§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
I beg to move,That this House regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government in recent years to tackle the growing problem of traffic congestion in the urban areas; and calls upon the Government to prepare, without delay, a comprehensive plan to meet a rapidly deteriorating situationI must ask the House to grant its traditional indulgence to a Member in the position in which I find myself, and I think that I can do no better than quote the words which you, Mr. Speaker, used in the House of Lords six weeks ago when you had been elected Speaker. Then, you said:With regard to myself, I pray that if, in discharge of my duties, I shall inadvertently fall into any error, it may be imputed to myself alone, and not to Her Majesty's most faithful Commons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 21st October, 1959; Vol. 219, c. 8.]With the substitution of the word "Opposition", that is the way in which I feel this afternoon
This is a new subject to me, and I am very conscious of the fact that I shall not bring to it the expertise of other hon. Members who will be speaking in the debate. But I should like to begin by saying a word or two about the subject and a particular problem which arises, just because I am new at it. I have often complained in the past about the facilities for research arrangements available for Members of Parliament in this House. I have never been more conscious of this than in the last few weeks, when I have been trying to get a grip of some of the elements of this problem of transport. The House of Commons Library, and its staff, within their enforced limits, extend every courtesy and help that are available to it to hon. Members. But it is still true that all the information and research facilities that are required are in the hands very largely of the pressure groups.
One of the problems of transport, so it seems to me as a newcomer, is that almost every pressure group in the country is well equipped with its facts, but that the Member who comes to it to try to consider it without any special interest of that kind is somewhat handicapped. Indeed, yesterday, with many 753 other hon. Members, I went to see a film in the Grand Committee Room, a colour film put out by the Roads Campaign Council. I do not say one word against the Council, because it has provided me with a lot of material which I would not otherwise have had. The film must have cost the Council at least £15,000, and this money would have been made available to it as a contribution from the business firms which subscribe to the Road Campaign Council, and would be allowed as Income Tax relief. It is a very poor thing that Members of Parliament should be less well equipped to cope with this problem than are the pressure groups which exist.
I hope that I am also being non-controversial in saying that urban congestion is a problem which we all recognise to exist in the most critical form in all our cities. It is by no means a new problem. As long ago as 1846 a leading article in a London newspaper said:All our principal thoroughfares have become too small for the enormous stream of traffic poured through them.It is now certainly true that, as a result of the sixteen years from 1939 to 1955, when there was virtually no possibility of major road building between cities or inside them, the congestion has become acute. The financial cost of congestion is, no doubt, very well known to the House. The figures have been given many times before. It is estimated by the Road Research Laboratory that no less than £500 million a year is the cost of congestion—not only the direct cost, but also the cost in working time lost because of delays going to and from work. The Laboratory also estimates that the cost is growing at 14 per cent. a year.
I hope that I carry the Minister with me in my first point, that this is a crisis in one sense, but not in another sense. It is the result of a predictable trend of events which has been taking place steadily since the advent of motor traffic. There has been a virtually constant increase since 1946—a compound interest increase of 8.2 per cent. a year. Although, from 1939 to 1955, it was not possible to do major road building, the improvements in technique in those years enabled the growing volume of traffic to pass without much reduction in speed until about 1953. We are now considering a trend of con- 754 gestion which has been developing steadily since 1953. Indeed, the London Transport Executive, in its annual reports, has given regular warnings. In 1957, it said:This reliance on individual transport is threatening to choke the streets of the principal cities.This year, Sir John Elliot used the phrase:London is slowly but surely throttling itself.This is not something which should have taken the Government by surprise. It is something with which they could, and should, have been fully familiar. The first part of the Opposition's Motion regrets that the Government have failed to come to terms with the problem. Their policy, such as it was, is available to those who care to study it—the progressive imposition of restriction, upon waiting in the streets of London and upon loading; the progressive introduction of new techniques for controlling traffic; some minor improvements in road building; and, in recent years, since 1955, some major projects in our great cities.
It is part of our charge that over those eight years of growing congestion there has been a degree of Ministerial complacency which is proved by the consequences with which we now find ourselves faced. In 1952, when the present Secretary of State for Scotland was Minister of Transport, we were told that "long-term plans existed." In 1953, when the present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance was Minister of Transport, we were told that he regarded it as of "immediate urgency." In 1957, the present Minister of Defence told us, when describing the waiting restrictions, that they were "only part of a comprehensive plan." As recently as May of this year, the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent), who was then at the Ministry of Transport, used these words in the debate on traffic congestion:… I feel that we can confidently say that the Government have this very difficult problem completely in hand."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1959; Vol. 605, c. 634.]The first part of our charge, therefore, is that there has been complacency by the Government. We do not blame the Government for the increase in traffic but, just as we blame Canute for failing 755 to see what was about to hit him, so we blame successive Ministers of Transport for failing to take necessary action.
