HC Deb 05 May 1958 vol 587 cc975-96

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Parking Places (Westminster) (No. 1) Order, 1958 (S.I., 1958, No. 549), dated 27th March, 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House on 2nd April, be annulled. The reason for our moving this Prayer in connection with the parking scheme for a section of the Westminster area is that this is the first such scheme to be laid before Parliament which imposes charges for parking on the highway by means of parking meters. After very long discussions during the passage of the 1956 Road Traffic Act, the reasons for the scheme were explained to us by the Government spokesmen, and we now want to be assured that those purposes will be fulfilled and those objectives will be attained by this particular scheme.

Put very briefly, the scheme provides that in a certain area in Mayfair parking shall be permitted only where parking meters have been installed, and payment made by the insertion of coins into those meters. Under the scheme, parking will be severely limited. The object, apparently, is to provide in this area a deterrent to the long-term parker and facilities for the short-term parking motorist.

The success of the scheme seems to turn on two main factors. The first is that it be enforced. We know that, at present, parking restrictions in London are such that motorists are more inclined to evade than to observe them. It is a physical impossibility for the police to enforce all the regulations and restrictions imposed, of necessity, on the motorists. By this scheme, it is hoped that the limitation on parking will be enforced by use of the meters, and by the attendants who will supervise them—attendants who are not police, but who would be supplemented, in certain circumstances, by the police themselves.

Enforcement is essential if the scheme is to be a success not only here but in the neighbouring areas. Motorists seeking somewhere to park will be driven out of this area, where there will be a severe limitation on parking, and will seek to park in the neighbouring side streets. Unless the parking and no waiting regulations in those streets are equally enforced, congestion will not be improved except in this one small area. I therefore ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us what steps are being taken to ensure the enforcement of the scheme and the equal enforcement of the existing parking regulations in the neighbourhood of the area affected by the scheme. I trust that consultations have been taking place with the Metropolitan Police with a view to ensuring that the scheme is effective in this respect.

A second assurance which it is necessary to obtain from the Parliamentary Secretary before we can give full support to this scheme is that provision is being made for off-street parking. All of the Reports of the London and Home Counties Advisory Committee which recommended the installation of parking meters linked their recommendations with the provision of more accommodation for the long-term parker in garages, parking lots, and so on. Unless this scheme is accompanied in its very early stages by an increase in the parking space available for those who bring their cars into the centre of London, either by necessity or for other reasons, the scheme will not be fully effective.

Supplementing that is the fact that the only real justification for charging for parking on the highway is that the money so raised will be used for the purpose of providing more parking accommodation elsewhere, particularly for the long-term parker. That was the justification mentioned by the Minister time and time again during our previous debates, and, therefore, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us what steps are being taken to fulfil this promise.

There are some smaller points on which I should like some elucidation from the Parliamentary Secretary about some of the details of the scheme contained in the Order. In the first place, I was somewhat surprised to find that as an initial payment one puts either 6d. in the meter for one hour's parking or two sixpences for two hours. After the initial charge, which is either 6d. or 1s., there is an excess charge of 10s. for the next two hours, and if the car is left there after that, an offence is committed. The 10s. after the first two hours is an extra charge to deter people from leaving their cars for more than the two hours.

As I read the Order, however, it means that if a motorist who puts his 6d. in the meter, choosing to stay there for one hour, stays longer than an hour, he incurs an extra charge of 10s. But if, on the other hand, he chooses to stay there for two hours, and puts 1s. in the meter, the 10s. excess charge is incurred only after his car has been there for two hours. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that that is so. It seems a most extraordinary provision that if one is visiting a shop or, say, a dentist and, thinking that one will be away for only an hour, puts 6d. in the meter, but by misfortune one is detained longer than an hour, one has to pay 10s. excess; whereas a person who thinks that he will be away for two hours and puts 2s. in the meter can leave his car for two hours and only incurs the 10s. excess charge after two hours. This is a remarkable provision, and I cannot see any justification for it.

Arising out of that, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us how there will be prevention of meter feeding—that is to say, what steps can be taken to prevent someone who has inserted 1s. arranging for somebody else to slip the subsequent sixpences in so that the meter will return to zero and start recording the time all over again. I know that there will be attendants, but will it be possible for them to watch every meter and make sure that people who put coins into the meters are justified in so doing?

