I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
This Bill is an enabling measure which supplements the powers and functions of road authorities under existing legislation. At present there is no statutory power whereby the provision or the use of a public road or bridge can be subject to toll charges. It is public knowledge that interest has been expressed by the private sector in the provision of new road and bridge facilities on a toll basis. It is the Government's policy that, subject to certain primary considerations on which the provisions of this Bill are based, private enterprise should be facilitated in participating with road authorities in the financing, construction, maintenance and operation of suitable projects. The Bill before the House will accommodate such a development in that it will enable road authorities to enter into agreements with private persons who are prepared to participate in the improvement of our public road system.
The underlying principle of the Bill is that existing statutory road authorities will continue to be responsible for the provision and maintenance of the public road network, including bridges. There is no question of bodies setting themselves up to provide and operate toll facilities independently of the road authorities but, as already stated, local authorities will be able to enter into agreements with private entrepreneurs to develop suitable new projects. The Bill provides that the function of making toll schemes and decisions to enter into agreements with private interests will be reserved to the elected members of the local authorities concerned. There are also specific provisions in the Bill to protect the rights and interests of individuals. Notice of the making of a toll scheme, together with an explanatory statement, must be published in the press; the public will have at least one month to consider the scheme, the explanatory statement and the relevant maps. A further period of at least two months will be available in which persons may lodge statutory objections. In the event of such objections being lodged, a local inquiry must be held before a decision is taken to proceed with a scheme. I would emphasise that it will continue to be the responsibility of the road authorities to decide whatever projects might be undertaken under the terms of this Bill.
I do not propose at this stage to detail each section of the Bill, which complements existing road law. It is an enabling measure which will provide and additional option to road authorities for the financing and operation of particular road facilities, such as major river crossings, which are necessary in the general traffic and transportation interest. I commend the Bill to the House.