We come now to the arrival of the present Minister. I should like to join in the congratulations on his appointment. His first word on urban congestion was when he came to the House and said:I have decided to introduce an emergency plan …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 560.]Why was it an emergency? Was there no plan in the Ministry when the right hon. Gentleman arrived there? Had not the present Minister of Defence prepared any plans for Christmas? Why did the right hon. Gentleman think that the plans which were prepared were no good? Was it, as I rather suspect, not the plan of the present Minister, but this was the best that they could manage from the files at the Ministry, and it had to go through?
I follow the careful way in which the Minister keeps in touch with the public. I have obtained from the Library a gaily coloured little Christmas card of a leaflet which begins like this:Traffic must be kept moving in the West End this Christmas. Mr. Ernest Marples … has a plan to achieve this".This is the form which is made available to the motorist. If one wants to know what the plan is, one should attend the Minister's Press conferences. I do not myself attend the right hon. Gentleman's Press conferences, but I read in The Times of 8th December that he had described an example of the problem, namely, the all-day parker.
The Times motoring correspondent, in reporting the Press conference, said:Mr. Marples gave an example of the immunity these all-day parkers have enjoyed … when he described how his manicurist, who parked her old car regularly near Piccadilly, complained to him one day that some other motorist had taken 'her place'".The little human touch which the Minister uses to keep in touch with the public, and to make the problem familiar to the mass of the people, is something which I can only admire.
But this is really just a continuation of the old plan, which is to keep the all-day parker progressively out of Central London. There is no one on this side of the House who believes that a man 756 owning a motor car has the right to occupy a valuable piece of the Queen's highway in London all day at no cost to himself. We are not critical of the Pink Zone. It is a development of existing Ministry of Transport policy. But it has totally failed to solve the major problem.
Our Motion is based upon three criticisms of the Minister. First, this was a predictable trend which could have been observed and which, had it been observed, should have led to a greater urgency by the right hon Gentleman and his predecessors. Secondly, the Ministry, in its planning, was working on totally inadequate forecasts of the growth of traffic. Indeed, I am told that Circular 727 is still in force, in which local authorities are told to prepare for a volume of traffic only 75 per cent. above the 1954 volume, whereas already traffic is well over 40 per cent. up and by 1962 will reach 80 per cent. and exceed the ultimate limit. Thirdly, we accept what the Minister himself said about his predecessors, namely, that when he got on the spot there was already an emergency. Whatever other hon. Members opposite do, we hope that the Minister will be with us in the Division Lobby, since we accept his view that this is an emergency situation
I come now to the very glorious Amendment tabled by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Transport. It seeks to leave out all the words from "House" to the end and to add:while acknowledging the progress made by Her Majesty's Government in improving and constructing roads throughout the country, draws attention to the growing volume of traffic for which provision must be made and pledges its support for all practical measures to meet the problem.It is a very charming Amendment. I shall go through it, because I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite will be voting for it and I want to give them the full facts on which to base their judgment tonight. I have done a simple calculation of the Government's road building programme and compared it with the number of vehicles which have come on the roads in a comparable period. We are very often given figures by British Road Federation Ltd. to show how 757 many vehicles there are for every yard of road. I wish to take another figure, not given by the Federation, and compare the number of cars which have come on the roads during the last seven years with the number of miles of roads which the Government have built.
The answer is that there are 3 million new vehicles and 291 miles of new road. Therefore, the Government have achieved the distinction of building 6 inches of road for every new vehicle which has come on to the roads since 1952. This is a magnificent achievement, because it condemns the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors, not as Ministers of Transport but as inadequate parking attendants. They could not provide enough roads even to hold all the vehicles that have come on to the roads since 1952.
I have often heard that the Minister of Defence wanted to be compared with one of the great Roman road builders, so this morning I took the trouble to study a little about Roman Britain. I discovered that in those days there were about 20,000 Roman vehicles—that is inclusive of horsemen, cavalry and chariots —and that, had the Romans maintained the same relationship between new roads and vehicles, they would have left behind them when they went from this country 2½ miles of Watling Street. I therefore congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, and I recommend hon. Members opposite to think about that when they go into the Division Lobby tonight.
The second part of the Amendment is the best of all, in a way, because it draws attention to the growth of traffic. It is like a game of "Simon says"; it is as though one would not notice the growth of the traffic if it were not included in the Amendment tabled by the right hon. Gentlemen. Finally, it pledges support for what it calls "practical measures." That is really the key of the whole debate, and from now on I hope to concentrate on the future, because today we are arguing about the practical measures necessary to solve this problem, and we have said in our Motion that what we want is a comprehensive plan.
