my opportunity to put my amendments which I withdrew in order to get this Bill through at Committee stage. If this Bill could have been improved, there is not the slightest doubt that many of your Lordships would have considered some of the improvements. I withdrew my amendments only because of the definite statement of the Minister, and also because of the assurances given that there would be adequate consultations before the regulations were prepared. I should like some assurance from the Minister that if we had not lost these three days there would still have been no opportunity for the amendments to be submitted to the other place.
My Lords, first may I say straight away that—
My Lords, may we hear from the Minister?—because before the noble Earl replies to his Motion I should like to say something, but I thought that perhaps the Minister was going to intervene. If the Minister is not going to intervene, may I say that something has happened here that is almost beyond my comprehension. I would not dare to change the business of the House of Lords without consulting the people and the noble Lords whom I knew to be deeply concerned in the business. I have spoken to most of the noble Lords who have taken part in the earlier stages of this Bill, and have not found anybody who was consulted about moving the Third Reading from last Friday until today. Was nobody consulted? Was the Minister consulted? Perhaps we shall be told. I simply would not expect to get any further support for a measure which I brought before the House in this manner without any consultation with the people concerned.We are dealing here not only with the rights of this House to amend Bills and to be a revising Chamber but also with the constitutional duty of this House. This House has a constitutional duty to revise the Bills that come from another place. Early last week it was public knowledge—it was on our Minutes—that Friday would be the day for the Third Reading of this Bill. Nobody is going to tell me that that did not give another place the opportunity to make provision this week, if another place chose, for considering Lords amendments which were expected last Friday to be made to this Bill. I have been told that special rules apply to Private Members' Bills, but here we are dealing with a Bill which has passed through another place and which was introduced into your Lordships' House with Government support. I cannot believe that any special rules applying to Private Members' Bills apply to a Bill like this in this instance. I really do not think that we ought to give this Bill a Third Reading.
My Lords, I very much hope that your Lordships will give the Bill a Third Reading. First, I should like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, for what must have seemed to be, and probably was, bad manners on Thursday afternoon. I understand that we did think that the noble Lords concerned with this Bill had been consulted about the change of time from last Friday until today, and it was actually only when the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, himself told me on Thursday afternoon that I was aware of the change. Can I assure your Lordships in all sections of the House—
My Lords, may I ask by whom the noble Lord understood that people were consulted?
My Lords, I think the answer to that, in deference to my noble friend on my left, is the usual channels. The usual channels informed me that my noble friend Lord Kinnoull was going to be in touch with other noble Lords.May I now say equally categorically that if we had had this Third Reading at an early hour after lunch on Friday it would have made no difference because the other place, like ourselves, does not plan the business for the forthcoming week until the previous Thursday; so it would have been in two days' time anyway that they would be taking the Third Reading of this Bill into consideration. I should like also to come back to something which I said at Second Reading, and I said it very carefully at col. 1672:
That is what I said then and I am afraid it is still true now. I cannot, until the nature of the amendments have been considered, guarantee that the Bill will be given further consideration in another place. That is not to say that it need not be, but I cannot guarantee that it will be. We have spoken about the question of urgency. This is not an urgent Bill. There is no great hurry about it, but the Government would like to get it on to the statute book as soon as possible. We are not trying to rush your Lordships and what we would like to do, if this Bill should become an Act, is to go on and make some regulations which would be very much in accordance with the wishes expressed by your Lordships at the Report stage and at the Committee stage, as we have debated them. We discussed, for instance, the 30 miles speed limit and restrictions. I have had consultations today with my honourable friend from another place in the Department of Transport, and it has been undertaken that in the first regulations the road humps will be all in restricted areas of 30 miles an hour or under. I am happy to give your Lordships that assurance today. The other thing I should like to point out on this matter, before I ask your Lordships to support the Third Reading, is that we have been saying: "We have been rushed; we have not had time to discuss amendments". We have in fact discussed quite a lot of amendments and not only have we done that but we have also voted on quite a number of them. When it is said that your Lordships' House is a forum for discussion, we have discussed and we have voted. I do not see why your Lordships should feel that you have been badly treated to this degree."I cannot at present give any guarantee that time will be made available for consideration of any amendments passed by the Committee today".—[Official Report, 20/10/80.]
My Lords, I think the difficulty about voting on amendments is to have hanging over your head the knowledge that if you vote for an amendment you are voting to lose the Bill. I think that certainly influenced the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and possibly others of his noble friends.
My Lords, I take the noble Viscount's point, but while debating these amendments we have been trying to break them down. I think the noble Viscount would agree that with regard to the larger number we have said, "We think these are for regulations: we have taken on board the points made and will make regulations about them". I have given an undertaking on the 30 mile an hour limit, which was one of the major points in the previous debates. There are one or two amendments—I do not want to anticipate the debate because I know that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has two amendments down for consideration later—which we think are already incorporated or are in the wrong place or are not quite right; so I do not think there is any amendment which fundamentally the House would have carried. However, the House may have to call me wrong and vote on one of the next four amendments.