I do not quite follow what the Order provides in regard to enforcement after the excess has been incurred. After a motorist has been parked for four hours, having paid his 1s. and 10s., he has, I gather, committed an offence, but the attendant cannot summon the motorist for the offence. Does he then have to call the police and ask the police to issue the summons? Exactly what will the arrangement be?

Paragraph 17 (b) of the Order provides that the parking attendant may move cars. It surprises me that the parking attendant, and not the police, will be authorised to move a car if it has been parked for an excessive period. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us in what circumstances the parking attendant would be entitled to move someone's car. It does not seem desirable that he should have the right to move a car. After all, he has not the authority of the police, nor should his judgment be exercised as police officers exercise their judgment.

Another reason for our putting down this Prayer tonight is that since the provision of parking meters was authorised by Parliament there has been a new development which requires those proposing to use parking meters, I think, to show that they are still necessary; that is to say, that there is no alternative scheme which would be equally effective. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether that is the view, because considerable interest has been raised by the Paris "blue zone" scheme. A motorist obtains discs, and, each time he wishes to park his car, he hangs a disc by the windscreen so that it can be seen from outside, entering the time himself on the disc when he arrives, there being another column on the disc to show how long he may stay. I gather that the time permitted is an hour following the nearest half hour.

The Paris scheme, initially, is quite ingenious, and there was considerable relief to the parking situation in the centre of Paris. The area to which it applies is about one square mile, I understand. The scheme has considerable advantages, but it has many disadvantages. It has the advantage, I think, of simplicity. The motorist puts on his own disc and there is, in effect, no cost. Parking meters themselves involve considerable capital cost and, presumably, are costly to administer. One wonders whether the scheme providing for parking meters is the last word and whether full consideration has been given to this alternative scheme.

I can see advantages in the parking meter scheme over the other scheme in enforcement. The evasion of a scheme administered by the motorist himself seems likely to be more extensive than would be the case in a scheme under the mechanical control of the parking meter. I understand that in Paris in January, the number of offences in respect of which summonses were issued under the other scheme was about 50,000. Each month the figure has increased, showing that the scheme is being observed less and less. I do not think that there would be proportionately the same number of offences under a parking meter scheme, or that it would be possible for offences to go unobserved.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give the House not only a justification for the parking meter scheme but will tell us, at the same time, whether the parking meter scheme is considered still to be more effective than any alternative such as the Paris scheme. I understand that there would be difficulty in bringing this scheme into operation in this country and that it may be that legislation would be required.

I move the annulment of this Order simply to obtain some further information as to how it is expected to work and to obtain assurances that the pledges given to us when the authority to institute the scheme was obtained are being fulfilled and that provision for their fulfilment has been provided.

If the provision of parking meters and the institution of this first scheme in the Westminster area bring about a greater respect for the law as it affects parking restrictions then the scheme will be fully justified. Equally, if it fulfils the purpose of providing better facilities for the short-term parker and, at the same time, provides the necessary additional facilities for the long-term parker, then, again, the scheme will be fully justified.

I trust that the belief which was expressed by the Government, and about which many hon. Members expressed considerable doubt whether the scheme was justified, will enable us not to press this Prayer to a Division tonight.

10.14 p.m.

Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

I beg to second the Motion.

I think that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary must be aware from his close contact with the motoring organisations, in particular the Royal Automobile Club, where he deputised most suitably the other night for his right hon. Friend, that motorists are considerable in number and, we are told, are increasing every year. They are not opposed to this scheme because they want to take a dog-in-the-manger attitude. They recognise as much as anybody else that an attempt must be made to regulate traffic in London and that the indiscriminate parking which takes place in the central area has to be controlled in some way.

Is this the right way to achieve that result? That is the problem that we pose tonight. The Minister says that it is and that this Order is the outcome of the conclusion at which he has arrived. The Treasury is pleased to take a considerable amount in taxation from motorists and they are entitled to have their say. They feel that they are being penalised more than is necessary. They feel that the charge which will be made for the use of these parking meters could be avoided if some other scheme such as that mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) were used.

Nobody can say that Paris, with all its traffic problems, which are similar to those in London, can be ignored. The scheme in Paris is being operated without cost to the motorist, except the defaulting motorist, or the motorist that will not observe the rules, for whom nobody wants to speak.

