§ Mr. Watkinson
I beg to move, in page 10, line 3, after the second "of", to insert "Part I of".
This Amendment is really consequential upon the next one, in page 11, line 4, at the end to insert:(5) if it appears to the Minister that it is expedient for the purposes of this section that, with a view to experiment or demonstration, parking places on highways should be designated at any sites in the Metropolitan Police District or the City of London, and that no application under this section for the designation thereof is forthcoming, the Minister may by order made in accordance with the provisions of Part II of the Third Schedule to this Act designate those parking places for vehicles or vehicles of any class or description specified in the order, and may make charges for vehicles left in the parking places of such amount as is hereinafter specified; and—
- (a) in relation to parking places designated by virtue of this subsection references in subsection (3) of this section and in the two next following sections to the local authority shall be construed as references to the Minister;
- (b) if the Minister, with the consent of the Treasury, enters into an agreement with the local authority or the London County Council for the transfer to the authority or Council of the operation of the parking place, the operation thereof, and such apparatus or other things held by, and rights or liabilities of, the Minister in conection with the parking place as may be specified in the agreement shall be transferred as from such date and on such terms (including terms as to the making of payments to or by the Minister) as may be so specified;
- (c) from the taking effect of any such transfer as aforesaid the order designating the parking place to which the transfer relates shall have effect subject to such modifications (if any) as the Minister may direct, being amendments appearing to him requisite in consequence of the transfer, and the provisions of this Act relating to parking places and to the variation and revocation of orders shall thereafter apply as if the parking place had been designated by order made on the application of the council to which the transfer is made.(6) An order under the last foregoing subsection shall not continue in force for longer than two years from the coming into operation thereof together with such further period (if any) not exceeding twelve months as the Minister may by order made at any time before the expiration of the order under the last foregoing subsection prescribe:Provided that this subsection shall cease to have effect as respects any parking place on the making in relation thereto of an agreement under paragraph (b) of the last foregoing subsection.285 Would it be for the convenience of the Committee if we discussed them both together, Sir Rhys?
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
They can be discussed together, if that meets the convenience of the Committee.
§ Mr. Watkinson
When we considered this question, which deals with the subject of London traffic, we found that there was an omission in the Bill as originally presented. I can best explain how it came to notice by reminding the Committee of a recent action by the City of Westminster. I am grateful to the City of Westminster for the great interest which it is taking in the immensely difficult parking and traffic problems which lie within its area. As a result of the interest which it has taken it has given a great deal of examination to the problem, and a special sub-committee of the Westminster City Council has recommended:That the Council do inform the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation that it views with growing concern the worsening of traffic conditions in inner London caused by the increase in the parking of cars in streets and it suggests that in order that the effect of parking meters on congestion may be assessed an experiment with such meters should be undertaken as soon as possible on the understanding that the various regulations relating to parking cars will be effectively enforced.We expect that, as our parking plans develop, other local authorities in London will take the view that the right way to deal with the parking meter is to experiment with it. There is a very sound precedent for all this in the traffic schemes which the police have set up, on an experimental basis for a purely limited period, to see how they work, and what is the response of the motoring public.
Under the Bill as it was drafted, I found that I had not the powers to assist a local authority in a scheme of this kind if I wished to do so. Equally, I found that if certain local authorities decided to install parking meters and another local authority, surrounded by them, decided not to do so, I should not be able to help the authority in the centre which, perhaps, felt that it ought not to 286 introduce these meters unless it had some help from me. I should not be able to run an experimental scheme to try to show it that this method of controlling parking might be helpful in its area.
Therefore, the purpose of these two Amendments is merely to give me a very limited power so as to enable me to show that these parking plans can be worked successfully, and, equally, to enable me to work with those London authorities who want to carry out experimental schemes. Of course, if the authorities are willing to carry out such schemes entirely on their own, my help will be largely of an advisory nature, but I want powers to set up parking meters, for which I shall bear the burden for a limited time, and to try to show that they provide a practical method for controlling parking.