My Lords, since the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has joined my name with his opening adress, it would seem appropriate that I should speak now. I can assure your Lordships that I was not consulted at all—perhaps there is no reason why I particularly should have been consulted—with regard to the change of date from Friday to this afternoon. I was, however, informed by my noble friend Lord Avon that the date had been changed. That was while passing through the Division Lobbies late on Thursday. On the other hand, when there was a move earlier last month to change the Committee stage by a couple of days, there were consultations, and I expressed the view to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull that I was not willing to accept the change. But it was my understanding that my noble friend the Chief Whip was not able to find another date for that Committee stage, and that in no way would it be altered. It was a matter of some urgency, it had to be slotted into the time previously allotted and no change could be made. I find this whole procedure indicative of the manner in which this Bill has proceeded.I hope that neither of my noble friends Lord Avon and Lord Kinnoull will take offence, if I say that, in the few years that I have been in your Lordships' House, a Private Member's Bill has never had so much primary attention from a Minister on the Front Bench. It appears to me that it has moved from being a Private Member's Bill to being a Government-sponsored Bill with private members' support. Obviously, the Minute would suggest otherwise. Nevertheless, we have been, as it were, bamboozled a little during the passage of this Bill. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, referred to the questions that were raised on Second Reading, when we were sitting in the Royal Gallery, which was rather a difficult time. Perhaps it was at that time that those of us who oppose so much that is in the Bill should have taken more positive steps. My noble friend Lord Avon told us that he said those things at Second Reading, in column 1672 of Hansard, but, in fact, he said them right at the beginning of the Committee stage. That inhibited almost every action on some 23 amendments—bar three—which were put down from both sides of the House. There were Divisions on three of those amendments, but it was certainly under that inhibition that the Bill must go through unamended or it might well be lost. We have arrived at a somewhat crucial stage this afternoon, where the Minister has given us a categorical assurance that humps will not be constructed in roads which do not have a 30 mph speed limit. We discussed this point at Committee stage on an amendment of mine, which was rather loosely worded. We discussed it again at Report, on an amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. That assurance, which has been given at this late hour, is indicative to me of the manner in which this Bill is being pursued. There is no doubt in my mind that some matters which have been discussed may well be taken on board in regulations, but there are other matters which would be far better contained within the Bill itself. The Bill, as it stands, is far too wide open; indeed, it includes this business of depressions which we have talked about time and time again. It has been said that there is no intention of constructing depressions and the Minister told us—admittedly, out of his brief—and it is in Hansard, that, so far as he is concerned, depresssions are a dead duck. But we are not allowed to remove this part of the Title or the enabling part of the Bill. Therefore, it is wrong that, because of this threat, we cannot get this Bill into a tidier form which would meet the perfectly legitimate objections of those who are opposed to some clauses, though not perhaps to the principle. I should very much like to have had the department consult those interested parties—and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull said that there were 75 of them—before we debated a tighter Bill. That would be the time for all the interested parties to make their views known to your Lordships, and, indeed, to Members of another place, so that a more informed debate could take place and the Bill could go forward. I should much prefer my noble friend Lord Kinnoull to withdraw the Bill at this stage. Discussions could then take place—because the subject has been very well aired—and a more acceptable Bill could come before your Lordships' House after the Christmas Recess, and I am sure it would have a very much easier passage. For those reasons, I am very much inclined to support the noble Viscount, Lord Simon.
My Lords, as one who took a small part on this Bill in very difficult circumstances in the Royal Gallery and who was not informed at all though I specially stayed overnight in London last Friday in order to take part, I should like to support all that was said earlier by noble Lords. I shall not say what I should have liked to say in a bigger debate, but I want to make the point that, as drafted, this Bill is defective in very many ways. It leaves so very much to the Minister and to regulations that he might make, that I could certainly never support it. But I should like to know why, as the Minister said, the Bill could not go through the other place if we passed any amendments. I have been a Member of your Lordships' House for nearly 10 years, and I do not think I have ever before heard any Minister say that if we carried any amendments a Bill would not go through another place. I shall be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say.
My Lords, may I ask a question on procedure? I came here to discuss amendments on Third Reading put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, because I feel that I have a contribution to make. But am I not right in saying that some of this discussion is related to the Motion, That the Bill do now pass, and that we might discuss the amendments and then get on with the question of whether or not we want the Bill to pass?
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrier for coming in at that point. But I think, perhaps, as the business managers in this House have been mentioned, that I should say a few words to the House on what has happened. It always is a very difficult matter when Private Members' Bills from another place come up to your Lordships' House so late in the day. I remember times—and I am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, remembers times—when it has been suggested to your Lordships' House that to amend a Private Member's Bill might kill it. I have never known that suggestion to be well received in your Lordships' House, and I quite understand why—
My Lords, this Bill did not arrive here late. We had the Second Reading in July.
My Lords, I understand that both this Bill and the other one which accompanied it were passed on the last Private Members' Day in another place. Therefore, it arrived at the latest time that a Private Member's Bill possibly could arrive. This has happened on previous occasions, and I freely admit that those of your Lordships who supported the Bill, but perhaps thought that it could be put in a slightly better form, have had the very disagreeable knowledge that to put it in slightly better form might impede its progress. Your Lordships are well aware that there are many Private Members' Bills in the time of many Governments which are very much supported by those Governments, and this is such a one. The fact of the matter is that if the Bill had been taken on Friday, I am assured that they would have been in no better position in another place than by our taking the Third Reading today. The loss of those two sitting days in this House would not, I am assured, have made any difference to the availability of time in another place.My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth said that somehow this Bill had undergone a miraculous change from a Private Member's Bill with Government support to a Government Bill with private Members' support. I am not quite sure whether this really has happened. I think I can assure my noble friend that it is the same animal as it was before. My noble friend also said that your Lordships were inhibited from amending the Bill because of lack of time. I seem to remember that on three separate occasions my noble friend sought to amend the Bill, so this is possibly an accusation that cannot be justified.
My Lords, there is not the slightest doubt that quite a number of noble Lords went through the Division Lobbies against the amendment because of the statements made about the possible passage of the Bill in the other place.
My Lords, that of course could be true. Did the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, wish to say a word?
My Lords, I wanted only to ask the noble Lord why the other place might not have sat last night as late as your Lordships' House did, to deal with the amendments.
My Lords, many of your Lordships have been in another place, which I have not, so probably know better than I the procedures for Private Members' Bills there. However, I understand that Private Members' time is very definitely limited by custom—am I not right? Perhaps other noble Lords know better about that than I.The point I want to make is that many of your Lordships who are interested in the Bill obviously feel that they have been treated discourteously. Nobody could be sorrier about that than I, and I am sure my noble friend Lord Kinnoull will echo this sentiment. Whose job it was to inform noble Lords, I will not go into here. It is a Private Member's Bill, but it has Government support. For my part, I should like to apologise most profusely to noble Lords who feel that they have been treated discourteously. I hope your Lordships will now give the Bill a Third Reading and subsequently discuss the amendments which have been put down to be taken after that Third Reading.
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I say that if we give the Bill a Third Reading I have the feeling that if we then accept any of the amendments the Bill will be lost. We have here a Bill which some noble Lords think is bad, while other noble Lords think it is good. In this House we are being virtually told, whether we like it or not, "Pass this Bill. Do not amend it, or it is lost". I can well remember being told precisely the same thing about a horrible Bill called the Breeding of Dogs Bill and, like a twit, I accepted what I was told. That Bill should have been lost. If noble Lords in this House feel that this Bill should be lost, then they must amend it or reject it.