I do not think that it will surprise the Minister to hear that motorists would like him to keep an open mind on alternative schemes, and consider whether they can be introduced. I do not say either that the parking meter scheme or the scheme now being operated in Paris will achieve what the Minister wants to do, although I have my doubts as to what he does want to do.

A debate recently took place in another place about this matter, and from the speech made by the representative of the Government it would seem that the purpose of parking meters is to make it as difficult as possible for motorists to park on the highway. This applies not only to the long-term motorist, but even to the motorist who wants to stay for only a short time.

It is quite obvious that unless one is to exclude the private motorist from the central areas they must be allowed to park somewhere. Where are they to park? Will this parking meter scheme give facilities for off-street parking in the central area? The Minister knows that the result of this Order going through will be that there will be less parking space in the area where the regulations are to operate because there is not sufficient off-street parking accommodation.

It is useless for the Government to say that part of their purpose in mulcting the motorist, in part, of the money for these parking meters is to provide for off-street parking. We have no guarantee that that will happen. The Minister says that it is the job of local authorities and not of the central Government.

I hope that the Minister will recognise that motorists are trying to be reasonable and that they recognise the problem as much as he does. All we are asking is that the Government should not close their minds to any alternative scheme which will not cost the motorist anything, but will achieve more or less the same purpose. In another place, the Government spokesman said that the Government were prepared to look at the scheme which is being operated in Paris, the only other scheme of which I have heard. They would consider that scheme in relation to any town other than London.

In another place the Government spokesman said that whatever scheme there was other than this parking meter scheme it would involve legislation. He went so far as to tell their Lordships that there would be no opportunity for introducing legislation in this or the next Session. The Government, in effect, are saying, "We will keep an open mind and consider an alternative. We are prepared to see it operate in a city other than London."

But in the next breath the Government say, "Do not think that we are to introduce legislation to make that possible." In other circumstances, and with another Minister, we might have questioned the good faith of the Government. Certainly, the motoring organisations, who, on the whole, I think, support the Government very well, are deserving of better treatment.

I do not want to labour the point, as the matter has been discussed very fully in another place and no doubt hon. Members present tonight have read that debate. I ask hon. Members opposite, particularly, to try to help the Government to keep the promise their spokesman made in another place, that they will keep an open mind as to the efficacy of an alternative scheme such as has been suggested and investigated by one of the committees which reported to the Government and by the motoring organisations.

If they will show some reasonableness in this matter, as I suggest the motorists' organisations have done, I think we—I am speaking as a member of the committee of the Royal Automobile Club, acting in conjunction with the A.A. and the Royal Scottish Automobile Club on behalf of the general body of motorists—would be satisfied and would be prepared to operate the scheme to see whether it is the answer to the problem.

At the same time, we would try to impress on the Minister that he should introduce legislation to permit an alternative scheme to be tried somewhere else if he will not permit it in London. Then we shall have the advantage of seeing which is the most economical scheme from the point of view of the motorists and the country and which is the more likely to achieve the purpose which the Government have set out to accomplish.

10.25 p.m.

Sir Lancelot Joynson - Hicks (Chichester)

If this debate does nothing else it will establish the solidarity of the two sides of the House in their attitude towards this Order. I share the views which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) and the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), who have moved and seconded this Motion. I regret very much that we should have to bring up the question of the parking of motor cars by discs instead of by meters in this way, by moving a Motion to annul the Order, but there is no alternative way of our doing it.

The real problem—and it is a problem which, I know, my hon. Friend has very much at heart—is one in which we all are anxious to help, and that is the problem of trying to make the streets of our cities available for traffic to move along. I think we would all agree that it is not the purpose of our streets to have traffic parked on them, sometimes intentionally and sometimes accidentally. Most of our streets are now occupied by vehicles parked on them, sometimes beside the road, and sometimes when they are trying unsuccessfully to pursue their way along the road.

The real difficulty is that there is nowhere else in most of our cities to park vehicles, except upon the streets, save in comparatively small numbers in garages and off-street parking places. We all know that the provision of off-street parking places is a very difficult and a very costly business indeed, and it is inevitably bound to take a long time to provide them, but the effect of not having off-street parking places is that, inevitably, the long-term parker is driven on to the streets to take up the space which should be used for traffic flow, and when not used for traffic flow should be used by the short-term parker. That is the basic problem which we want to try to help my hon. Friend to overcome.

