§ 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 London (Waiting and Loading) (Restriction) Regulations, 1958 (S.I., 1958, No. 660), dated 17th April, 1958, a copy of which was laid before this House cm 24th April, be annulled.We have put down this Prayer because we consider it desirable that there should be some discussion in the House about the purpose of the Regulations and the results which are likely to flow from them. The Regulations are much more than a consolidation Measure, although they are partly that. They bring together a large number of restrictions on parking, loading and unloading in certain streets in Greater London, but at the same time they extend the restrictions to many additional streets and they extend the hours and even the days during which the restrictions shall apply.
At the present time, in what has come to be known as the yellow band area, where there is a restriction on parking during certain hours, the restrictions apply ordinarily only from 11.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Under the Regulations, the restrictions are to commence at 8.30 a.m. and to continue until 6.30 p.m. At the same time, they are extended to cover Saturday as well as Monday to Friday in the majority of the streets affected. The Regulations, which are to come into effect on 1st June, affect about 750 stretches of street in total. We feel that it is desirable that the Regulations should not go through without there being some discussion in the House of the very considerable extensions which they make.
I admit that they are complicated Regulations, with the lists of streets in the Schedules and the regrettable lack of uniformity, to which I shall return later, but, roughly speaking, in the West End and theatre-land the restrictions will apply from 8.30 a.m. until 10 p.m., Monday to Saturday. In the Soho area—one is almost tempted to call it the "red light" area—the Regulations, understandably, extend throughout all day and all night. In the City, which 1627 always is a law unto itself, the Regulations apply from 9 a.m. until 6.30 p.m., Monday to Friday only. In the suburbs, to which the Regulations are extended very considerably where they did not apply before, the restrictions will operate roughly at peak periods only.
Although the Regulations are what we call "no waiting" Regulations, that is something of a euphemism, because loading and unloading of vehicles and stopping for certain other normal reasons are still permitted, though restricted to certain times. When the period of no waiting is, as it were, relaxed, the relaxation is limited usually to twenty minutes.
Although there is an extension of the no waiting period to 8.30 in the morning instead of to 11.30, the restriction on loading and unloading applies only after 11.0 a.m.; that is to say, vehicles can be parked so that they may be unloaded or goods collected or delivered, and that goes on for indefinite periods up to 11.0 a.m. That would seem to nullify the purpose of the extension of the period during which the Regulations apply. Where there is unilateral parking on alternate days, unloading and loading is permitted on the side of the road were parking is prohibited. If one vehicle is parked on the prohibited side the flow of traffic is considerably reduced.
I am aware that full provision must be made for the carrying on of legitimate business, for the collection and delivery of goods and for similar purposes. But if the intention of these Regulations is to facilitate the flow of traffic, as presumably it is, the purpose is to some extent defeated if there is any parking whatever in a no waiting street. The mere parking of one or two vehicles in a street reduces the flow of traffic, and if they are to be effective the Regulations must be extended considerably, even to the extent of imposing a total ban on collection and delivery in the most congested places during certain hours.
There was a proposal to extend the ban on loading and unloading which applies completely for certain purposes at certain intersections mainly in the West End, such as the junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street, between 11.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and between 3 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. That ban has 1628 proved efficacious. It was suggested that a similar ban might be applied elsewhere, but the findings of a public inquiry, held under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the London and Home Counties Advisory Committee, was that a case for extending the total ban cm collections and deliveries in the streets affected had not been made out. The main reason for this conclusion was because there was insufficient information about the effect of a total ban and insufficient experience of the extension of the no waiting rule. But, even so, the report which resulted from the inquiry stated:We nevertheless accept that a ban on loading and unloading may eventually be desirable.In considering these Regulations and the limited extent to which they impose a ban on collections and deliveries, it would be desirable for the Minister to give some indication of his intention. The report of the inquiry was definite regarding certain streets about which opinions were asked, but indefinite about the general principle of banning loading and unloading. It would be of interest if the Parliamentary Secretary gave some idea of what is in the mind of the Minister about the time during which these Regulations shall be considered and what steps the Ministry is taking to obtain additional information about the desirability of imposing a total ban. I would have thought that now these no waiting restrictions are to be extended in this way a period of about six months would be ample for the experiment to be tried out and for a conclusion to be reached. The six months from June would take us over the summer period when we have congestion from the influx of tourists and people from the provinces, and also over the busy autumn season when normal business is flowing.