This has been asked for in the past. In 1955, I think, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), asked the present Minister of 758 Pensions and National Insurance whether he would:… set an expert Committee to prepare a long-term plan for the relief of traffic congestion in the London area.The right hon. Gentleman replied:No, Sir.Pressed by my hon. Friend, he said:I am inclined to think that plans are in adequate supply and I propose to proceed from them to measures."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1955; Vol. 536, c. 1084.]We complain that those measures never came out, and they never came out because, in the present situation, it is impossible for the present Minister to solve the problem unless he gets some help from the House.
I want now to deal with three major problems of urban congestion, as I see them, and to try to suggest how best they can be tackled. The first problem is what I call—and I hope that it is not controversial—that of immediate chaos in our great cities. It applies to the provincial cities as much as to London. The only reason one concentrates on London, or mentions London more, perhaps, than other cities is partly that its problem is so much greater than that of other cities that it acquires a difference in kind as well as of degree. Secondly, of course, the Minister is the traffic authority for London, so it is right that we should hold him to account. He is described as the, traffic authority, whatever that may mean, and many of the plans he begins in London are applied later to other cities.
After looking at the number of authorities that exist, it seems really quite impossible to continue with the present divided control. It has very often been said in the past, but there are, I think, 1,285 different highway authorities in the country. There are many police authorities. There are no fewer than seven police authorities in the London area, for which the Minister is responsible. He has to deal with his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in dealing with those police authorities. He has contacts, of course, on the planning side with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. He has to deal with the Board of Trade on questions of office building, and he has also to deal with the public transport authorities, the British Transport Commission and the 759 London Transport Executive. When we take all this diversion of authority it seems to me to be totally impossible for the Minister to solve the problem.
There are also committees, and I will run through them very quickly. In addition to the local authorities concerned, there is the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, which has done good work, the London Travel Committee, the Transport Users' Consultative Committee, a wonderful committee known as the Stopping Places Advisory Committee, and a Committee on London Roads.
In Landon, only one thing is lacking, and that is a central authority to bring order out of chaos. The first recommendation that I make to the Minister on this question of immediate chaos is that he should immediately, even if it involves legislation, take the power to deal with the London traffic crisis. I believe that this can be done only by appointing a commissioner for Metropolitan transport. I use the word "transport" deliberately so as to cover not only traffic, but other methods of locomotion as well. He should be a person of such ability, force and power as to compare with Lord Trenchard when he was made Commissioner of Police.
It seems that we must give him authority to cut across all the present confusion. Of course, it will require legislation and, of course, it will be complicated. There will be the temptation to say that this matter must await the report of the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London—as the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor said—but with the traffic growing as it is—and remembering the time it takes for the reports of Royal Commissions to be prepared, considered and implemented—it certainly seems that much more rapid action is required. I therefore recommend that the executive authority to be given to this commissioner for Metropolitan transport should include the following functions.
First, he should be the prime authority for traffic engineering. The Minister knows very well that this country has been behind in traffic engineering in the past. Traffic engineering is a matter of great expert knowledge, and it is studied 760 and developed very well in the United States. Without traffic engineering, and without a proper road census, it is not possible to provide the machinery for rapid improvement of existing roads. In fact, it has been estimated that £500,000 would be required for an inquiry alone into the state of London traffic. I hope that this would be the first executive responsibility, of the commissioner for Metropolitan transport.
The second thing would be to give this commissioner executive traffic control, which would allow him, without delay, to impose one-way working, to impose clearways in London, to control parking, to install parking meters, to have lanes painted on the road and to make use of the powers now vested in various authorities—to bring them together and to act rapidly. That would be his second function—
§ Mr. Benn
I will come to that.
Thirdly, we must recognise that the machinery for the enforcement of traffic restrictions in London is at present absurd. One reason why the Pink Zone has not been as successful as it might is that the police have neither the towing vehicles nor the men to enforce the limited restrictions imposed. Therefore, if we are to make any sense out of the situation we have to insist that the traffic-warden procedure be adopted immediately; and that the traffic wardens be brought under the authority of the commissioner for Metropolitan transport.
Incidentally, I hope that we will not use the expression "traffic warden". It is singularly unattractive. It is a mixture of shelter marshal and game warden. I would like them to be called the London motor patrol—something with a little flair about it that would attract men of the right type to serve. Naturally, we do not want to break the links with the police. We should have the police acting as non-commissioned officers in the London motor patrol.
Fourth, the responsibility of the commissioner of Metropolitan transport should provide—I will not say full control, but limited control over the London Transport Executive in the 761 planning of its schedules. One thing that has held the Traffic Advisory Committee back has been the failure of the Minister to take power to compel the London Transport buses to run the sort of shuttle services that are necessary to get what is required. I very much hope that the commissioner would have the authority to co-ordinate.