The way in which the Ministry is experimenting—and, admittedly, it is an experiment—is by means of the parking meter system. That system has been known and it has been in operation in various places throughout the world for quite a considerable time—and by that I mean quite a number of years—and yet still it has not been sufficiently proven for it to be generally acceptable. Certainly, it gives rise to argument in a great many places and among a great number of people.

There is one thing about which there is no doubt at all, and that is that it is unpopular with the motorist. If my hon. Friend is seeking to dissuade the motorist one way or another to keep his car off the streets where there should be traffic flow, I know he will be the first to agree that he has far greater hope of success if he can do it in a way in which he can gain the willing co-operation of the motorist, rather than a way which is unpopular with the motorist.

Therefore, I very much hope that he will agree to do more than keep his mind open to an alternative system; I hope that he will make a powerful endeavour to see that that this alternative system is given an experimental trial. If he is prepared to experiment with one system, let him also experiment with another, for this other system is a modern one which, according to our information—which differs considerably from the information given to my right hon. Friend by the Chairman of his London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee—is working very successfully in Paris.

I am not able fully to share the view of the hon. Member for Enfield, East as to the increasing difficulties which are being experienced by the Paris police in its operation. I believe that the graph of offences is diminishing rather than increasing, but as to that perhaps we will not trouble to join issue at present, because neither of our sources of information is necessarily entirely accurate.

Mr. Ernest Davies

There are only two figures that we can quote; one which was quoted in another place, which was that about 36,000 offences were committed in December, and the later figure, for January, which was 50,000—so that between December and January there was certainly a substantial increase.

Sir L. Joynson-Hicks

That might have been due partly to the weather in December, when we had four days of fog and there were fewer cars on the road, even in Paris, and partly to the Christmas holidays, and such things. If the figures since January are examined, I think that the hon. Member may have some reassurance for his own argument.

A further aspect of this alternative system which should appeal to some is that it does not involve any capital cost——

Mr. Speaker

I see the drift of the hon. Member's argument—and the Paris scheme has been referred to several times as a possible alternative to that in the Order—but the House should not forget that it is the scheme in the Order that we are considering, and while other alternatives may be mentioned as illustrations they should not be gone into too far. It is not a question of arguing one scheme as against another.

Sir L. Joynson-Hicks

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker. I should not advocate that course. I was trying to be helpful to my hon. Friend, and perhaps I was going a little too far.

I did not want my hon. Friend to think that we were against his good intentions in the matter. I was trying to assist him in saying that in seeking to defeat his parking meters scheme we were not leaving him entirely without any alternative resort. But I will not pursue that matter, except to mention that it is estimated that the parking meters scheme would probably involve about three times the total labour force per thousand vehicles as would be involved by the alternative scheme—to which I will not now refer.

There are many other arguments which one could introduce against the parking meters scheme. For instance, it is an exceedingly rigid sort of scheme, whereas my right hon. Friend would find that a much more flexible scheme—if he could devise one—would be far more attractive, both from the point of view of administration and the motorist himself. If he has difficulties in finding a more flexible scheme I can suggest one to him, although I will not do so now.

The real objection to the parking meters scheme is that its inflexible character does not assist the basic problem of getting the long-term parker off the streets. That is the problem he has to face and which I believe can be solved but not in the way he proposes, by the use of the parking meters system.

10.35 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

The subject of this debate is of particular interest to me because in 1938 I made my maiden speech as a member of the Westminster City Council on the subject of off-street parking. In those days we put forward a plan for parks under London squares, but it was turned down by the Government. They said that it could not be done, although we pointed out that such parks would be extremely useful as shelters in time of war. The Government considered that deep shelters would not be used in time of war. We all know what actually happened.

I do not wish to increase the difficulties of that body on which I served, but rather to refer to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Sir L. Joynson-Hicks), that this scheme will not solve the difficulty of long-term parking. I wish to ask whether the Government have considered the provision of deep car parks under that part of the park roughly opposite Park Lane and approximately opposite Grosvenor House. There is a large area where there are no trees that would require to be uprooted and where could be provided a car park such as may be found in Union Square, in San Francisco, which comprises several levels. That would appear to be one way in which this problem could be attacked.