At the present time, we have had an interesting experience of the changes in London traffic owing to the unfortunate bus strike, and I hope that the Ministry is examining the results of the changes in traffic flow resulting from the absence of the buses from the streets to see in any lessons can be learned from it, in the same way as the Road Research Laboratory undertook an investigation into the changes in the traffic as a result of the restrictions on vehicles in the street through petrol rationing.
1629 These Regulations are complex and, unfortunately, inconsistent. They would be far easier to understand as far as the motorist is concerned and, therefore, their general observance far more likely if there were greater uniformity; that is to say, if the hours during which restrictions apply in the large number of streets listed in the Schedules were the same for all. If the motorist could know that these restrictions applied to certain hours with no variation in them, he would have no reason to study most carefully the rather interesting signs at the sides of the streets and would have less excuse also for not observing them.
Certainly, the key to the success of these restrictions is their enforcement; that is to say, that no regulations are effective, however comprehensive, unless there is strict and certain enforcement. We have often raised this matter in the House, and since the Magistrates' Courts Act was passed there has been an improvement in enforcement because it has been easier for the police to bring summonses against offenders without having to wait for the drivers to appear with their cars. But even so, nobody can wander about central London without being shocked at the large number of cars which in normal times are parked in these no-waiting streets and about which the police are unable to do anything, or certainly fail to do anything.
Of course, motorists are partly guilty. Far too often, the most responsible and law-abiding citizen, as soon as he ceases to be a pedestrian by taking his place in the driver's seat behind the steering wheel of a car, seems to lose all respect for law and even tries to evade it. To many motorists, the only crime seems to be that of being caught out. The only way in which we can make the motorist obey the Regulations is to convince him that if he infringes them he will be summoned and the punishment will be sufficiently severe to deter him from committing a similar offence again.
At the present time, the fines which are imposed for parking offences and similar comparatively minor offences are quite inadequate to deter motorists from committing a similar offence if they think they can possibly get away with it. Another unfortunate fact also is that very often the motorist considers the fine to be a business expense, and so it becomes 1630 deductable from his Income Tax in that way.
Having been rather harsh on the motorist, I would say now that these Regulations are too numerous and too complex for easy observance. I think that the time has come when a national campaign, particularly in the urban areas and in the metropolis, is necessary to educate the motorist in the law which he is expected to obey. Here, possibly, the motoring organisations could help. When we impose these new restrictions, because of the fact that there are restrictions in certain streets, the motorist seems to take it for granted that the restrictions do not apply in other streets. What happens is that there is an overflow from the restricted streets into those which are not in the yellow band area and where there are no signs.
Motorists seem to forget that obstruction is an offence in any circumstances, whether in a no waiting street with restrictions or not. If a motorist causes obstruction, he is guilty of an offence and action can be taken against him, even to the point of towing away his vehicle. Motorists seem to forget, or at any rate to ignore, that and take it for granted that, unless specific restrictions are imposed, they can park their cars without committing an offence.
It has to be brought home to them that obstruction is an offence, and we can all think of certain cases of obvious obstruction. We all know of examples, such as parking near intersections, or near bus stops and pedestrian crossings, and so on. I believe that all double parking should be completely prohibited. It is almost impossible to go round some London squares nowadays because of the rows of parked vehicles, sometimes two or three deep.
We have raised this matter tonight to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether it is not possible to bring a little more uniformity into the Regulations and to make it clear to motorists that obstruction is an offence, and at the same time to help to educate motorists into obeying the Regulations. We consider that the extension of these Regulations is desirable and that they should be given a fair trial, but the co-operation of the motorists and the strict enforcement of the Regulations by the police is essential if the Regulations are to succeed.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
I beg to second the Motion.