My Lords, I think the answer is that if your Lordships feel strongly that the Bill should be amended, the way to express that strength of feeling is when the various amendments come up, not at Third Reading. So I think it would be better to give the Bill a Third Reading and then to discuss the amendments. Of course your Lordships are free to divide on those amendments and if your Lordships so wish, to pass those amendments into the Bill. I cannot give any guarantee as to what the effect of that would be, but it would be infinitely better to do that than to throw out the Bill at Third Reading in protest.
My Lords, do we not then divide on, That the Bill do now pass?
My Lords, that is of course another option which is open to your Lordships, but to divide against the Motion, That the Bill do now pass?, is a rare occurrence.
After amendment, my Lords.
My Lords, I suggest that your Lordships are wasting a great deal of very valuable time. The noble Lord the Chief Whip was quite right when he said that there can be no guarantee as to what another place will do with legislation which your Lordships have considered, have amended and sent back for their consideration. On the other hand, some of us in this House who have been concerned with the machinery between the two Houses know that things can be done if it is possible for them to be done. I do not know whether that is so, but I believe that if things can be done the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will find ways to see that your Lordships' views are understood, considered and acted upon by another place.I suggest that we are wasting our time. The question is whether the Bill should be given a Third Reading and the amendments considered. Whether it is a Government Bill, or a Private Member's Bill, or something which is a bit of each is utterly immaterial. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, was in a sense a little misleading when he suggested that Private Members' time is limited in another place. Of course it is, but once a Private Member's Bill comes here it becomes a Public Bill. One would expect that the machinery of business in another place would treat all Bills in a reasonable way, on the basis that your Lordships' House has taken a view. Therefore, I say that your Lordships ought to proceed and then look to the Chief Whip and those who are responsible for Government management to see that the Bill, as passed by your Lordships' House, give or take, has a chance of being considered by another place. It would be quite wrong, having spent so much time upon this Bill during its other stages, to vote against its Third Reading. Let us proceed now, consider the amendments and then chase the Chief Whip later on if it is not dealt with in another place.
My Lords, I hope that it will not be considered to be a waste of time if briefly I interrupt the discussion on Third Reading. This is a Private Member's Bill. I accept entire responsibility. It is wholly unfair to blame the Government, or my noble friend, or the Chief Whip. The decision to delay the Third Reading from last Friday until today was taken entirely by myself. In fact, it was taken last Wednesday evening. I very much regret any discourtesy or inconvenience that has been shown inadvertently. I saw the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, and my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth on Thursday evening and we discussed the matter generally then.I took the decision for an entirely different purpose from that which has been portrayed. I took the decision because I felt that it was more convenient to hold a Third Reading of this Bill, which has already shown a certain contentiousness, on a normal working day. Fridays are not popular days. Even though it was an early day last Friday, it could well not have been. The House considered then the Civil Aviation Bill, which again was contentious. We had had a heavy week, with late nights. Because of the attendance now, I think I have proved my point, for every Member who wished to be here is present. I did not expect or anticipate a substantial Third Reading debate. In fact, if noble Lords will look at the Companion to the Standing Orders they will see that it is not normally the custom to put down amendments which have already been discussed on a previous occasion. Yet one finds that this has been done today. I do not know whether that is discourtesy to the House. It could be regarded as a wrecking mechanism. I give to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, to my noble friend and to everybody else who has taken such an interest in the Bill two assurances. I have spoken to my honourable friend who piloted the Bill through another place. First, in his view he had adequate consultations before the Bill was published. He advised all the appropriate bodies and sought their views on the Bill. But one has to remember that this Bill has arisen from five years of experimental work following a report and it is only a small enabling Bill. Secondly, he advised me that from his Whip's Office the advice he had received was that the Bill would be unlikely to have time found for it if the amendment were made. But I am not convinced by that argument, either. I personally would have withdrawn the Bill if I had thought that a substantial amendment was needed; that would have been the right and proper course. But I did not withdraw it. As my noble friend has said, amendments have been pressed, the House has decided on the issues so far and I hope we can now go forward to a Third Reading and the following amendments.
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down I think possibly I ought to put right one thing, as a matter of procedure. There is nothing improper in putting down amendments on Third Reading which have been discussed and then withdrawn at an earlier stage, and I understand that this applies to the amendments put down today. The only thing that would be contrary to the Standing Orders and to the Companion—which gives in more detail the customs of your Lordships' House—would be to put down amendments on Third Reading on which the House has expressed a decision at an earlier stage. I thought it right to put that point to the House because this is sometimes rather a delicate issue.
On Question. Bill read 3a .
Clause 3 [ Requirements as to the construction of road humps]:
moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 3, line 17, at end insert—
(" ( ) Regulations so made may require or permit highway authorities to obtain or receive financial contributions from the owners or occupants of properties adjacent to roads where road humps are to be constructed in order to reduce the expenditure to be incurred by highway authorities for such purposes.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is similar to one which was tabled at an earlier stage but in fact was not moved, and it follows upon the questions raised with regard to expense. Until a few minutes ago it might have been assumed that road humps could be constructed on any kind of road under any kind of circumstance, but, following the absolute assurance given by my noble friend Lord Avon, that the regulations will contain restrictions as to the building of humps, it now appears that these will only be built in areas where a 30 mile an hour speed limit is to be operative.