Next, the commissioner should have authority himself, with a budget, to finance small improvements. The system of financing road development is quite unsatisfactory. We have the classified roads, with the different grant percentages that are attracted. Then we have the small borough with an unclassified road with congestion that may back on to the main road, but, because the main congestion occurs outside the limits of the borough the local authority is not prepared, out of ratepayers' money, to finance the necessary changes quickly enough to get the traffic moving. That is all quite unnecessary, and ought to be corrected by the commissioner out of his budget.
Finally, I come to the last but very difficult function of the commissioner of Metropolitan transport. We must have another look at the whole subject of staggered working hours. The report on crush-hour in London suggests that 33 per cent. of the morning entry takes place in a quarter of an hour, and, in the evening, 20 per cent. takes place between 5.15 and 5.45. It is the problem of badly spaced entry and exit into and out of our great cities which compels the British Transport Commission to keep a larger amount of rolling stock in operation than would be necessary if rush-hour travel was better spaced, and it is one of the major factors leading the Commission into economic difficulty.
A committee was set up to investigate the staggering of hours and certain recommendations have been made, but, as far as I can gather, in the first year, only 145 firms co-operated, 21,500 people being affected. If the Observer is correct in its report of May this year, only 2 per cent. still of the office workers in London are in organised staggering arrangements. Thirty per cent. are still discharged on the dot of 5.30.
It seems to me that far greater efforts must be made to make sure that staggering arrangements are established. The 762 Labour Party staggers from Transport House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—wait for it—the Communist Party staggers from King Street, but Marples, Ridgway & Partners discharge their people at 5.30 on the dot, and so does Macmillan the publisher. I saw in one of the newspapers today that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) had been made managing director of Guinness. I wondered whether Messrs. Guinness staggered. I find that they do, though whether Guinness staggered because they have as managing director an ex-Minister of Transport, or because they want, by example, to encourage further use of their product, I do not know.
One thing is quite certain. We shall not have a proper measure of staggering unless some compulsion is applied. It is very difficult to compel staggering. One cannot arrest a man in a bowler hat on the ground that he has arrived 15 minutes too early, and tell him to go back to Surbiton or he will be in trouble. One cannot apply Wolfenden methods to the keen office worker. One cannot drive him off the streets. It can be done only by saying quite simply to those who employ office workers in London that we are very sorry but, if they insist on discharging their workers at 5.30, they will have to pay a tax for employing people in London, but the tax will be immediately discharged if they co-operate with the staggered hours committee. We should have no desire to make use of the tax as a revenueraising mechanism, but we must say that the social cost, the cost to London Transport and the cost in the tempers and health of people in the Metropolis is so gravely affected by simultaneous discharge at 5.30 each evening that, if people do not co-operate, they must accept some pressure upon them to join in.
It may be that, once the Minister or the commissioner shows keenness to get on with the job, staggering will become much more widespread. I think that most of the trouble is caused by the conservatism of people who feel that it would be difficult to stagger their hours, there would be objections, and so forth. On the other hand, when one thinks of the consequences of the way people now come into their work and leave, there 763 can, I think, be no doubt that staggering would actually ease the burden and would be popular, provided that there was some real impetus to put it into full effect.
It is my opinion, obviously, that the traffic commissoner in London should have his counterpart in every urban area and conurbation in the country. It is quite impossible to arrange things differently in Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester or anywhere else. What is required everywhere is an arrangement for the integration of the whole transport programme in an endeavour to solve the problems there just as we have them in London.
The effect of course—let us face it—will not be to solve the problem of congestion. It will merely guarantee maximum capacity on existing roads and will provide the statistics on which it will be possible to calculate future developments. That is the first problem, the problem of immediate chaos. The comprehensive plan we suggest calls for executive authority vested in the Ministry to get on with the job.
The second matter is transport investment. I use the expression "transport investment" deliberately, and I do not say "road programme" because I believe that we shall make a tragic mistake if we think of road investment as being separate from other "transport investment" and we do not try to plan the whole scheme as one. There is a fundamental imbalance in our expenditure on road transport which is reflected in the fact—I have no doubt that the Minister has calculated these figures himself, but I have checked them—that, over the last seven years, £2,400 million has been spent on new vehicles and £3,920 million has been spent on petrol and licensing, making a total of more than £6,000 million on buying vehicles and using them, whereas only £295 million has been spent on new roads—a mere one-twentieth of the total.