There are 15 Schedules attached to the Order, 14 of them dealing with groups of streets and different hours. Is it not possible, in order to make it easier for motorists to know when they are complying with or breaking the law, at least to synchronise the hours? For example, in the Third Schedule the hours are 8.30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; in the First Schedule, 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.; in the Eighth Schedule, 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.; in the Fifth Schedule, 7.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. and in the Sixth Schedule, any time, day or night. How is a motorist to know, unless he has the Regulations in his pocket, exactly when he is breaking the law and when complying with it? Certainly the starting hours in the morning should be synchronised.
Where no-waiting restrictions apply for twenty-four hours on weekdays, what happens on Sundays? I understand that the purpose of the Regulations is to ban stationary vehicles which impede the flow of traffic. However, there are many streets named in the Schedules where the traffic on Sundays is as heavy if not heavier than on weekdays. Will motorists be permitted to keep their cars in those streets on Sundays if the Regulations provide restrictions only for Mondays to Saturdays, thus holding up traffic in precisely the same way on Sundays as would have been the case on weekdays?
§ 10.20 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
I feel sure that the House will appreciate the very reasonable and moderate way in which the Prayer has been moved and seconded. I should imagine that most of the views expressed by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) would demand general assent. I rise only to say a word about the Regulations as they are likely to affect the County Borough of Croydon.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that you were good enough to grant me an Adjournment Motion last week—on Tuesday, 13th May—on this very subject, and in opening the debate I explained briefly why both the Croydon Council and the Croydon Chamber of Commerce are concerned about the effect of the Regulations upon Croydon. I was 1632 supported in my views by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). When my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary rose to reply, however, he was ruled out of order before he could embark upon his speech, on the ground that he would be anticipating this debate. I do not wish to weary the House by repeating my speech of last week; perhaps I may be allowed merely to summarise the points that I made, in the hope that my hon. Friend will reply to them.
Both the Council and the Chamber of Commerce are afraid that unless the Regulations can be relaxed in certain respects and in certain streets they will seriously inconvenience the people who at present use the great shopping centre which has grown up in Croydon in recent years. In passing, I would mention that this shopping centre is used by a much wider public than the residents of Croydon. At present a practice has grown up of doing a great deal of shopping by car before the existing restrictions come into force at 11.30 in the morning. In the opinion of the local authority this practice does not appreciably impede the flow of cars and other vehicles on their way to London where their drivers work.
I would also say in passing that, so far as we can see, the new Regulations will not contribute in any way to road safety. Indeed, they are not designed to do so. If I thought that they would contribute I should not associate myself with any opposition to them.
The new Regulations will have the effect of prohibiting the parking of motor cars outside all the principal shops for the whole of the time for which they are open. I am well aware that it is open to the local authority to put forward proposals for local variation, but the Council has been disturbed by the fact that in a recent letter to it the Minister has stated that he would not expect such proposals for some considerable time. I should like, first, to press my hon. Friend to tell us what sort of period he has in mind. Is it six months, nine months, twelve months or the Greek kalends? What does the expression "for some considerable time" mean?
Finally, I would ask whether there is any chance of a somewhat more imaginative approach towards this difficult parking problem? Speaking last week, I made two suggestions. The first was that a 1633 carefully considered financial inducement should be offered to the larger shops to sacrifice part of their present ground floor area and convert it into parking space off the roads. Secondly, would not it be possible in many cases to raise the present footpaths to first-floor level, providing footbridges wherever necessary across the roads, and to make use of the existing pavements as parking space clear of the roads? Here again, it is largely a question of finance, but the cost of the project should be shared among interests concerned. I would ask whether anything is being considered on those lines.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
I, too, for the reasons given by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), am pleased that the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) has submitted this Prayer and thus given an opportunity for this discussion to take place.