I think that I ought to make it clear that my power to run any parking place is expressly limited to two years with the possibility of an extension for a further twelve months, but that in any event it cannot be for a period longer than three years. It is not my intention to accept any permanent responsibility for the operation of parking places, but merely, as I have said, to assist local authorities in much the same way as do the police in experimental traffic schemes.
The remainder of the material on the Order Paper really deals with the various safeguards and with matters concerning the cost of the experiment. Here, again, I should perhaps make plain that in the same way as I am limited to a definite period during which the scheme can be run, so I am limited as regards the money that I may collect. At the end of such a scheme the money has to be passed over to the appropriate local authority except that, of course. I can recover any direct cost of the scheme before I hand over the balance.
Perhaps I might sum up by saying that I think that this is a useful addition which will enable me to respond to what seems to be a desire on the part of at least some important authorities in London to use the parking meter as a method for controlling the alarming growth of congestion in the streets due to cars being left for long periods. Therefore, I hope that with that explanation the Committee will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
As the Minister stated, this Amendment remedies an omission in the Bill. It is rather remarkable that there should have been so many gaps to be filled in during the passage of the Bill in view of the fact that it is the second Bill which we have had before us and in view of the time which was spent on the Second Readings of the two Bills—on the first one in another place—and the long period of the Committee stage. But, be that as it may, we on this side of the Committee have no objection to the Amendment.
I was glad that the Minister used the word "experimental" because many of us have some doubts as to the way in which the parking meter will operate in this country and to what extent it will be effective. Any experiment to lessen traffic congestion in London is certainly to be welcomed and it is hoped that the scheme will succeed. Many of us have doubts about certain aspects of the effectiveness of the parking meter and it is as well that the Minister should be enabled to undertake some experimental schemes to see to what extent they are acceptable to local authorities.
I should be glad if the Minister would tell us who will be responsible for enforcing the time limit on the meters. When the time has expired and the signal on the meter shows that the time has expired, who is to be responsible for imposing the fine, the summons, or whatever the penalty may be, upon the motorist? That was never really made clear in Standing Committee, and I am still uncertain as to what exactly the Minister has in mind on this point. If he is to run these car parks, does he intend to employ attendants whose duty it will be to accost the motorist when he returns and finds that his time has expired? It would be helpful if the Minister could make quite clear what he has in mind in this regard.
Has the Minister any schemes in mind for installing parking meters in the centre of London? Again, in Standing Committee, we were never given any very clear indication as to what exactly the Minister had in mind concerning the areas in which parking meters are to be installed or whether they are to be in the side streets, in the squares, or in the main traffic arteries. Nor has the Minister given any clear indication as 288 to the protection to be afforded for access to buildings in the neighbourhood of these parking places. As this will probably be our only opportunity to discuss the question of car parks, perhaps the Minister could be a little more explicit about what he has in mind.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I wish to support this admirable Amendment which extends the power of the Minister. In the Standing Committee I did not observe the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) or any of his hon. Friends raise any criticism which led to the increase of these necessary powers, but I remember that a number of us raised the question whether the designation of parking places should not remain entirely the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport. I think that the conclusion come to was that, on balance, it was better for the local authorities to administer the scheme. But it is clearly necessary for the Minister to have some further residual powers, which he takes under this Amendment, to enable him to operate the experiments of designation where the local authority does not come fully up to the mark.
I should like my right hon. Friend to tell me whether I am right in supposing that in London he will ensure that a sufficiently wide area is taken to ensure that the scheme is a thoroughly successful experiment, because we all know that the London driver today is peculiarly cunning at getting round the parking provisions. We are all sinners in this respect. We first try to find a parking place and then find that we cannot get into it. With great ingenuity we are prepared to drive up on to the pavement in, say, Park Lane and park our cars outside somebody's private house. That is being done every day. It seems to me, therefore, that the Report of the Traffic Advisory Committee—and the Report of the Ministry of Transport upon which, I presume, the Minister will rely as to the number of places to be designated—is really insufficient.