We have here one of the dilemmas and absurdities of the present situation. The community appears not to be willing— at least, the Government do not give it the chance to be willing—to devote what is required to its basic transport investment. According to the figures given —I suppose they are correct—the United 764 Kingdom spends 0.66 per cent. of its gross national product on roads, compared with 3.15 per cent. in Western Germany. We on this side of the House regularly criticised the Government for their under-investment and for sacrificing the future for present enjoyment. We believe that there is no more remarkable example of their attitude than the failure to provide the transport investment which is required.
Today, of course, the Minister will make a big announcement about road expenditure. We know that. We know that in the Tory election programme there was a promise of double the previous amount and, obviously, the Minister, being a "go-getter", as I think his Parliamentary Secretary called him the other day in the House of Commons, will not miss the chance of announcing immediately the doubling—or perhaps more—of the investment programme. But, when he comes forward with these figures with which to dazzle the Press Gallery tomorrow, I hope that he will look at the matter more widely and consider it in terms of our total transport needs.
I hope that it will not be thought that, in saying this, I am trying to write down the importance of road investment. I am not. London has had its plan, prepared under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Guildford, which provides for £6 million or £10 million—probably it needs much more—per year to iron out its difficulties. Bristol wants to build its inner ring road. This plan is being held up and there is great waste as a consequence. Birmingham is asking for £37 million to be invested, so we understand.
What we say is that, before major projects for motorways, particularly urban motorways, are considered, the investment programme should he discussed in co-ordination with the British Transport Commission and, in London, the London Transport Executive. For instance, the Victoria tube scheme—here again, we hope for an announcement—would be not only cheaper by about half compared with an urban motorway, but it also would give us a much better return on our money. Every town planner now agrees that the urban motorway is not the answer to the transport problem in the cities. It is not possible to provide roads 765 to allow everyone who works in our great cities to come in by car. There is a limit to what can be done. If one has unplanned urban motorway development, one may well attract traffic which a city cannot hold.
Now is the time to do in this country what is already recognised to be important in the United States, namely, to revive public transport and give it its proper status in the life of the cities. This is not—I am sure the Minister will agree—a matter of economics alone. It is not that people cease to use London Transport services and go on the roads because it is cheaper. It is much more expensive to motor in London than to travel by London Transport. The R.A.C. has published figures showing that it costs 7d. or 8d. per mile for a small motor car to move about.
Of course, very many of the cars in London are carried on business expenses. If someone can charge his road movements in London to the firm, and the Treasury will then give back a half of the cost, it does not matter much to the man who uses his car instead of using London Transport. What is required is a big investment programme designed to help all our transport needs, not just to help the motorist. We must bring the economic costs into line with the true social costs of what we do.
The third great problem concerns the whole future of our cities. We are discussing nothing less than that. If one likes, one can regard our roads as beautiful and quaint, an attraction for the tourists. The Board of Trade finances the British Travel Association. I have no doubt that some hon. Members have picked up in the Library a booklet called "Seeing Britain by Road", the opening sentence of which reads:Unlike highways in other countries, which are concerned only with tracing the shortest distance between one point and another British roads are never impatient. They might, indeed, have been designed for the holidaymaker, for they amble through the countryside as though they enjoyed the delightful and varied scenery through which they pass … making here a sweep to avoid a cottage garden and there a bend to peep at a pleasing view.That is the Government-financed analysis of seven years' road building programme by the Minister of Defence. If that does not convince hon. Members opposite to Come into the Lobby with us tonight, with our modest regrets and helpful 766 aspirations for the future, I do not know what will.
We must also recognise that our debate today is one of the series that we have had about the future of our cities. The revolution in transport affects everything that we do and the way that we live. Motor traffic can kill cities in three ways. It can kill them by congesting the cities so that no one can move about in them. It can kill them by consuming the cities with great ribbons of concrete in the middle of them, driving everyone out. It can kill them by deserting the cities for rural shopping centres and for other forms of life, leaving the cities as ghost towns of the future.
Today, we are discussing one of the major issues of planning. We are not discussing whether there has been bad co-ordination or not. Here we have a problem of actual conflict between two things that we believe in. For example, there is zoning; we believe that we should divide industry from the places where people live, but if we divide them we may create a transport problem which we may not be able to solve. This is not a problem of co-ordination, but a problem of reconciling different views and different solutions for different problems. If we have a green belt it may have the same effect. If we allow London Airport to develop as it is doing, we may create an entirely new magnet and centre of attraction without ever planning the way in which it will work.
If we allow office building to go on in the middle of London absolutely unchecked, as it has done in the last few years, it will become totally impossible to meet the transport needs of the Metropolis. As the Minister knows, 44 million sq. ft. of new office accommodation has been provided in London during the last ten years, which is very nearly as much as the total factory floor space in Scotland and Wales for a comparable period. The magnet of London has been allowed to go on unchecked by anyone—and I agree that the Minister's powers are very limited—but it is likely to affect us very greatly.