For reasons which my hon. and gallant Friend has explained, I do not want to bore the Minister who is to reply by repeating the speech I made last week and to which he was unfortunately not in a position to reply, except to say that from my own personal knowledge from serving for some years on the Croydon Council I could make a very strong point that in matters of this kind it is impossible to make a general Regulation for an important town like Croydon on the same basis as for other places. I know that that does not tally with what the hon. Member for Enfield, East said. I disagree with him on the point about uniformity.
Even in Croydon, one street differs entirely from another, and general Regulations, while satisfactory no doubt to motorists who want to know where they stand, cannot be satisfactory for the community as a whole, and so successful. I fully support the Croydon Council's view, to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred, and which the Council has put before the Minister in what I think he will agree can be described as "no uncertain terms." I personally consider that the views of the Croydon Council should be in every respect very carefully studied and I hope that its advice can be taken.
The Prayer has been put down by the Labour Party and advocated in very moderate language. I do not want it to 1634 be thought that I am looking for political allies in this matter, but I more than share the general view expressed by many hon. Gentlemen previously, that these Regulations are not what is required for Croydon. To the Minister of Transport it may be that our great Borough of Croydon is just a dot on the map but, believe me, to well over 300,000 people it is very much more than that. Many of these people, whose numbers increase year by year, work in Croydon, invariable do all their shopping there, and carry on their business there. They also have their recreation and amusement in Croydon and their children go to school there. The people of Croydon are a community who care little for the fact that their borough is on the Londoners' escape route to the coast.
The Minister of Transport looks upon Croydon no doubt as a main road bottleneck where no motorist dare stop for fear of adding to the problem of congestion. With this in mind, under these Regulations, he will forbid parking from 8.30 in the morning in twenty-two of our main Croydon streets. I submit to the Minister that this will place an intolerable burden on Croydon shoppers, and indeed on the Croydon business community too, and it must be a body blow to Croydon's community life.
Apparently the Minister does not realise that if the public find it too inconvenient to shop in Croydon, they will obviously shop elsewhere, and once the trade goes from Croydon other interests will unfortunately go, too. Croydon will be drawn more and more into the grasping arms of London. On that matter Croydon Council and Croydon Chamber of Commerce have clearly made their views known, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East has said. So far the Minister has not been able to give way, but I do not think he is in any doubt as to what Members of Parliament feel on the subject. I sincerely hope that he will reconsider some of these Regulations so far as they affect Croydon, and will take into account the views which have been expressed by Croydon Council.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I do not wish to stand for long between hon. Members and the Parliamentary Secretary, whom we are all anxious to hear, but there are one or two points I 1635 should like to raise relating to my constituency in particular and to the Regulations in general.
One of the complaints of those in Purley who have shops in and around the streets affected by these Regulations is that, if they are accepted, people will shop in Croydon. From what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris), it would seem that there is not much chance of that happening.
In and around Russell Hill Road, what is known as Purley Corner, the position is worse than in many other areas, because the shopping accommodation is much more concentrated in a residential district extending for many miles. Some years ago, when this matter was previously raised, I went to see the present Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor and discussed the question on the spot. I cannot say that he agreed with everything I said or followed everything I put to him, but we reached a compromise which has proved more or less satisfactory for the last two years or so.
I observe that during all shopping hours in the neighbourhood of Brighton Road and Russell Hill Road at Purley Corner parking is to be prohibited. I do not want again to go into the details that I discussed with the Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor, but I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to say that he will look into the matters which have been brought to his notice with a view to producing some amendments to these Regulations.
As to the Regulations in general, they are a gallant effort, on which I congratulate those who have drawn them up, to solve a very serious problem in the Metropolitan Police District, particularly in the centre of one area where conditions are getting worse and will become even worse as the number of cars in the centre of London increases.
There is one flaw in the Regulations to which I would draw attention, and that is that although they refer to parking and no parking in certain streets during certain hours, there is no mention of the length of time during which a car may be left. I am not referring to loading and unloading, which is a 1636 different question altogether. A driver who parks in a street in which he is permitted to park, and where there is no prohibition, is liable to leave his car there for a long time. One of the worst offenders in this respect in the centre of London is the long-term parker who very often parks all day. These Regulations hardly seem to affect such a person, and further provisions will have to be made.