Before the war, the members of the Westminster City Council spent many hours trying to discover in which streets people could park their cars. I pointed out then that it was extremely unfair that people who were paying high rates to live in an exclusive area should have to suffer the inconvenience of parked cars. That is not the way to solve this problem. Mention has been made of other forms of parking which we cannot go into, but I wish to ask my hon. Friend whether the Government have considered the possibility of using the large area I mentioned for the accommodation of cars. I know that the Hyde Park improvement scheme will assist the flow of traffic in that area. We put up a scheme before the war for an enormous roundabout in Hyde Park——

Mr. Charles A. Howell (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Your Ruling was that we might not discuss the question of the Paris ticket system. Is it in order for the hon. Member to discuss the Hyde Park improvement scheme?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is entitled to refer to these things, but not to go into them too fully. They are not before us tonight.

Mr. Howard

I was referring to that only from the point of view of the difficulties about which we might be told. If it is deemed out of order to refer to that matter, I will not pursue it. I ask my hon. Friend whether something cannot be done which would be a substantial contribution to the problem of parking cars off the streets.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I have listened with great interest to the debate. While it is no doubt true that a good deal could be said in favour of the proposition that a scheme of parking other than meters, such as the French disc system, might be tried, and that legislation to permit it should be introduced at some time, I think that the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) has not made out any case at all for the annulment of the Order.

Although the hon. Gentleman mentioned the subject, he has rather missed the significance of the point which had the greatest influence on those of us who were in the Standing Committee which dealt with the Road Traffic Bill in 1956, for we agreed to accept Clauses 19 to 25 chiefly because of Clause 23, which provided that any profits made from parking meters after the cost of their provision has been met should be used for the provision of off-street parking. That really is the point. When all is said and done, the highway should not be used as a means of parking, as it so frequently is now.

The other schemes which have been mentioned do not provide money for the provision of off-street parking; and the great difficulty about providing off-street parking is the cost. As things are at present, neither local authorities nor private enterprise are prepared to put up money to dig up Hyde Park or anywhere else to provide garages.

Parking meters provide money, and I think that this is an experiment which should be followed very closely. We should welcome it. Other countries which have tried parking meters have not had such a provision; the money collected has not been used to provide off-street parking. Under the scheme the money collected will make a very serious contribution to the solution of the difficulties in London. It is clear that any of the other schemes would not make any such contribution.

10.43 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

I am grateful for the opportunity to answer some of the points which have been raised in connection with the parking meters scheme.

The principle of parking meters was discussed at great length when the Road Traffic Act, 1956, was before the House. Reading the debates, I see that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House were broadly in agreement that a scheme of this kind would be beneficial. While it is true that since then other alternatives have appeared—naturally, they have been carefully considered by those of us who are interested in the subject—there is still no doubt—all the hon. Members who have spoken tonight agree with this—that some scheme is necessary to control kerbside parking in London and all our big cities.

I should like to explain the advantages of this system over any alternative system. I believe that for London, at any rate, the proposed system is superior to any other. The Paris disc system has an initial attraction in that it seems simple and flexible, each motorist having his own disc which he attaches to his car, whereas with the parking meter system there is a large and expensive meter permanently fixed to the pavement. There seems to be the additional attraction of flexibility, which the parking meter may not have. I accept that, and am very ready to compare the relative merits of the two.

First, the parking meter has the immediate advantage that it controls not only the time that the vehicle stands at the kerb, but also the place at which it is allowed to stand. That is not to say that the disc system could not control the place. It would be possible to mark out a zone in which a disc system would apply, and then to mark out on the carriageway each place where parking could be made in that area. That, however, would be an additional complication, and I should think that for each block of car spaces it would be necessary to have some kind of vertical indication that parking was allowed there.

The basic difference with which we are dealing here is that in London so many of our streets are too narrow to allow parking on both sides as well as a free flow of traffic. If we are to meet the necessity, which is recognised on both sides of the House, of a better flow of traffic, it is necessary to restrict parking to those places in the street where cars can be parked and the traffic flow still maintained, whereas, in Paris, with its wide streets and boulevards, it is quite easy, over a large area, to allow parking on both sides of the street without impeding the traffic flow.

There is, therefore, immediately an attraction for that scheme there that there is not in London, though that is not to say that it could not be applied. There is a disadvantage in their scheme, in that ours visualises the definition of loading and unloading bays for trade vans—to my mind a very necessary feature. They will be marked out between the parking bays for cars, and in those loading and unloading bays vans will be able to load and unload for 20 minutes, or whatever time is allowed——

Mr. Bellenger

And no private cars?