At one time I went into this matter very carefully and prepared a scheme covering certain areas in London. It would seem, for example, that if we take an area such as the district around Harrods we must ensure that all the surrounding squares and the area at the back of Harrods are covered by parking places, 289 because, otherwise, people will avoid going to the places where they have to pay to park and will go a bit further afield. If that happened, it would merely mean that the congestion would be driven from the centre of London to the surrounding residential districts. For that reason the Minister may have to take an area which covers not only Westminster, but also Chelsea and perhaps the City of London. I am not certain that the Minister has taken sufficient powers under this Amendment to ensure that he will be able to take in an area which can be blanketed so effectively that the whole of it can be fully covered with parking places, thus preventing people from evading their responsibilities in the matter. That is the worry which I have had throughout about parking meters.
I have always been a protagonist of them as one of the solutions, taken collectively with others, to meet the traffic congestion problem. But they will fail—and I think that they will only fail—if people are able to leave an area where there are parking meters and go to another area where there are no parking meters. I should like to see them brought into force in the whole of the centre of the West End of London at the same time, with altogether about 2,500 parking places, which is considerably in excess of double the number recommended in the Report.
If that can be done, I think that the scheme will be successful and that after the initial pains of screaming motorists who have to pay for the first few weeks, we shall go on to what has been the accepted feeling of motorists and other people in other parts of the world where, in a short space of time, they have come to accept parking meters as a satisfactory provision which is for the benefit of all concerned.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
I am one of those who favour the possible introduction of parking meters. I think that they will be for the convenience of motorists and of the local authority, and that if a reasonable charge is imposed they should not cause very great hardship, except on one section of the community. I should like to ask the Minister whether, in setting up his experimental scheme, he has thought about how 290 he can avoid the infliction of severe hardship on disabled people.
There are many ex-Service men suffering from war wounds, victims of industrial injuries and members, for example, of the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship who must use motor-propelled vehicles. If they have to pay a parking meter charge every time they park their vehicles, I can see that those people, who are usually not very well able to afford such charges, will be under a special handicap.
I should like to draw this point to the attention of the Minister, and ask him whether he has thought about it, and whether he has any solution to offer as to how such people can be dealt with in connection with the parking of motor-propelled vehicles.
§ Mr. Oliver
One point which intrigues me in respect of parking meters is how the Ministry's scheme will be put into operation. Is it intended that the parking meters should merely register the sums or the time for which coins are put in the box? There seems to be no explanation as to how any excess is to be collected.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) and I were in New York together for about a fortnight before Christmas we went to a number of parking places where there was not one meter that was not registering an excess. I am told that this is a simple matter in the United States because the police impose the charge; but that does not apply here.
What system are we intending to work with regard to these experimental meters? Is it intended to have a parking attendant to collect the fee when a motorist continues to park in a position in excess of the period for which he has paid. If not, what means will there be of collecting the excess if a motorist drives away? Will there be any check or any prospect of getting the fee which he ought to have paid? That seems to be the problem in deciding whether we should be in favour of this experimental scheme.
We want to know a little more about what the Minister has in mind, because if there is to be an attendant to see that no one gets away when there is excess on the charge for which the motorist has paid, what is the purpose of having the 291 meters at all? I should like this matter to be explained so that we can come to some reasonable conclusion about what the Minister has in mind.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson
It is very agreeable to us to find that, at this late stage in the discussion of the Bill, no hon. Member has risen to express hostility to parking meters. When the Bill was introduced originally there was loud protest at the idea of the introduction of this useful contrivance. I think that it is as a result of the general discussion which has taken place, and of the fact that parking meters are working so satisfactorily in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and other places overseas, that opinion in this country has changed.
I am very glad to have the opportunity of explaining somewhat fully to hon. Members how we have it in mind to try to work the parking meter system. First, let me say that we are under no illusion that the use of parking meters will increase the amount of parking accommodation in London. The effect of them will be to ensure that no single, selfish person is able to peg out a claim in a part of a street for the lifelong day. Such parking space as there is will be more fairly and equitably divided among those who have occasion to leave a car in a parking place for a reasonably short time.