The real answer to the problem is to adopt the system which is followed in the United States of America of providing large garages with ramps and lifts. It is no use saying that they are too expensive. Some such parking accommodation must be provided in the centre of London to take hundreds of cars, where they can enter and depart quickly; and people must be made to use them if they wish to park.
This is really the only long-term solution. I can remember that about two years ago we had in the tea room of the House a beautifully-made model of a proposed underground car park under, I think, St. James's Square. We were told that it was only a model for other car parks. What has happened to it? The model has gone and there is no sign of car parks being constructed. That is a solution which must be considered quite apart from these Regulations.
The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) referred to traffic which can be allowed in the centre of London. I am not speaking about rush hours when large numbers of people have to be moved, but, during the period of the unfortunate bus dispute, we have seen large, lumbering vehicles, often empty, cluttering up the streets of London and holding up traffic. If that is allowed again we shall be told we are not dealing with this problem. The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) rightly said it was impossible for motorists to carry the Regulations in their pockets and thumb them over, whenever they stop in a street, to see if parking is prohibited there. It will be necessary to have notices in every street showing people where they may park and where parking is prohibited.
Having done that, how are the Regulations to be enforced? We have plenty of Regulations now. I could take the Parliamentary Secretary on any weekday 1637 to streets in the centre of London where he would see cars parked in rows under yellow bands and "No Parking" notices. Under carefully thought-out Regulations very often there are double rows of cars. At present the Regulations are simply not enforced. It may be that they cannot be enforced because the police are swamped with other work, but what is the point of making admirable Regulations, which may be open to criticism on small details, and then saying "We have done our best to enforce them"? What communications have the Ministry had with the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis asking, if we make these Regulations, what chance there is of their being enforced? To make Regulations and fail to enforce them, brings the whole system and the conduct of the law into disrepute.
Let us ensure that it is the intention that these Regulations shall be enforced. Then I am sure they will make a contribution towards solving the problem of parking areas in the Metropolitan Police district.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I want to reinforce one or two points already made. I particularly agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) in complaining about the long-term parker. That problem is the biggest nuisance. If streets are to be left free for parking it should be for those who are to park for comparatively short periods. I think these Regulations will achieve something in that direction.
Something should be done to provide more off-street parking. The suggestion of having garages under London squares was considered undesirable from an amenity point of view and probably from the point of view of cost. It was quietly dropped, but I should like to see more enthusiasm put into the idea of providing garages above ground somewhere in the middle of London so that some of the long-term parkers could be taken off the streets. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) suggested that consideration should be given to raising the pavements to the first floor of buildings and using the space below for parking.
1638 When I was a member of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, seven or eight years ago, a rather similar suggestion was put forward by the Committee for what was called arcading, which simply has the effect of pushing further back the shop fronts on the ground floor, and leaving the space underneath as pavement, thereby making more space for traffic, if not actually for parking. Nothing seems to have been done to put that into operation, yet there are two cities on the Continent—one is Turin, and the other is Berne, the capital of Switzerland—where there is a great deal of this arcading.
I should like to ask my hon. Friend what progress has been made, or was being made before the bus stoppage, to persuade people to leave their cars at parking places at Underground stations in the outer suburban areas. Before the bus strike, a good many of those parking places were not being used to the fullest extent, but I hope that these Regulations may help to persuade motorists not to bring their cars into London more than they need, and persuade the long-term parkers to leave the streets free for others who want to use them. I hope that these Regulations will succeed, and will be enforced.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I wish to put on record, once again, my disappointment that my right hon. Friend the Minister has not been able, within these Regulations, to deal with one road safety matter. He has not provided for no-waiting areas outside school exits. My hon. Friend has heard my arguments on this subject in Parliamentary Questions, on the Adjournment and outside the House, and I do not intend to repeat them all now. I know that my right hon. Friend was advised by the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee that general no waiting restrictions outside school exits should not be applied——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that this is rather far from the Regulations which are now before the House.