It is true that sites and building costs are very much greater in London, up to £2,500 per office worker against £1,000 outside. There are all sorts of economic motives. Ministries have sent some 767 civil servants out of London. This is a major problem with which we have to deal. Just as the rivers and ports in the early days determined where the early human settlements were to be and the railways spaced our industrial towns throughout the country, so the great new motorways, airports and traffic grids will determine where we shall live, what we shall do and the sort of conditions in which our children will be brought up.
The right hon. Gentleman the father of the House made a famous speech in this House in 1943 when he moved to set up a Select Committee to rebuild this Chamber. He said:We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1943; Vol. 393, c. 403.]We have an exact parallel in our roads today. I believe that the real greatness of a community is tested by one thing more than any other. It is when it decides that its future is more real for it than its present or its past—and when it has the courage to forgo its present desires to meet the needs of the future.
By this test we shall require the Minister to act as he plans his road programme. I wish the right hon. Gentleman well in his task and I hope that when he performs it he will never forget that he is not working only for the woman on the bus tomorrow, although she is very important, not working only for the man with a car and a vote in the next election, although he is very important, too. but that he owes it to the future to hand on a heritage that is both useful and beautiful.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:while acknowledging the progress made by Her Majesty's Government in improving and constructing roads throughout the country, draws attention to the growing volume of traffic for which provision must be made and pledges its support for all practical measures to meet the problem".I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) on his first major speech as leader for the Opposition on transport matters. He made it in a most charming way, and 768 he was constructive. He has taken unto himself the hereditary qualities of his father, and his speech will give great pleasure to those who have listened to his father in this House. I was particularly grateful for the liggh-hearted yet constructive way in which he made his speech. If he continues to make speeches like that, I can promise him that I shall steal all his bright ideas and claim credit for them.
The only thing that disturbed me was not the manicurist who has a car which costs £7 10s. standing on ground worth £10,000, but the official policy which the hon. Gentleman put forward of taxing firms to compel them to close at a certain time. That does put our freedom in jeopardy. I assure the hon. Gentleman that that will be gone into very carefully after this debate. It is a startling change of policy on the part of the Opposition to enforce its views in this way on the community. I might tell him that I left Marples Ridgway in 1951 and that when I was there they left at 8.30 at night and not at 5.30.
The hon. Gentleman made three points which I should like to deal with first. Referring to the increase in motor cars, he said that this was a perfectly predictable trend of events since the end of the war, that it should not have taken the Government by surprise and that the forecasts had been inadequate.
In London, we are dealing with a city hundreds of years old. The greatest chance for planning came when the new towns were started by the party opposite when it was in power. I remember Mr. Silkin, now Lord Silkin, moving the Second Reading of the Town and Country Planning Bill on 29th January, 1947, when he said that the Bill… is the most comprehensive and far-reaching planning Measure which has ever been placed before this House. … Already the world is looking eagerly to this country to see how we intend to solve the problem. … When this Bill becomes law, we shall have created an instrument of which we can be justly proud; we shall have begun a new era in the life of this country …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 947 and 987.]How did the party opposite solve the problem? It planned for motor cars ten years ago. This was how the Labour Party planned. In the early days, it was estimated that the future demand would 769 be in the range of 8 to 14 garages per 100 standard houses in the London new towns—eight garages to 100 houses. The party opposite made a mistake. It should have been 92 houses with garages and eight without. That was the party which now condemns the Government for their action. Hon. Members opposite should have looked ten years ahead. For Cwmbran and Peterlee, the figures were not 8 to 14 but 5 to 9, which is even less. Therefore, of all the hopeless miscalculation ever to be made in the history of planning, I am bound to say that, in spite of all the charm of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, it was made by the party opposite.
If hon. Members opposite do not believe that, let them read the Fabian pamphlet, "What shall we do about the roads?" After all, hon. Members opposite must believe a Fabian pamphlet. They have talked about a comprehensive plan. They had one known as the Barnes plan. This is what the Fabian pamphlet says, and it is not a Tory pamphlet:It was envisaged that arrears of maintenance having been made good, 'a comprehensive reconstruction of the principal national routes' would begin in 1951, which would include the building of some motorways … The economic crisis of 1947 intervened, authorisations fell to less than a tenth of expected amounts, and the Barnes Plan shrivelled awayThe pamphlet went on to say:A Special Roads Act was passed in 1949 to enable motorways and other traffic-restricted roads to be built. But building did not begin. Improved economic conditions have since, however, allowed Conservative Governments to get substantial construction under way. In 1953 a plan envisaging Exchequer expenditure of £50 million was announced, and this has been incorporated in successive expanded programmes.It goes on to say:Altogether, a transformation in our highway system is taking place of very considerable proportions and expenditure is gaining momentum.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
The right hon. Gentleman is accusing the Labour Party of not foreseeing events. Is he not aware that the very Barnes plan of which he is speaking planned an expenditure of £750 million and that we are still trying to reach that target?