Mr. Nugent

—and no private motorist will be allowed to park there. He would be allowed to set down, but not to park there. That is not a feature of the Paris system.

I would not regard this feature of the limitation that the disc system can control only time and not space as being conclusive. Far the more important matter, as the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) observed, is the question of enforcement.

In the long study that has taken place on this question of parking control, we have sent, as right hon. and hon. Members will know, a study group, the Samuels Committee, to America and Canada. That Committee has carefully considered conditions there, and reached the conclusion, on that experience, that the parking meter system, with its close definition of where parking may be allowed and where it may not, and for how long, will be a great help to the police in controlling parking.

Personally, I quite agree with the observations that the Inspector made about the control of parking at the present time, and also with the hon. Member's observations that no system that does not measure up to the necessity of getting a better control of parking will really meet our needs. The fact is that the police have stated that they believe the parking meter system will greatly help them in the enforcement of parking control in Central London. They feel that the closer definition of parking, assisted by the parking meter attendants, will make it less difficult for them to deal with this ever-present problem.

I entirely agree with the hon. Member that unless the police effectively enforce the regulations, not only in the area concerned but also in all the surrounding areas, the benefits we hope for will not accrue, but there, again, they are confident that they will be able to do so. Over the past twelve months they have had experience of towing away cars that have been causing serious obstruction, and I think that they have done it well and tactfully. There is no doubt that they have done it without respect to persons, important or unimportant. I think that they have done it in a way which has carried public confidence. It is naturally a difficult thing to do, but, in accordance with the tradition of our police force, they have done it in a friendly and reasonable fashion.

Mr. C. Howell

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the towing away of these cars, but he did not tell us whether it is legal. There is some doubt about that.

Mr. Nugent

It is legal to proceed as the police do, which is not by physically towing away cars. It is rarely that they have done that. They normally proceed by unlocking the car and driving it away. In practice this is very much safer. In congested London streets it is difficult to tow a car away; it is safer for everybody if the car is driven away. There is that legal point which I agree is in doubt now, but the police are certain to circumvent it.

Turning to what the scheme intends, the Westminster City Council intends to enrol for the 647 parking meters in the scheme one supervisor and eight attendants, which means that it will require roughly one official to 72 parking meters, and, compared with the alternative system, the disc system, which requires roughly one official to 20 to 25 vehicles, one-third of the number is needed. The figure was correctly stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Sir L. Joynson-Hicks) when he said that no less than three times as many are needed for enforcement of the disc system.

The fact is that, even with that large number of officials enforcing the other system, the prosecutions are numerous, as the Samuels Report stated. In December alone there were 44,000 prosecutions, of which over 37,000 were connected with the parking system.

Mr. Bellenger

Can the hon. Gentleman give an estimate of the number of police required in addition to the attendants if prosecutions take place, or are the attendants to be allowed to do that business?

Mr. Nugent

The attendants will not be allowed to make prosecutions, but what they will do will be to report offences, and the prosecutions will be made either by the local authority or by the police in the normal way.

This figure which was referred to in the Samuels Report was not an isolated case and the hon. Member for Enfield. East was quite right when he said there was a rising trend in January. The February figures are about the same—45,000, of which 40,000 applied to the parking system. I can say with confidence to my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester that the disc system gives rise to very serious enforcement problems indeed, and when it is compared with the number of prosecutions that take place in London, where the average number of monthly prosecutions in a comparable area, which I have had taken out for the information of the House, is 728 and 1,376 written cautions —making a total of 2,104—one can, see what a colossal number of prosecutions arise out of the alternative system.

Frankly it would be impossible for us to handle them. In France it has created a situation where there is a six months' backlog in the courts, even with all the speedier processes of prosecution which exist there, and there is no doubt that it would literally swamp our magistrates' courts and make the scheme unworkable. I hope that my hon. Friends who feel doubt about the virtues of the meter system and think that it is possible that the disc system might be better will accept the weight of these observations. They really are conclusive.

I am not saying that we have a closed mind in the matter. We have considered this matter with enormous care and it has been discussed by both sides of the House with great interest and, if I may say so, with great intelligence, in an endeavour to reach the best possible conclusion.

Sir Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

I am not quite clear about one figure which my hon. Friend gave. He spoke of 37,000 prosecutions in a comparable area. Was he referring to a parking meter system or to a disc system? If it was under the disc system, could my hon. Friend also give some idea of what happens in America and other countries and what the comparable figure for prosecutions might be under a parking meter scheme?