§ 10.43 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)
I must thank the House for the sympathetic manner in which it has received the 1639 Regulations, and also thank the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) and his hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) for giving us this opportunity of discussing a subject which is very important indeed, affecting, as it does, the lives of millions of Londoners.
The Regulations make some innovations, but they also set out to consolidate what I discovered to be some 28 years of Regulations for waiting restrictions in London, including some which, I see, prohibit the wearing of fancy dress in certain areas of London. Evidently, that habit has never spread to this honourable House, so that Regulation is not needed here, but when we think about the Finance Bill, something to do with waiting restrictions here might, perhaps, meet the convenience of most of us.
To turn the serious part of this subject, the task of reviewing the waiting Regulations was, of course, considered by my right hon. Friend following Parliamentary approval of the 1956 Road Traffic Act, when Parliament approved the general principle of parking meters, and it was quite clear that a general review of waiting restrictions throughout London was more than due.
We therefore asked the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee to carry out this review for us and to make recommendations as to what should be done within the Metropolitan Police district. A year ago we received the very comprehensive Report, which hon. Members will have seen, and, substantially, my right hon. Friend has adopted those recommendations and has incorporated them in these Regulations, with one important exception, to which reference was made.
The Report forms a useful background brief for all of us so that we may know what these very complicated Regulations are all about. I agree with the hon. Member for Enfield, East that it is extremely difficult to find one's way about them. I should like to say that once again we are indebted to the indefatigable Mr. Samuels and the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee for the immense amount of work that they put into these Reports.
The Report shows, despite the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris), 1640 that there was full consultation with the local authorities, and, indeed, no fewer than ninety-six of them replied to the communications from the Committee. It is true that there was a variety of views, but they certainly replied, and their views were taken into account.
By far the most important innovation in the Regulations is that of bringing forward the starting time for the general waiting restriction from 11.30 a.m. to 8.30 a.m., leaving the finishing time at 6.30 p.m. as now, only theatre-land and certain other exceptions running on till later. The reason for doing this is, of course, primarily to improve the traffic flow in important traffic routes in the morning peak rush of the very large volume of vehicles daily coming into London.
The second reason—the point was referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) and the hon. Member for Enfield, East—is to assist enforcement. I agree with the comments by hon. Gentlemen that we are bound to feel anxiety about the present level of enforcement. One has only to walk around any street in central London to see cars parked in defiance of notices forbidding street parking, even when the notices are directly above the cars. We should certainly not be right in commending to the House Regulations which did not give us a prospect of better enforcement. I have spoken to the Deputy Commissioner, and he has assured me that these will assist the police in their very difficult task of enforcement.
It is true, as the hon. Member for Enfield, East says, that as soon as even the most law-abiding citizen gets behind the wheel of his motor car his sense of abiding by the law seems to drop to zero level; and I am probably no better than the rest of us. One of our problems is to try to raise the standard of obedience to the law relating to motor cars to the general high level which our citizens have.
I agree with the hon. Member that more severe fines in the courts would be a help, but the courts have their independence, and I am afraid that all too often the level of fines which is imposed by them is not commensurate with the offences. I assure the hon. Member that I am very doubtful whether the inclusion in a business man's expense account of a 1641 fine in a police court would escape the eagle eye of the Inland Revenue. That is an expense which certainly would not be allowed. I agree with him that often the fines are not high enough, and I hope that those concerned may take note that it really would be in the general interests of the community if the fines could be a little higher so that motorists would think twice.
I would say to the credit of the police that since they have had the power to remove cars which are causing obstruction, they have, in their usual efficient but friendly way, proceeded to remove a large number of cars from central London, till they are now removing more than 400 a week. It is having some impact anyhow; it is helping in those areas. I believe that the motorist who finds that his car has been taken away to Kentish Town thinks twice before he leaves it again.
At least, the police are making an impression upon some people, but we certainly want to go further than that. As I say, I believe that, despite all our anxieties, these Regulations will be a help. The police will, first of all, have a chance to keep the roads clear from the start. One of the difficulties now is that a motor car comes in and at 11.30 it is there, and it is much more difficult for the police to deal with it. It will now be clear to the motorist that this is the law.