§ Mr. Marples
It is no use planning unless one puts it into effect. The party opposite did not do anything. All that it spent on roads was an average of 770 £2.7 million a year. What is the good of a blueprint in the Library of the House of Commons if the roads are not built?
§ Mr. Benn
No major roads were built from 1939 to 1955, a period of 16 years, during ten of which the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), was Prime Minister, and during six of which Lord Attlee was Prime Minister. There was no further road building by the Conservative Government from 1951 until 1955, thus confirming the priorities of Lord Attlee when he was Premier.
§ Mr. Marples
The real difficulty in the 1945 Parliament, of which I was a Member, was that the party opposite spent too much time nationalising instead of constructing. I propose to deal with the hon. Member's constructive points. He made many, some of which we shall adopt.
I have been in my present office less than two months. Therefore, the House would not expect any comprehensive statement from me. What I thought I would do was to give the House an indication of my first reactions on coming to the job, in just the same way as the hon. Member has done. Provided that anything I say is not held as committing me, I would like to be frank with the House about what I have in mind. Then, I would like to invite the views of the House on the topics I introduce today. That will enable me to take them into account when the final plans are prepared. That is probably the most constructive thing I can do.
I have divided the problem into two, the long term and the short term. I agree with the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East: what is to happen in the fourth quarter of this century and the first quarter of next century? Where are we going? In 1960, there will be 5½ million private cars. In 1975, it is estimated that there will be 13½ million private cars. That is a geat deal.
I agree with the hon. Member also about the number of people coming into London. Ninety-four per cent. of them come by public transport and 6 per cent. by private car. Imagine what it would be like if those two were reversed. Therefore, whatever happens, we must not allow public transport in the heart 771 of London to become disintegrated and go to pieces. If it does, it will be like Los Angeles, which has a population smaller than London's and which stretches 130 miles. If London were to be planned on the same scale as Los Angeles, it would stretch from here to the Lake District. We cannot do that and have great slabs of concrete, as the hon. Member said, dividing the heart of the community.
The problem was put best by the Architects' Journal, which said:Is Motropolis, the motorised city, to be dominated and destroyed by the motor, or is it to be the city in which civilised man lives a civilised life, using the motor vehicle sensibly and economically as a tool for mobility?I agree wholeheartedly. It worries me a great deal.
This is not merely a road engineering problem. It is not merely the construction of roads or offstreet car parking. It is a design for living in the fourth quarter of this century. We must come to terms with the motor car without letting it destroy our way of life. We cannot allow it to grind the amenities out of existence. I have read a number of books on this subject. In one, which I consider to be the best, the author said that he was humbled by the size and scope of the problem. I am, too.
I have been thinking on these lines, and I ask hon. Members during the course of the debate to give me their views on these thoughts. Should we have a long-term study group, fulltime, with no executive responsibility, to go not merely into the road programme, but to consist of architects and town planners, embracing both roads and amenities, to see which way we are going and how we can come to terms with this problem? I believe that something like that should be set up before it is too late and disaster overtakes us, as it has done some of the American cities. I ask hon. Members for their views about this.
Another reason for this is that road accidents, which the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East did not mention, are absolutely frightening. They sicken me. I do not think that an ultimate solution will be arrived at until the pedestrian is segregated from the vehicle; there is what is known in the jargon as a vehicle/pedestrian conflict, or something like 772 that. There were few cars when I was born, but during my lifetime, in the last fifty years, 8 million persons have been injured on the roads and a quarter of a million killed. In the next 50 years, at the present rate and without any increase, 15 million persons will be injured and 300,000 killed. The point is that the casualties are increasing. They are not staying at the same rate.
In October this year, total casualties were 17 per cent. greater than in October, 1958. The corresponding increase in traffic was only 11 per cent. If the casualties go on at that rate, everybody could expect to be a casualty at least once in his lifetime. That is all the more reason for starting at a reasonably early date some sort of study group to consider which way we are going. The more violent the controversy, both outside and inside, the greater the clash of minds on this issue, the better it will be for the ultimate plan.
Having mentioned that, let me come to the short term. Before dealing with urban congestion, I should like to mention a point which arises out of building roads between towns. It is relatively easy to construct a motorway or to improve a trunk road, because access to,the site can be obtained easily, the builder is not interrupted and results are reasonably spectacular, with the bypasses and the wide carriageways. This is distinct from the urban congestion of towns.