Mr. Nugent

I cannot give the figure of prosecutions under a parking meter system because I have none. The figure I gave is the number of prosecutions we have monthly in London and the number of cautions, the number which our courts are conveniently able to handle. The point I was particularly seeking to make was the impossibility in our courts of handling this colossal volume of prosecutions arising out of the alternative system. I can only say that, if the French experience is any guide to what might happen here, we should be faced with an unworkable system. What I cannot say is what the volume of prosecutions will be when we have a parking meter system, if it is the will of Parliament that we should have it. The general estimate which is made is that it will not be substantially more than that we are now dealing with.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

Can my hon. Friend say something about what will happen in districts neighbouring Westminster? Under a parking meter system, there will be greatly increased congestion, because, with the introduction of the system in Westminster, there will be far fewer cars able to be parked there, and an overflow into neighbouring districts will occur. What plans have been made to deal with that situation?

Mr. Nugent

I intend to refer to the effect of the restrictions on parking in the area. Perhaps I might come to that in a few moments.

The parking meter system has the further advantage that the cost of operating it is paid directly by the individual parker who is benefiting by it, as opposed to the alternative scheme where the cost falls on the taxpayers generally. That, surely, must be a sensible system. The balance of the revenue, as my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) said, will accrue towards provision for building off-street garages in the future, which, again, is something with which I warmly agree.

Although I am confident that parking meters are most likely to meet London's need at the present time, I say at once, in reply particularly to the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), that we do not have a closed mind on the matter. It is true that fresh legislation would be needed to operate the alternative system, and it may be that, in the future, there will be opportunities for that. What is quite certain, however, is that it will be virtually impossible to operate the parking meter system and the disc system in the same city.

Therefore, if we proceed, as I hope we shall, with the parking meter system in London, then we should proceed with that alone. If we learn from experience that improvements can be made on it, there will be plenty of opportunity to come back, in future, with amending legislation to provide for possible alternative systems. We are very ready to watch and see how the thing goes. We are certainly ready to learn. Indeed, what we are doing now is what we have learned from other people by sending out teams to study what goes on elsewhere.

With regard to off-street garages, I agree that many more are needed if all parked cars are to be moved off the streets. But as even the limited garage accommodation which is now available is not fully used, it is really putting the cart before the horse to talk about improved parking in garages off the streets before we have made a more effective system for controlling parking on the streets.

Here I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester that I certainly want the willing co-operation of motorists. I hope that the average motorist will accept that this is the right thing to do, but there is nothing to show that more off-street garages would be used if they existed. American experience shows that although American motorists opposed parking meters before they were introduced, the American motoring organisations took a poll after they had been introduced and got 96 per cent. of the poll in favour of the meters. So it is evident that when people experience the pros and cons of parking meters in practice, they find that they are, on balance, a sensible arrangement to ration out the inevitably short commodity of kerb space in a busy city.

Mr. Ernest Davies

The hon. Gentleman is referring to off-street parking. I take it that he is not going back on the Act, which specifically provides that money raised from the meters must go towards off-street parking? Surely it is Government policy that more such parking facilities should be provided.

Mr. Nugent

I am not going back on that. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I have a further comment to make, although I was diverted for a moment to reply to my hon. Friend.

I believe that the parking meter scheme will be the prelude to more off-street parking construction. I believe that private enterprise and local authorities will feel the demand then, because motorists will say, "We have had a good run, but now we have to pay if we leave our cars there all day." There is already some encouragement. There is the big development of the Selfridges-Lex garage, for about a thousand cars, which is going up off Oxford Street. National Car Parks has a scheme for 120 to 180 cars at Bourdon Street, and Westminster City Council has a scheme, which it is considering, for 350 to 400 cars at the junction of Audley Square and Waverton Street. I am confident that they will move, and we shall encourage them.

I can say to my hon. Friend, the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) that we have thought about the parade in the north-east corner of Hyde Park for an underground garage. It is true that this is an open piece of ground with no trees, and that this garage could be constructed without interfering with amenities. There are some problems, even so, despite the obvious possibilities. We are still thinking about this. The Minister of Works, with his great interest in road and traffic problems, is very helpful to us. If we can see any way of bringing this to fruition, we shall. The Government are anxious to make any contribution they can towards solving this matter. In my opinion, in my sphere as chairman of this joint committee with the L.C.C., thinking about the future of London's roads, I am certain that, in the long term, there will have to be a large number of multi-storey garages about London.