Or less, my Lords.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend. It will be 30 miles an hour or less, which of course brings the hump into roadways which are most probably in residential and urban areas. It follows, I think quite reasonably, that it will be for the local authority—the highway authority—to determine where the hump would best serve its purpose. But it also follows that residents or the owners and occupiers of properties in areas which they consider to be dangerous or requiring deterrents other than the speed limit, may press for humps to be constructed. It has always been my contention that a lot of people may very well desire traffic to go down somebody else's street and so make this kind of representation.It seems to me that under present economic circumstances the highway authority will be hard pressed, first, to do any building at all and, secondly, to meet what are probably legitimate requests. So if the highway authority were empowered to make charges for the service that they are going to provide in those areas that would not be unreasonable. The amendment does not say that they have to; it merely allows them to seek contributions from those people who request, for particular and good reasons, that humps should be constructed. That there may be a net saving to the nation, as it were, by a reduction in accidents does not of course reduce the financial expenditure of the highway authority because there is no (as it were) credit back. It would also have the advantage, I believe, of making people—groups perhaps—who are pressing for a hump construction to think very carefully as to whether it is worth while in the eventuality of their having to make some kind of contribution. Perhaps when he responds to this amendment my noble friend Lord Kinnoull will give us some further indication as to the costs which might devolve upon a highway authority for the construction of a particular stretch of humped road. When we discussed this matter at the last stage I asked a specific question with regard to the costs. I did not get an answer and in fact it was the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who asked whether I had a particular question in mind and I repeated that question (it is in Hansard):" How much is all this going to cost and where will the money come from?" Perhaps in the context of this amendment he will care to give me a reply to that question also. I beg to move.
My Lords, perhaps I may come in here on this amendment generally because I think perhaps I can satisfy my noble friend Lord Lucas by saying that I think that, under Section 60 of the Highways Act 1971, the powers which he wishes are already there. The decision whether or not to install humps on a particular road, under this Bill, rests with the highway authority concerned. As I said at the Committee stage, one of the factors in this decision will of course be the cost, and each authority will have to decide, in the light of the potential cost-effectiveness of the humping proposals (and I spoke to that at some length) and of competing demands on available resources, whether an installation is justified. If humps are likely to be cost-effective in accident prevention, then the community as a whole will benefit and it would be right for the community to pay. This is a principle which is implicit in all existing highway and indeed traffic management legislation, and there is no reason or justification for treating hump installations differently. There could be situations where hump installations would benefit the general community but where some or all the owners and occupiers of adjacent property did not see themselves as receiving benefit; it would seem unreasonable in these circumstances that they should be required to contribute towards the cost of installation.Here is a point which I hope will answer my noble friend's question. If, on the other hand, a proposed hump installation appeared unlikely to be cost-effective enough to justify its contruction at public expense, and if the owners of frontages on the road concerned wanted humps and were willing to contribute the difference between the full cost and the cost justifiable at public expense, the matter could be dealt with under existing highways legislation. Section 60 of the Highways Act 1971 already enables highway authorities to accept contributions to the cost of works they are empowered to undertake from persons benefiting therefrom. To summarise, therefore, the power the amendment proposes is, we think, unnecessary in as much as it relates to a permissive power for a highway authority to receive contributions from frontagers who benefit from hump installations. In fact the power already exists and, so far as it relates to a requirement that frontagers should always have to contribute, it would be undesirable. Although the amendment itself would produce a simple permissive power for the Minister to include in his regulations provisions relating to financial contributions, the power would never, we think, actually come into force. I shall leave my noble friend Lord Kinnoull to talk about costs. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, he has not answered the specific question posed by my noble friend Lord Lucas as to exactly how much these humps would cost. It must be known to the department because Abbotsbury Road within a borough of London already has—I will not say the benefit of humps; therefore, the department must know.
My Lords, perhaps I may answer this point on cost, of which I have been advised. With the experimental humps which were started five years ago the cost came out at £500 a hump, and with inflation and revised prices it is now estimated that the cost would be £700. There would, in addition to that, be the cost of the signs and notices. I hope that that gives an indication of the cost.
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Earl for one moment, can he tell us how much it would cost to take them down again?
My Lords, I think I need notice of that question. Perhaps I could make one point to my noble friend in reply. This amendment goes far outside the permissive power that already exists. The noble Lord probably knew that that power existed anyway. His amendment would allow the highway authority to instruct the residents in the area to provide sums of money to provide a service to the community. I think that would be highly contentious and most irregular, and I am sure the House would not wish to see that happen.
My Lords, as a vice-president of the Pedestrians' Association, I am inclined to oppose my noble friend's amendment, on the grounds that not only would the hump benefit the local people but it would also benefit pedestrians in general. When we talk about costs, there are occasions, certainly in other countries, where these humps are used as pedestrian crossings. Therefore, the cost is hard to estimate, if they are going to be not only humps but also pedestrian crossings. I think in general terms, as the Pedestrians' Association figures show, they contribute to a very large fall in accidents at road entries.
My Lords, may I thank the noble Earl the Minister, my noble friend Lord Kinnoull and my noble friend Lord Ferrier for their contributions. On the last point, I would challenge the noble Earl upon these particular figures—but on another occasion, not this evening. All I would say to him is that the essence of road hump building is to reduce the speed or flow of traffic, rather than to aid pedestrian ways as we saw in the pictures in the report.My noble friend Lord Kinnoull has, yet again, not answered the question. In fact, during the Committee stage, £700 is precisely the figure I put on one hump. I have asked him now on a number of occasions—and I have really now lost interest in the answer because I will put my own figure on it—the cost of humping a stretch of road; that is, for the planning inquiry, the building, the lighting, the signing and the maintenance. My guess is that it would probably come out at about £30,000 per 800-metre stretch of road. I do not think anybody is likely to contest that figure this evening; I hope they do not, because we can go into it on another day. It is not going to be helpful I fear. I am quite happy to accept the Minister's assurance that there is already existing provision for the recovery of some parts of monies for road construction works where there is not a full and total cost-benefit to the community but where such construction is undertaken at the behest of the occupiers or the road users. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 5 [ Regulations]:
moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 4, line 9, leave out from ("with") to end of line 10 and insert (" any organisations which appear to him to represent persons likely to be affected.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I can deal with the merits of this amendment in a very few sentences, because we did discuss this matter on Report and I was given an assurance about it. If we were in normal times I have no doubt this amendment would have been accepted and would now be in the Bill; but we are not in normal times, though of course it is much better to have it in the Bill than to have an assurance about it.
This is an amendment to Clause 5(2) which says:
"Before making any regulations … the Minister shall consult with such representative organisations as he thinks fit".
That enables the Minister to pick and choose among the representative organisations. It would clearly enable the Minister to say, if he chose, "I will consult the RAC but not also the AA, because both those organisations cover the same ground". I do not think the House on Report accepted that that was good enough, and this amendment, therefore, was to ensure that the Minister shall consult with any representative organisation that he knows about. As I say, this was accepted and would in the ordinary course of events be in the Bill by now.