We also fully recognise that it is desirable to provide greatly increased off-the-street parking accommodation for cars that are to be there for a long time. It has, I think, done a great deal to disarm criticism of these proposals that the whole of the profits made from parking meters are obliged, under the provisions of the Bill, to be used for the provision of off-the-street parking accommodation. What might appear at first sight to be a slight exception to that is contained in the Amendment which my right hon. Friend has moved. But that exception is more apparent than real, as he is only intending to use—and, indeed, can only use—these powers in order to give a start to the experiment. At the conclusion of three years, at the longest, he will be obliged to hand the parking meter organisation over to a local authority.
I want also to say, in order to disarm criticism in advance, that the parking 292 meter system is no more incapable of abuse than any other human device. We are fully willing to admit that the ingenuity of man will be exercised to try to defeat the purpose of the scheme; and that can be avoided only by careful supervision and, let me add, by the willingness which generally we can rely upon among the British people to co-operate with the Government when something is being introduced which is deemed to be for the general benefit.
Having said that by way of precaution, I will now try to describe in fuller detail exactly how we intend that the scheme should work. Parking places where a charge may be made for parking on the highway will be appointed by the Minister by orders made under the Bill. When applications for the appointment of such parking places are made by local authorities, they will be considered by the Minister before he makes an order to determine whether he approves of the general scheme of which they are part. Parking schemes should each cover a fairly wide area and should take into account, in addition to parking meters, existing and planned parking accommodation off the street.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) will accept my thanks for the constant propaganda he has gone in for in favour of the experiments being on a sufficiently large scale. He certainly convinced me that if they are too small, the only effect will be to drive cars out of one street into the next. I am glad to say that the police recognise that the parking meters will be effective only if they are able and willing to enforce no-parking restrictions in places where parking meters do not exist or where parking is not otherwise authorised.
Once parking places have been appointed, they will be run by the local authority or, in particular cases, by my right hon. Friend under the provisions of the new Clause, and attendants will be appointed to look after them. The attendants will look out for and report infringements of the regulations, report defective meters and generally supervise the parking places.
The question of excess charges has caused a good deal of confusion in the public mind. I understand that in some 293 countries the police have powers to accept fines on the spot without going through the procedure of the courts. Obviously, that would great simplify the administration of parking meters. In this country, however, we are opposed to anything of that kind, which, quite obviously, would, or might, lead to abuse. We therefore propose a different method. As hon. Members will be aware, the Sharpe Committee, which recently considered expediting the procedure in police courts, expressly recommended against the adoption of any scheme of that kind.
Parking places will be intended to cater for short-term parkers. In these parking places, a motorist will be allowed to leave his car for a standard period, probably for two hours, on payment of a specified charge. It will be a fairly modest charge, because short-term parking on the road with the help of a parking meter is considered to be a legitimate thing to do. The parking meter will indicate when the period of time paid for may be deemed to have expired. From that moment, the driver of the car will become liable to pay the excess charge.
That is no fine. It is an additional rent for the use of the space on the road. It is intended that that excess charge shall be very substantially in excess of the small charge which is paid for the standard period. The amount of the excess charge will be fixed by order. Only if a car remains in the parking place beyond the total period covered by the excess charge will an offence be committed.
§ Mr. Molson
I do not mind giving an idea, provided it is perfectly plain that I am only giving an idea and am in no way binding my right hon. Friend. The kind of thing we have in mind would be 1s. for the first hour and 2s. for two hours, but we also have in mind that the excess charge for staying for two hours and ten minutes might be 7s. 6d. or 10s.; so that there is a jump from the small charge for the legitimate use of the parking meter for a limited and proper period up to the excess charge.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
If the Minister proposes an excess charge of as much as 7s. 6d., is it not more in the nature of a fine than rent for the use of the road?
§ Mr. Molson
I am not getting into the realm of theoretical jurisprudence in considering what the nature of a fine may be, but I would say that a fine is the punishment imposed by a court for committing an offence—I see my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate on the bench beside me and I trust I am not going wrong in these legal matters—whereas the excess charge to which I have referred is a charge made for the use of the highway and does not in any way involve the commission of an offence.
§ Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)
Is the Minister laying down the precise figures which he has just announced?
§ Mr. Molson
I was merely indicating that for the standard period the charge would be small and the excess charge would be heavy.
The attendant in charge of a parking place will record the particulars of any car left at a meter which indicates that the time has expired. He will place on the car a note containing a statement of the time he first observed that it had become liable for the excess charge. The note will also indicate how and when the excess charge should be paid. We have in mind that the excess charge will be sent by post to the local authority which is responsible for the parking-meter system in the area.
Any car remaining in a parking place after the expiry of the time paid for, plus the maximum time allowed after the excess charge has been incurred, will not only be committing an offence but will also be liable to be removed from the parking place; and the cost of removing and storing it will be recoverable from the driver. That is obviously necessary as otherwise there might be cases when a car would be left beside a parking meter throughout the whole of one day and then throughout the night and be there the day after.
295 6.0 p.m.
I have responded to the requests of hon. Members to indicate how we intend to work this system. I have made it plain that we have not worked out all the details and that very wide powers are given by the Bill to my right hon. Friend to make regulations dealing with this matter. It will therefore be possible for there to be complete flexibility about special problems. For example, those in the market towns may very well be different from the problems to be dealt with in London.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
When the regulations are laid before the House, will there be opportunity at a later stage to discuss their provisions?
§ Mr. H. Hynd
Can the Minister deal with the point I raised about disabled people who have to use motor-propelled or self-propelled vehicles?
§ Mr. Molson
We shall certainly look into the question of these vehicles and the matters which the hon. Gentleman has raised, but I must make it plain that it will not be possible for us to make a large number of exceptions in favour of vehicles of special categories.
§ Commander Agnew (Worcestershire, South)
Will the House be able to amend the regulations or has it either to accept or reject them?
§ Mr. John Harvey (Walthamstow, East)
I may not have followed closely enough the arguments of my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. Would it be possible for a person who has booked a parking space to put another coin into the meter before the expiry of the first period and in that way to avoid the excess charge?
§ Mr. Molson
That is the exact point I had in mind when I indicated that this system would not be completely proof against people who set out to defeat the purpose of it. It will be necessary for the attendant to make sure that that is not done. It will be an offence for a person to put in a coin of the same value at the end of a short period in order to obtain an excess period without paying the excess charge.
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
Will the wage paid to the person in charge of the parking meters be adequate so that it will be understood by the public that it is not necessary to give him gratuities to make his life worth living, as happens at the moment wherever we go?
§ Mr. Molson
That is obviously an administrative matter, a question of sound administration, which does not arise when we are discussing legislation.
§ Mr. Champion
Will the Minister make sure in his regulations, so far as is humanly possible, that someone else cannot put a coin into a meter on behalf of another person? I read of a case in America in which someone, seeing that the time was just about to expire, had put a suitable coin—a nickel—into the meter and had then stuck a label on the car window, saying, "We have put one nickel into the meter. This comes to you by courtesy of"—and then followed the name of some advertising agency.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 11, line 4, at end insert:
(5) If it appears to the Minister that it is expedient for the purposes of this section that, with a view to experiment or demonstration, parking places on highways should be designated at any sites in the Metropolitan Police District or the City of London. and that no application under this section for the designation thereof is forthcoming, the Minister may by order made in accordance with the provisions of Part II of the Third Schedule to this Act designate those parking places for vehicles or vehicles of any class or description specified in the order, and may make charges for vehicles left in the parking places of such amount as is hereinafter specified; and—
(6) An order under the last foregoing subsection shall not continue in force for longer than two years from the coming into operation thereof together with such further period (if any) not exceeding twelve months as the Minister may by order made at any time before the expiration of the order under the last foregoing subsection prescribe:
Provided that this subsection shall cease to have effect as respects any parking place on the making in relation thereto of an agreement under paragraph (b) of the last foregoing subsection.—[Mr. Watkinson.]
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.