Here I come to the point made by the hon. Member for Enfield, East and his hon. Friend the Member for The Hartle-pools about lack of unformity. I concede that, when one reads the Schedules, it seems that there are very many exceptions to the general rule, which is 8.30 a.m. until 6.30 p.m., but when one examines them in detail and sees how many roads they apply to, one finds, I think, that they are relatively few in the general picture. In practice, it will be found that the general picture is 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. almost throughout, except in the block of the City which still wishes to stick to 9 a.m. for the starting time.
As regards the specific point about what happens on Sundays in the twenty-four hour area of Soho and that region, the answer is that it applies to seven days a week. That is in the Tenth Schedule. I agree that it is a pity that we have to have any exceptions at all, but I think that hon. Members will find that, in the broad picture, they do not disturb the general pattern.
§ Mr. D. Jones
That is not quite the point I had in mind. Where there is a restriction from Monday to Saturday, from 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m., in order to improve the flow of traffic, the same considerations could well apply on Sundays. The flow of traffic in very many of those streets is as heavy on Sunday as it is all the week, and yet, apparently, one can park and obstruct the traffic on that day, while being prohibited from doing so during the rest of the week.
§ Mr. Nugent
The answer is that, at this stage, we have not felt that we should be justified in putting on waiting restrictions on Sundays, except in those particular areas of Soho where the streets are so narrow that there is a real danger affecting the movement of fire engines, ambulances, and other emergency services. On the other hand, if it appears that there is a need for waiting restrictions on Sunday in order to facilitate traffic flow, we certainly shall not hesitate to make them. At this stage, our impression is that that is not generally justified.
I agree that we should leave no doubt in the motorist's mind as to just what the waiting restrictions are. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East observed, there will have to be, as indeed there are now, "no-waiting" signs in every street, clearly there for the motorist to see, on both sides of the street. There should really be no doubt about it at all. I shall be very happy, however, to follow up the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Enfield, East, and consult the motoring organisations to see whether there is anything further we can do to bring home to the motorists just what the no-waiting Regulations are.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
What I am particularly anxious to ensure is that these restrictions shall not give the motorist the impression that he has freedom to park elsewhere. It is important that he should realise that he is still guilty of committing an obstruction if he parks outside a yellow band area. The more restrictions we have, the more free the motorist feels where the restrictions are not imposed.
§ Mr. Nugent
The police will remove the worst of them elsewhere, but let us try to make these Regulations effective, where we make specific provision that there is to be no waiting. Then we can turn our attention to the other streets 1643 where there is often obstruction. I hope that, one day, we shall get to that desired end, but it would be quite unrealistic to think that we are nearly there now.
There is just one other category I should mention, because it is an innovation. That is the category of waiting restriction extending from 8.30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 4.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. The idea of this category is to provide for waiting restrictions in the morning peak flow and in the evening peak flow, but to leave the middle hours of the day free in certain streets where there is not much flow of traffic at that time of the day, allowing waiting at the kerbside during those hours. It may be that in some areas that will be a suitable arrangement. All these waiting restrictions have been carefully considered, and if in the course of future experience it appears that they should be modified, removed or extended, that will be done.
This is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). I can assure both my hon. Friends that although I realise there are difficulties in the borough, the problems of Croydon are similar to those in many other boroughs and county boroughs around London, and hon. Members on both sides of the House could have made similar pleas.
§ Mr. Nugent
Yes, and in the provinces too. Perhaps it is fortunate that the Whitsun Recess starts tomorrow and that some hon. Members may have gone home, or this discussion might have continued for a long time.
In making these Regulations we have paid close regard to local interests, but it is not just local problems which have to be borne in mind. These are through trunk roads into the centre of London and it is a primary responsibility to see that they continue to function. It is on the free flow of traffic along these roads that the trading and social life of London depends. The views of Croydon were particularly carefully attended to because one of the members of the Traffic Advisory Committee was a Croydon alderman and he was convinced that these Regulations were right for Croydon.