In order to put this amendment down for Third Reading I had to put it down by last Wednesday, because Third Reading was going to be last Friday. By last Wednesday it seemed to have become abundantly clear, contrary to what we had been told in all good faith about another place not having time to consider Lords' amendments, that another place, if they put their minds to it, would have time to consider Lords' amendments. I therefore thought it worth while to put this amendment down for Third Reading, which I have done, and I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord suggested that this amendment was considered on Report and was withdrawn, but did not satisfy the House at that time. I think in fact it was in Committee that the noble Lord put down exactly the same amendment word for word, and the noble Lord then did accept the arguments and the assurances that were given, extracted from my noble friend, that all the proper bodies concerned under Clause 5 would be contacted and discussions would take place. We had a very long debate on this issue. So I am a little perplexed as to why the noble Lord wishes to raise an exactly similar amendment, having withdrawn the other one after accepting the assurances.If I may go to one other point, the noble Lord referred again to the timescale, as indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I meant to mention when we were considering Third Reading that, as I understand it, the business of the House in another place is decided on a Thursday for the following week, so it would not have made any difference whether we had had Third Reading on Friday or today. I hope I have answered the point the noble Lord made.
My Lords, apart from the fact that assurances were given when we discussed this matter on the previous occasion, surely this particular amendment is not satisfactory in its wording. Your Lordships will recall that I withdrew an amendment at Committee stage which provided that local authority associations should be consulted. The wording of this amendment is
Would that cover local authority associations, or would it exclude them? Much as I should like to have more definite organisations mentioned, I should much prefer to see the wording which is in the Bill than this wording, which might cut out some of these vital organisations which may not be directly affected. I can see that there could be considerable argument as to whether the bodies I have in mind would be covered by these words."… which appear to him to represent persons likely to be affected".
My Lords, as I read it, this amendment would make it more likely for the Pedestrians' Association to be consulted than would be the case under the Bill as it stands. Accordingly, I support the amendment.
My Lords, perhaps I cart clarify something here. There are two clauses involved, Clause 5 and Cause 4. Whereas Clause 5 is about consulting for the regulations, Clause 4 is about consulting with the local authorities. To answer the question just now from my noble friend, of course this would come under Clause 4 when the local authorities are consulted. I did speak to this on the Committee stage and I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, despite his pressure on me, that the wording of this clause is in a standard form for provisions for consultations on regulations made under an Act. It is a standard form. He may press the amendment, but there is nothing exceptional in this particular clause. It is standard practice, when making regulations, to spread the consultation net as widely as possible to include all representative organisations and bodies who might have an interest in them. If I can give an example, that includes the RHA, the AA, the RAC, the Freight Transport Association and the Institute of Motor Cycling.But it must be remembered that the regulations will be concerned only with the rules concerning the installation and use of humps; they will not be concerned—here we come to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill—with matters of purely local interest, such as the suitability or appropriateness of humps in specific locations. These matters will be subjected to local consultation. Provisions as to these are made in Clause 4 of the Bill; organisations representing people likely to be affected, like the pedestrians, will have the opportunity of expressing their views. I hope I have spoken sufficiently on this to convince the House that this is the right course.
My Lords, just to resolve the complexity of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, I should like to say that the reason I put down this amendment again was, as I said before, so as to have it in the Bill and not have to rely simply on assurances. As I said, since the Report stage there was an obvious opportunity for another place to consider this matter if it so chose. For that reason I put down this amendment again. I do not think it is of sufficient importance for me to divide the House about it. I have had again the assurances that I had in Committee. I was corrected; it was in Committee and not on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 4, line 11, leave out subsection (3) and insert—
("(3) No such regulations shall be made unless a draft thereof has been laid before and approved by both Houses of Parliament.").
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I regard this as a very important amendment and I hope the House will give it serious consideration. I did not pursue the question of dividing against the Third Reading, very much because of what the noble Earl, Lord Avon, said—that all the matters that had been raised in the course of the debates in Committee and on Report, and again today, would be borne in mind when the regulations were drawn up. I do not seek for one moment to doubt the sincerity of that. But when the regulations are drawn up there will be other matters which have not been raised in this House. There are lots of matters which noble Lords in this House do not know about, and I think it would be asking too much to suggest that we pass an enabling Bill which lets the Minister make extensive regulations to deal with this admittedly rather difficult matter and then leave it simply to the Negative Resolution procedure.
I hope that on this I may carry with me the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, as vice-president of the Pedestrians' Association, because he will have an opportunity, if the draft regulations come for Affirmative Resolution, to satisfy himself that the interests of the Pedestrians' Association have been looked after properly. In the same way there will be other interests representing their case to different Members of your Lordships' House. No doubt the local authority associations will make known their views. When we really do not know what form these regulations are going to take—the noble Earl, Lord Avon, has been perfectly frank in saying that the discussions have not gone far enough for him to give any definite outline—I suggest that we ought to put into the Bill that the regulations should be subject to Affirmative Resolution. I beg to move.
My Lords, I should find it very difficult to resist this amendment; in fact, I should find it impossible to resist it for the very reason that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has outlined. There have been so many matters proposed in amendments, or amendments which finally were not moved, where there were differences of opinion and where your Lordships have accepted quite readily the assurances given by the Minister that these matters will be fully covered by regulations. Therefore, the regulations are going to deal with quite a number of issues on which differences of opinion have been expressed.On a number of occasions I have risen in your Lordships' House and urged that we ought to have the affirmative instead of the negative procedure, and on this occasion I should find it very difficult not to support the amendment proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. I cannot see that the Minister could give me any justification for not supporting the amendment, and I cannot possibly believe that an amendment of this kind, which is non-controversial and does not deal with the policy or content of the Bill, would create an embarrassing situation if it were passed and the Bill were returned to the Commons so amended.
My Lords, I must confess that I had not intended to support this amendment but I must yield to the blandishments of the noble Viscount and agree with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill.
