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LONDON AUTHORITIES BILL FACES OPPOSITION

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By LGCnet political correspondemt Robert Hedley...
By LGCnet political correspondemt Robert Hedley

London local authorities traditionally use their powers to promote private legislation, often because of the limited time for public Bills. Usually, by the time the legislation comes before parliament the boroughs, through the best efforts of the Association of London Government and the parliamentary agents promoting the Bill, broad agreement has been reached - including among the political parties at Westminster.

However, the second reading of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Bill in the lords indicated some parliamentary opposition - largely because it is mainly concerned with traffic.

Introducing the measure, Labour's Lord Graham, joint president of the ALG, said: 'Specifically, the Bill seeks to improve the management of traffic, to free up police time to deal with more serious offences and to enhance the quality of life for Londoners.

'The joint promotion between the London authorities and Transport for London is a clear sign of working together between all the traffic and highways authorities in London. This is an excellent example of what can be done if political differences can be put aside for the good of all Londoners. I am glad to say that there is a strong political consensus among all the parties in support of this legislation'.

Former Conservative transport secretary Lord Peyton said he strongly disapproved of the way that the Bill's sponsors had conducted themselves. His 'old friend' Lord Graham had said a number of activities would be decriminalised as a result of this legislation.

'Let no one misunderstand why that comforting thing is to happen. Certain practices will be decriminalised to enable the authorities to make free use of cameras in order to obtain money more easily, more readily and in larger quantities from the public without any possibility of protest', he declared.

Lord Peyton said he did not understand why highways authorities should be given extra powers to monitor and regulate road works. 'As far as I am concerned, they have failed lamentably in that duty. I do not see any grounds why people who fail lamentably in their duty should have further powers conferred upon them by parliament without even a please or a thank you, which is what we are being invited to do today', said Lord Peyton.

'Not only do they fail to control the activities of other people on the highways; they actually commit the same things themselves'.

Former Conservative environment secretary Lord Jenkin, the other joint president of the ALG, said that in general he supported the Bill, which would make it easier to enforce existing laws. He sympathised with Lord Peyton's campaign about holes-in-the road and indicated some clauses of the Bill might be dropped because the government was considering issues around roadworks.

He also agreed with Lord Peyton that no organisation - highway authorities or any other body - had a statutory duty to keep the traffic moving. He said the government must remedy such a legal deficiency.

Conservatives Earl Attlee and Viscount Astor were also critical of the Bill, particularly aggrieved by TfL policies and the fact the measure would enable TfL and boroughs to collect fines and other charges more quickly.

Liberal frontbencher Baroness Hamwee welcomed the Bill, saying the relationship betwen TfL and the boroughs was not always easy but which was developing.

However, she added: 'The Bill provides for the sharing of information between different authorities. I understand the need, although I believe the sharing of information should not be undertaken lightly. Civil liberty issues are involved which should not be ignored'.

By convention, the private Bill was given an unopposed second reading and sent for consideration to an unopposed Bills committee.

Hansard 21 Oct: Column 1143 - 1160

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