1644 I have looked into the circumstances at Croydon since the question was raised on the Adjournment, and I find that the borough is pretty well served in the matter of car parks. There is one big park holding 700 cars which is normally not fully used, probably owing to the fact that a charge is made. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West that it is overstating the case to say that this is a body-blow for Croydon. It will not upset the trading life there. People will continue to trade in Croydon's excellent stores and I do not doubt that many people will welcome the fact that the traffic flows more smoothly than before. Therefore, I hope that the fears and anxieties will be soothed.
We are prepared to review these matters again. In reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East, who asked how long it would be before that was done, I would say that we shall certainly want to see these Regulations working for twelve months; and at the end of that time, if modifications are needed, we shall be ready to consider them, in conjunction with the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East asked what we were proposing to do about long-term parking. If we can secure a more effective enforcement of these Regulations, long-term parking will be excluded from these stretches of road. The House has already approved a parking meter scheme for Westminster, and it is hoped that other schemes will be given sympathetic consideration. That is the best answer. Kerb space cannot be extended and we must ration its use. That is the only way to ensure the fair use of our very congested streets.
The hon. Member for Enfield, East raised the question of the ban on loading and unloading. The earlier starting time has still provided the maximum flexibility for the trader in allowing him to load and unload without a time limit up to 11 a.m. With regard to his point about the total prohibition on twenty-three sites, which was first recommended by the Traffic Advisory Committee on busy traffic routes, we accepted the recommendation of the Committee, following a public inquiry, that it would be 1645 wise to suspend action in this matter for the present.
The objections to these loading bans were very strong, but we have accepted the recommendation that we should see how these new waiting restrictions, starting at 8.30 a.m.—and therefore three hours earlier—work out in helping traffic flow, before we consider whether or not there should be a complete prohibition of loading and unloading at these busy sites in the interests of traffic flow.
I would not like to say how long it will be before we shall be able to reconsider that matter, but the Traffic Advisory Committee will be watching to see how the new waiting Regulations work out. In the course of the next twelve months, or a little later, we shall undoubtedly have to consider the matter again and try to get the right balance in this continuous conflict between facilitating traffic flow on the one hand and providing, on the other, for the needs of the shopper who wants to stop and the trader who must stop his van to load and unload if he is to carry on his business at all.
This point was referred to with a great deal of imagination by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East. He suggested pedestrian walkways. It is unfortunate that these new ideas usually get such odd names; even so, his idea is a good one. It is that the pavements for the pedestrians should be lifted to the first-floor level, so that the width of pavement below can be used either for widening the street or as a bay for loading and unloading vans, or similar purposes. It is not an impossible idea. London County Council has given a good deal of thought to it and a scheme is now under consideration for rebuilding the Barbican. It is a very imaginative scheme.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) suggested the idea of arcading. That is another idea which may help to make better use of our congested streets. But the impulse for these ideas must come from the local authorities. In the Ministry of Transport my right hon. Friend and I are most sympathetic to these ideas. I am certain that the present arrangement, of this continuous conflict between the traffic flowing through the main traffic routes, in the middle of dense shopping areas, 1646 continuously meeting pedestrian crossings, vans stopping, and so on, cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.
In the course of the next few years we must find some better solution than we have at present, both in the interests of traffic flow and road safety, because it is in these congested conditions that the majority of accidents take place. Therefore, I welcome the ideas that my hon. and gallant Friend put up. I hope that local authorities generally will take note of them, because it is they who may make improvements for the future. I do not doubt that traders would say that it would be expensive, and that their trade would be dislocated, and so on, but I am certain that at the end of the day they would find that they benefited by it. I hope that they will open their minds to ideas like this, which will benefit them and the community.
I must not run on on this topic, interesting though it is. I hope that I have said enough, in answering the views and the points which have been raised, and commending the Regulations to the House, to justify them as something which will help to regulate the difficult, complex and congested traffic conditions of London, and I hope that the hon. Member will now be willing to withdraw his Motion.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
The debate having served its useful purpose of elucidation, I beg to ask leave to wthdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.