My Lords, I should like to support this amendment. For the reasons I have given once this afternoon, I think this Bill is drafted too widely. If we leave the regulations to the Minister without the need to come back to either House, I think that some of the damage that can be done by these humps and depressions will go forward into the Act.I hope I shall not weary the House when I say that the background to this Bill has worried me. My late husband was a Member of the other House for 20 years and I have some knowledge of its workings. This Private Member's Bill came to the other House at ten minutes to four on a Friday afternoon and its Second Reading was passed without a Division. It went upstairs to a Committee on which there were 22 Members. Twelve Members attended. After a short discussion of only 53 minutes—not, I am informed, on the Bill but on a completely different subject, about the GLC—they passed this Bill by seven votes to five. It was put through its remaining stages in the other place and it came to this House without any adequate consultation whatsoever by Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament are there to put forward the views of their constituents. At no time were they able to give those views. The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, has said that this is a very small enabling Bill. Actually it is a very important Bill which, if passed into law, will affect many people. A great many Members of your Lordships' House quite obviously think—of course, they have a right to their opinions—that in the end this Bill will save many lives and will help a great number of people. One of the many reasons against it is that it is inevitable, because it is written into the Bill, that the Minister will be empowered to build not only humps but depressions; that is, ditches, which nobody can see in the dark, which nobody can see if they are iced over, which nobody can see if they contain a great deal of water and which nobody can see if they contain refuse. When my noble friend Lord Ferrier talked about the pedestrians, I envisaged the pedestrian on his walk becoming very wet indeed if he were anywhere near cars, lorries, motorcycles and even cycles which were going through these ditches. I am informed that many organisations have been asked about this matter, but we have been told already by the Minister that no experiments on these depressions have taken place. I contend that it is quite wrong for your Lordships' House to pass a Bill as regards part of which there have been no experiments. It is perfectly easy, as we all know, to have experiments carried out not on the highway but on strips of road built out in the wilds of Berkshire or somewhere like that. Therefore, to put forward a Bill that deals with depressions without—and the Minister told us this—having any experiments as to whether they will be very dangerous or just dangerous is, I think, a bad thing for your Lordships' House even to consider. I welcome what the Minister has said this afternoon—namely, that humps will not be put on any road that is subject to a speed limit of over 30 miles per hour. That will at least help. But, as my noble friend pointed out, it will also mean that the roads will be residential or in urban areas, and therefore presumably they will be roads in which there would be houses. As I think I said when we were sitting in the Royal Gallery, although the Bill is designed to slow up cars, lorries, buses and perhaps motorcyclists, it will also slow up, if it ever comes about, services such as a doctor's car, an ambulance, and a police car which is responding to a 999 call. We must consider the people living in those roads. As I said on Second Reading, I personally think that there is so much against the Bill that if the matter had been put to the vote on Second Reading I would have voted against it. Meanwhile, I shall contain myself by supporting the noble Lord's amendment.
My Lords, we are up against a great difficulty here and I can speak with some experience as I handled a Private Member's Bill only the other day which, through lack of a quorum, foundered—I may say that it was not nearly such a convincing Bill as that of my noble friend. But again we have this canard about lack of discussion in the other place. It is true that this has been an overladen Session. The first Session of a new Parliament—and I have had over 20 years in this House—is always up against this problem. But, both the late Bill which I endeavoured to pilot and which went through the other place, and this one, were discussed at a reasonable hour of the day with a full Committee representing all parties. Whether the other place did its job properly is surely no business of your Lordships' House.As regards this particular Bill, I am not technically equipped to pass an opinion, as regards chapter and verse, whether it is a good Bill. All that I can say is that for my own part, living in a cul-de-sac as I do, the Bill is admirable. I can quite see that there are places where road humps would be dangerous. But, on the whole, I think that this is a Bill to promote road safety and it should be given a chance. I turn briefly to the amendment. I believe that, with the present pressure on parliamentary time, the Bill as worded could be by far the best method of ensuring that particular aspects of the Bill are carefully borne in mind and that the implications of the Bill are likewise borne in mind.
My Lords I should like to make a few comments before the noble Lord sits down, or, if he likes, I shall put the observations which I wish to put to him in the form of a very short speech. One matter which has not been dealt with is that when the Bill was introduced there was never any question that it was a Private Member's Bill introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, from another place and one which, in the course of its progress here, attracted the attention of the Government who adopted it.It must be described as a Private Members' Bill because on this occasion it has come as such from another place. But, of course, in a few days' time we shall be in another Session. This is a Government approved Bill. There is nothing on earth to prevent the Government introducing this measure duly thought over, duly corrected and in the light of having read the discussions which have taken place up to now. We shall probably be told that there is not very much that the Government can say in opposition to the Bill. It will still be 99.9 per cent. the same Parliament and there will be no change of personnel by an election or anything like that. It could go through this House quite quickly after the discussions that we have had and then it could go to another place. The matter is not as urgent as all that. We have assisted this Bill time after time partly because the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, enjoys a very special respect in this House. Indeed, he has at least one other measure which is, for the moment, in harbour in another place, but if they want to proceed with it they would have, in any event, to reintroduce it. If we are reluctant to withdraw from the noble Earl the distinction of this Private Member's Bill, he has all the parliamentary historic record of having introduced a Bill which has created nearly as much controversy as the Finance Act 1910. Moreover he has now safely piloted it into the arms of Her Majesty's Government, who are generally expected to last until Christmas at any rate, and possibly until the end of next Session, and who can carefully, thoughtfully and after fuller consultation pilot this measure, if they still approve it, through another place, where it can have a full discussion, if that discussion is required. Having wobbled about depressions during the first stage of the Bill, having had that put down as an amendment and taken out, and having had it put down again and taken out, suddenly to find it again, unaltered, after these long deliberations—some considerable expertise having been expressed—I do not understand why we should not pass the amendment. The House may reject the amendment, in which case no harm has been done. Why should we be intimidated into declining to vote for an amendment which my noble friend on the Front Bench has said he can hardly resist supporting; we should let it take its course. Neither course would deprive the Government of their chance, if they so wish, to introduce the Bill in the new Session. It would not be in the same month because the debate on the Queen's Speech will, no doubt, last until the end of the month, but it would certainly be within a few days of the new Session being opened.
My Lords, I, too, should like to support this amendment. The Government have given us no indication of the regulations which they propose to introduce and therefore I think it is essential that your Lordships' House has the opportunity to discuss them.