Turning to the point raised by my hon. Friend, the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) and the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, parking meters will cut parking space in the area by about half. This is deliberate, to reduce parking in lengths of streets where the parked vehicle is now obstructing traffic. The number of cars that will be able to be parked there during the day will not be very much different. The person who will be cut out will be the long-term parker. Observations show that at present 30 per cent. stay for more than two hours and 16 per cent. for more than four hours. Therefore, although there will be half the number of places, with the speedier turn-over by the end of the day there will not be all that difference in the actual number of cars that will be able to park. The person who will be searching for parking space, either by going out into the park or by using one of the garages where there is a lot of space now, will be the long-term parker.

On the question of what is happening to parking meters, I know that some hon. Members have doubted whether we are really keeping abreast of affairs in introducing parking meter schemes now. I find on looking into it that their use is still expanding. In Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa and Holland it is expanding, and the Dutch chiefs of traffic police, in conjunction with the Royal Dutch Touring Club, examined the Paris system as an alternative to the meter. They reached the conclusion that the parking meter system was the best for their cities. Indeed, they thought it would take ten times as many officials to operate the alternative disc system. The weight of evidence undoubtedly is that, far from parking meters being on the decline, their use is still expanding in most cities, certainly in those of the old world in Europe, as being the best way of controlling parking.

The hon. Member for Enfield, East was anxious about the initial charge—that where a sixpenny charge was paid the motorist was not allowed to put in a further sixpence to give himself a second hour. The answer really comes in his second question about meter feeding. He is right in thinking that meter feeding is one of the problems of the metering system, and one of the things that the attendant has to look for all the time. Therefore, if any motorist is allowed to go back to his car and feed in, he is clearly confusing the issue. After much deliberation, our experts and ourselves took the view that it would handicap enforcement against meter feeding if the motorist were allowed a second choice whether he wished to stay for one hour or two, and to go back and put in another sixpence.

Mr. Ernest Davies

But it means that one motorist will pay sixpence plus ten shillings, if he stays for any extra time, which is 10s. 6d. for three hours, while another motorist will pay 11s. for four hours. It is illogical, if a person is paying sixpence for one hour and another person pays a shilling, that he has not an option of paying a shilling for two hours in two lots of sixpences. Surely there can be some way for the meter mechanism to get round this?

Mr. Nugent

A great deal of thought has been given to the matter, and the answer is that, on balance, this is the best way of doing it. The hon. Member has posed the question himself, in saying, "What are we going to do about meter feeding?" The answer is that it is a difficult practical problem, and one difficulty that the attendants will be watching for all the time. The excess charge is an excess charge—not an optional amount for the motorist to get an extra two hours. We hope he will not normally park for more than two hours, because that is the idea of rationing kerb space.

The hon. Member also asked me how the motorist who left his car for more than four hours would be summonsed. The answer is that the parking attendant will take the number of the car and report the facts to the local authority, Westminster City Council, and the local authority will then start proceedings in the normal way. I come to the hon. Member's question about article 17 (a) of the Order and why it is that the parking attendant will have the right to move a car. The answer is that he has the right to move a car in the conditions carefully specified in 17 (a) and 17 (b), and only in those. Normally, of course, he would ask the police to move the car for him. Strictly, the local authority has the right to move the car.

This Order is the product of an immense amount of work and study by the expert Samuels Committee, which, after long and detailed consideration of the subject, produced a careful Report, and a second Report after its visit to Paris. We have had very great help from the Committee, and I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the Government's gratitude to Mr. Samuels and his Committee for all they have done. After studying what other people have done elsewhere, and getting the benefit of other people's experience, we believe we have now before the House a scheme which will give us the best way of achieving in our complex, narrow streets of London the right balance between moving the traffic and providing for those who wish to stop at the kerb. I hope the House will accept that this is a good scheme, and that Westminster should be allowed to go ahead with it, and that it will have our support. I hope hon. and right hon. Members opposite will be satisfied by the answer I have been able to give to the debate and that the hon. Member for Enfield, East will be willing to withdraw his Motion.

Mr. Ernest Davies

This debate having served the purpose of eliciting information from the Parliamentary Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.