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Volume 742: debated on Monday 18 December 2023


Monday 18 December 2023



Road closures in South Northamptonshire

The petition of residents of South Northamptonshire,

Declares that there have been recent, uncoordinated road closures at very short notice with poor signage on the M1 at J15, J15A, A508, A5, A43, B4525, A422 and many other B and C roads; notes that residents have contributed to many planning consultations in recent years on developments such as HS2, SEGRO Logistics Park Northampton and the unwelcome warehousing proposals on the AL sites; further declares that South Northamptonshire has taken an excessive amount of new development where local interests have been overlooked, in favour of the national interest.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to require better coordination between stakeholders, including developers, National Highways and local councils, when closing roads in order to relieve local residents of their misery.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Official Report, 27 November 2023; Vol. 741, c. 1P.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Guy Opperman):

I am grateful to the petitioners for raising this matter with the House.

National Highways has both regional and national teams who work together closely to co-ordinate roadworks across the strategic road network.

Due to the large number of projects specifically in South Northamptonshire this year requiring access to the SRN and the local highway authority networks, NH has also implemented an additional weekly meeting to help co-ordinate all traffic management requirements up to three weeks ahead, which includes representatives from NH, its suppliers, West Northamptonshire Council, Buckinghamshire Council, HS2, Silverstone Events, Persimmon Homes and SEGRO Logistics Park’s contractor Winvic.

National Highways is also a statutory consultee in the planning process, meaning that local planning authorities must seek its views as part of any consultation on a planning application. NH reviews the information submitted with the application to assess the impact on the SRN and provide a recommendation to the planning authority. The planning authority will then take this into account when considering whether planning permission should be granted.

Turning to the role of local highway authorities, LHAs are responsible for all other roads that are not part of the SRN, including maintenance and closures. The Highways Act 1980 and Traffic Management Act 2004 prescribe how local authorities manage their road networks, and they have to take into consideration other maintenance or closures in the area when considering any new works, closures and diversion routes.

Traffic regulation orders are often needed to close roads. Local authorities are required by legislation to ensure local residents are given seven days’ notice in the case of temporary closures for road works and to consult for 21 days in the case of permanent TROs.

If roads are being closed for street or roadworks, LAs have a duty under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 to co-ordinate works with the aim of reducing the impact on road users and local communities. Both utility companies and LAs must apply for a permit before works can begin.

The DFT’s street manager digital service for planning and co-ordinating roadworks is in use by all utility companies and LAs in England. This also supports co-ordination of works, along with statutory guidance which the DFT recently updated:

Data on live and planned works is streamed by the DFT for use by companies that provide websites and apps for the travelling public.

The High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Act 2017 and the accompanying environmental minimum requirements, including binding undertakings and assurances and the code of construction practice, require HS2 Ltd to minimise the impacts of construction traffic on local communities.

Further co-ordination meetings may be established between NH and HS2 to assist with the programming of activities on the motorway and trunk road networks. HS2 Ltd or contractors will also attend a local highway authority’s New Roads and Street Works Act meetings as requested by the highway authority to co-ordinate traffic management activity with utility companies, local authority highway works programmes and developer programmes.


UK Meal Card Scheme

The petition of residents of the constituency of Linlithgow and East Falkirk,

Declares that the UK remains in the grip of a worsening cost of living crisis, with inflation causing significant pressure on household food budgets; further that there is a need to support companies who are struggling to find workers and to support individuals to find and sustain work, to bolster the UK’s labour market and boost economic growth, and notes that innovation is needed to tackle the challenges we face.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to follow the lead of 35 other nations around the world and examine the introduction of a UK meal card scheme to provide a tax-free allowance for employees to spend on ready-to-eat food and non-alcoholic beverages, implemented by updating HMRC’s existing tax exemptions list for employee benefits and expenses, with a graduated tax treatment to ensure that support is targeted at those on the lowest incomes.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Martyn Day, Official Report, 21 November 2023; Vol. 741, c. 291.]


Observations from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Nigel Huddleston):

There are a wide range of factors to consider when introducing new tax reliefs into the system. It is important to consider the value for money of any new reliefs. The proposed scheme would not provide any support to those who may be in most need: namely, low-earning individuals with income below the personal allowance who would receive no tax relief at all. Much of the cost of the policy would go towards providing tax relief to employees who already purchase meals, achieving little change. Moreover, new reliefs add complexity to the tax system and are likely to result in similar calls for reliefs on other forms of personal expenditure.

It is unlikely therefore that these proposals would constitute good value for money. The Government keep all aspects of the tax system under review and any decisions on future changes will be taken in the context of the wider public finances. More broadly, the Government are committed to helping people with the cost of living. The Government will raise local housing allowance rates to the 30th percentile of local market rents in April 2024. The Government will also uprate all working age benefits in full, by the September 2023 CPI of 6.7%, for 2024-25. This comes on top of cost of living payments this year, helping more than 8 million UK households on eligible means-tested benefits, 8 million pensioner households and 6 million people across the UK on eligible disability benefits. This brings the total support over 2022-23 to 2024-25 to help households with the high cost of living to £104 billion—an average of £3,700 per UK household.

The Government are also committed to supporting the labour market to help people into work where they are able. At spring Budget 2023, the Government announced an ambitious package of reforms to boost labour supply, which the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast would result in an additional 110,000 individuals in the workforce by the end of the forecast period. At autumn statement 2023, the Chancellor built on the package announced at spring Budget to support a further 50,000 people into employment by 2028-29 and deliver the Government’s key objectives to increase growth, control spending, manage inflation and boost productivity.