My Lords, I must take issue with my noble friend straight away. We have been through the Committee stage and the Report stage and we have given every indication of many of the regulations that we might introduce. The noble Lord, Lord Hale, might like to know that I did not actually conduct the Bill through its earlier stages so I might look forward to doing it again. However, I was present for the Committee stage and the Report stage and I am now happy to be on the Third Reading, and very much hope that all our work will not go for nothing, although if the noble Lord wishes, I can start all over again in the next Session.I should like to answer a couple of points before dealing with the amendment, from which we seem to have drifted rather a long way. I can only repeat what I said on Report about depressions, which I see was a quotation of what was said in Committee anyway. I said:
The point about emergency services can be argued both ways. If you do not have a depression, you might have a one way street or a closed street. An emergency service can get along a street with a depression, but it cannot get along a street that has been closed. That can be argued either way, but there will of course be consultations. This is an intriguing amendment and, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, it raises some interesting points. It seeks to substitute an Affirmative Resolution procedure for what is normally known as the Negative Resolution parliamentary approval procedure, which the Bill would apply to regulations made under it. Negative Resolution procedure is a procedure which is more economical in parliamentary time; it means that time is required for discussing regulations only if someone positively considers this necessary, and then not necessarily in both Houses. To take the pedestrians, if they want to put down a Motion, it would of course be discussed. However, Affirmative Resolution procedure requires the positive allocation of a place in the business of both Houses, whether or not anyone has anything to debate on the regulations concerned. This is by the way, save that such considerations presumably underlie the fact that most of the regulations for which the NI mister is responsible and which he is required to submit to Parliament are subject to negative procedure. If I may remind the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, this is the case with regulations made under the highways legislation—it is no different—of which this Bill will, if enacted, form part. It is also the case with the Road Traffic Regulation Act. I am, of course, well aware that there is a general tendency to consider that the delegation of subordinate legislation powers to Ministers is too extensive and should be more closely controlled. However, I would suggest that that is an issue which, if debated, should be considered in a more general context than that of this Bill, which simply follows the precedent in the body of legislation of which it is designed to form a part. But I should also like to point out that in the discussions we have had of the powers that this Bill would give the Minister, no evidence at all has been brought to suggest that he may be discharging his existing—in some cases much more far-reaching—powers with less than full regard to the public interest and to road safety. Consider, for instance, the Traffic Signs Regulations which the Minister makes under the Road Traffic Regulation Act. The provisions of these regulations have a far greater potential effect on road use and road safety than any road humps regulations could have. The Traffic Signs Regulations govern the information that may—and, by exclusion, may not—be given to all road users on every highway in the country. They signify potential offences by indicating mandatory prohibitions and they are subject to Negative Resolution procedure, as are, for instance, the regulations controlling pedestrian crossings. But to my knowledge it has never been suggested that Ministers have been exercising this power with insufficient regard to public rights or to road safety. On the contrary, it is, in fact, sometimes suggested, particularly by one or two of the road organisations, that the Minister's control over the content of traffic signs may be exercised with an over-anxious concern for safety. This amendment seems to me to reflect that distrust of the way in which the Minister would exercise the powers the Bill would give him. Yet this implied distrust has never been supported by evidence of misuse by Ministers of existing, similar and more far-reaching powers. It seems to me that such evidence is needed to justify a departure from the highways legislation precedent—indeed, from the normal precedent of legislation in the transport field—as this would be. For those reasons, I should like to recommend that we resist this amendment."there has been no experiment whatever in depressions. It is even open to the Minister at present whether or not he would want any experiments in depressions, and there will be no question whatever of building a depression until such experiments have been tried out for a period of at least nine months".—[Official Report, 28/10/80; col. 308.]
My Lords, I rise to support the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, in this amendment, even more so having heard the remarks just made by my noble friend on the Front Bench. I do not want to get into the position implied by my noble friend Lord Auckland; nor, indeed, the implied position given by the noble Lord, Lord Hale.Throughout the unhappy passage of this Bill various doubts as to parts of the Bill have been expressed on all sides of the House. We have most certainly had the assurance of the Minister and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, that these points will be taken on board during the framing of the regulations. Apart from the one exception given to us this evening about the 30 miles an hour speed limit, there has been no assurance that such-and-such a point will be brought into the regulations. The assurance has been that such-and-such a point will be taken care of during the course of the framing of the regulations, and it was admitted at Second Reading by the Government spokesman, my noble friend Lord Long, that the regulations will take some time, that it is a difficult and experimental area; so we are in some difficulties. There are a number of matters which have arisen during the passage of the Bill which we have not had the opportunity to debate and discuss because one cannot just put down amendment after amendment after amendment. Your Lordships have been most patient with me on the number I have put down, but I think I could raise at least sixty questions, as I would wish to talk with the department. Now, under the Negative Resolution procedure, Parliament, as Parliament, and this House in particular, would have very little opportunity of debating and discussing such regulations. By the Affirmative Resolution they would most certainly have the opportunity to bring pressure to bear if necessary. The argument with regard to precedents over traffic signs or other road safety legislation leaves me less than warm. I do not really mind about that kind of precedent, because we are now discussing something quite new. It started in 1974 with the experimental building of humps. It has been in force for only those five or six years, and we have had only a handful of reports, largely from one source. So we enter, I believe, into a totally different area of traffic supervision and safety measures. Therefore, at this particular stage it is necessary that Parliament should have a full opportunity to discuss them. I cannot accept what my noble friend Lord Avon said—if I do misquote him, I think the sense is the same—with regard to some Members of your Lordships' House showing a marked distrust of what the Minister, or a Minister, may do by having such wide enabling powers. I do not think that is the point. I think it is that we are so concerned about matters of this kind that we want to have a full and proper look at what is ultimately agreed to be done. Your Lordships have an enviable reputation in this field of traffic and road safety, and by accepting the noble Viscount's amendment it can, in my belief, only enhance that reputation.
My Lords, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has just said about there being no question at all of any distrust of the Minister in making these regulations; but I think one ought to consider the position of the representative organisations who are going to be consulted. Having been consulted, they are not going to know what form the regulations are going to take. The regulations will be published and then, surely, the representative bodies will wish to have a target date for when the regulations are to be debated in Parliament so that they can go through their usual procedure of writing to the Members of both Houses, commenting on the regula- tions as they have turned out and on those parts which they agree with or do not agree with, or think ought to be amended in some way or another.Then, surely, it is only right that when the Minister presents the regulations we should have a debate, so that in the light of what we are told by the expert representative organisations we can seek assurances from the Minister at the Dispatch Box about parts of the regulations and decide, in the light of the debate, whether the regulations are satisfactory or not. I should have thought that any Minister worth his salt would be only too pleased to come to the Dispatch Box with regulations of this kind and say, "Here they are, and I am here to explain them and to deal with any points that noble Lords may raise". The Negative Resolution procedure, where the regulations are put on the table and it is a take-it-or-leave-it situation, I should have thought was not in the least acceptable.
My Lords, I think sometimes we have strayed a little far from the precise nature of the amendment. If we could just concentrate our minds on the amendment, it of course presents a very important issue. I do not deny that at all. It is a parliamentary procedural issue whether this Bill should have a negative procedure or an affirmative procedure. The House knows the weakness of the negative procedure in another place. The House knows the opportunities that Members in another place have of raising a debate on negative procedure. I do not hide that. But we in this House also know that every Member has a right to lay a prayer. I have been looking back over the last 20 years to see how many times prayers have been laid and how successful they were. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, is the current champion: he has laid four prayers against orders over the last 10 years. He was unsuccessful. I think he withdrew them; but he made the Minister and the Government of the day think.My Lords, as I understand, the safeguards under the Negative Resolution procedure—and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, should know this, because he serves on behalf of the House on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, and should, and I am sure does, examine all the many statutory instru- ments that come forward on a Negative Resolution basis and then ultimately reports to the House if they should have special attention—
My Lords, the Joint Committee has no authority to make recommendations about the merits of a statutory instrument.
My Lords, I am grateful for that elucidation. Then, of course, there are various joint committees in another place who have powers to call evidence on particular issues, and I am sure they do if they are advised that something is unsatisfactory in a statutory instrument.The defence, really, of having a Negative Resolution procedure in regard to this Bill rests on two issues. One is precedent. As my noble friend has very firmly advised us, it is a precedent to have a Negative Resolution procedure in this sort of highways Bill. There are many precedents to quote. I will not bother to quote them, because the House knows them. Then there is the parliamentary timetable. That, of course, is the crux of the issue. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, knows that this amendment would not be accepted by the Government in another place, and in a way one could say that it has possibly a wrecking motive. I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, who rose to support this amendment, that in the many years that we had a Government of his persuasion, never once did they try to put this parliamentary problem right; and there were many occasions, I am sure, if he looks back in the records, when precisely the same argument was being adopted by those who were against a Bill of this nature. I hope that he will not be seen to forget that Governments, and indeed Oppositions when they become Governments, unless they change the parliamentary timetable procedure or change the Negative Resolution procedures, will always remain unsatisfactory in this respect. I hope this Bill will not founder on this amendment, because this is really an issue to do with parliamentary procedure, rather than the Bill. I hope the noble Lord will be persuaded to withdraw it.
My Lords, before the noble noble Lord sits down, since reference has been made to the negative procedure in other highways matters, may I ask whether there is a precedent where other highways matters have passed through both Houses of Parliament with goodwill but without discussion, or without decisions on vital amendments because they wanted the Bill to go through?
My Lords, I think it would be wrong of me to say, "Yes, there is"; but if I were to quote one example it would be the Road Traffic Regulations, which were in a sense much more important in the safety context than this small Bill.
My Lords, I have listened to this discussion and I must say at once that I am unmoved. A good deal of attention was given to the question of parliamentary time; the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, spoke about pressure of time and the noble Earl, Lord Avon, of course implied the same thing when he spoke. All I can say is that we hope—I trust that everybody in your Lordships' House hopes—that in the next Session we are not going to have such pressure on parliamentary time as we have had this Session. Therefore, to provide for an occasional Affirmative Resolution does not seem to be an impossible thing to do.As regards the precedent, of course we are governed partly by precedents but Parliament can always alter a precedent. I have not got the papers with me but in fact I shall tell the noble Earl, Lord Avon, afterwards of a precedent for an Affirmative Resolution in traffic regulations. I did not introduce it, but I got it accepted in a debate about 25 years ago on the subject of minimum speed limits. Arguing against minimum speed limits the Government of the day eventually agreed to have the introduction of minimum speed limits subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure. It is a good example because here we are again dealing with something that is new. I thought that what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said about that was very relevant. This is something new, and I feel that we should have these regulations subject to Affirmative Resolution.
On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 55; Not-Contents, 46.
|Airedale, L.||Hale, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Hampton, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Banks, L.||Hanworth, V.||Rochester, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Blease, L.||Kaldor, L.||Simon, V. [Teller.]|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Stone, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Longford, E.||Sudeley, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|David, B.||Mackie of Benshie, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||McNair, L.||Underhill, L. [Teller.]|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Maelor, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.||Vickers, B.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Morris, L.||Wade, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Mottistone, L.||White, B.|
|Gosford, E.||Ogmore, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Peart, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Gardiner, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Auckland, L. [Teller.]||Gisborough, L.||Newall, L.|
|Avon, E.||Glendevon, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Gowrie, E.||Orkney, E.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L.|
|St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||St. Germans, E.|
|Cathcart, E.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Sandys, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Selsdon, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Inglewood, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Killearn, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Kimberley, E.||Strathspey, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Kinnoull, E. [Teller.]||Trefgarne, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Long, V.||Trenchard, V.|
|De Freyne, L.||Lyell, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Denham, L.||Margadale, L.||Young, B.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Monk Bretton, L.|
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
[ Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.Moved, That the Bill do now pass.— (The Earl of Kinnoull.)
On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.
My Lords, I think it would be a courtesy to thank all those Members who have shown such a keen and burning interest in this small Bill and to thank my noble friend Lord Avon on, I think, his first occasion of helping to assist a Bill through this House; he has done it magnificently. I am personally sorry that we have—
My Lords, I fear that I must remind my noble friend that the Question has been put, and therefore he is out of order in making a speech, however welcome.