The limiting factors, however, are not only money, the resources of industry and the technical plans. Another limiting factor is the limitations that Parliament has imposed, and deliberately so, upon the Minister of Transport and the authorities to safeguard the rights of the individual. The House may have been right to do that—it probably was—but hon. Members cannot have those limitations and expect excessive speed from the Minister of Transport. They can have it which way they like, but they cannot have it both ways. The House must make up its mind which way it wants it.
I now come to one other point on which, I hope, the House will forgive me, because this is my maiden speech too. As soon as anybody is hurt in transport, an immense scream goes up from the party who is hurt, perhaps rightly. Until I came to this Department, I thought I knew the meaning 773 of the words "vested interest". The father of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East may remember this, but I am told that in the 1906 election, when protection or free trade was the issue, there was a music-hall song called "The Manufacturer's Lament". It was a Liberal song which ran as follows:My interest must not be neglected.What I produce must be protected.With that exception, we all agreeThat everything should be duty free.That is what happens with vested interests in transport. I had made up my mind that, whatever happens, I shall be unpopular. I had to make that decision and it has been made.
Another point is that, as soon as a constituency case arises, hon. Members write asking to see me personally. They will not see anybody else; they must see me. The case may be about a pedestrian crossing in their constituency. Members of the other place and leaders of industry ask to see me. Frankly, if I were to agree to all interviews, I should be busy every working day and every hour of the working day. I should never get any policy framed. I would ask the hon. Members in the early months of this administration, for their indulgence in this matter. If they write to me, I promise to do my best, but I ask them not to insist that they should see me, at any rate in the early months. I do not do this because I do not want to work. but because I want to work on policy and to achieve something.
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
The right hon. Gentleman has been dealing with some of his difficulties. One of the difficulties he mentioned was the result of legislation passed by this House entailing a long process before a road can be actually started. Hon. Members— and I am one of them—have asked previous Ministers of Transport whether they can prepare the plans in the Ministry earlier. For instance, we have asked for the line of a new motorway to be fixed. If the right hon. Gentleman could get ahead with his own planning, even though three years may pass before the road was built, it would be helpful.
§ Mr. Marples
That took place in the case of the London-Yorkshire motorway. The line was fixed and then everyone said that it should be altered. That is where delay ocurs. We are looking into the 774 matter now to see whether we can streamline the procedure without, at the same time, leading to loss of justice to the individual.
I now come to the problem of urban congestion. It is no good going fast between towns unless one knows what will happen when one gets there. At present, we in this country have more cars per mile than any other country in the world, and the situation will get worse. We must try to maintain compactness at the same time as increasing our mobility. There are two brutal truths that must be known. First, the present road system is bound to be inadequate to meet the needs of everybody. Secondly, radical changes in our cities will take a longish time and will involve great expense. Projects like the Hyde Park underpass and the Hammersmith fly-over will take a long time and will cost money, but we will press on.
I should now like to deal with the better use of existing roads, about which the hon. Member had some ideas. Everyone must sacrifice something if order is to replace chaos and discipline is to replace anarchy. Some of the ideas that the hon. Member mentioned, such as those which are part of traffic engineering, are not new. I should like to add to the list of the hon. Gentleman.
First, in a given city, such as London, a survey should be made of the roads, and the first object should be to ensure that traffic can flow freely. If there is any space left, it should be given to kerbside parking, loading, and so on. The motorist must know where he stands. It is simply no good having vague signs which he does not understand. Nothing causes more confusion to the motorist than bad signs. I should like to see the roads and kerbs painted so that every person knows what would happen in every square inch of the road. It is like playing snakes and ladders—on square 1 a person knows he can park, on square 2 he knows he can load, and on square 3 he knows that he must keep moving.
The day of the long-term parker who comes to London, or any other big city, and leaves his car in the road for eight hours or more is virtually over. The long-term parker has no right to strangle the area in which he earns his livehihood. There will have to be off-street car parking. I am negotiating with British Railways to ensure that on the periphery of 775 London and other places adequate car parks are provided so that people can come to the periphery and then come into the centre by public transport. Any spaces at the kerb-side should be used by the short-term parker. The best way to ensure that is to use parking meters. I would rather eight people used a given space for one hour than one person used it for eight hours.
I now come to enforcement. This is not my province but that of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The police enforce the restrictions and the rules, but I believe that without enforcement which is swift and salutary no progress will be made. I do not say this against the majority of motorists. In the majority of cases, if a motorist knows what to do he will do it, but one selfish motorist makes everyone else selfish. I have a friend in the West End who wanted to help me with regard to the Pink Zone. He paid £3 a week to park his car in order to help me. He told me so. On the first day, the space outside his house was empty. On the second day, an old car was parked there, and it was parked there for the next five days, eight hours a day. My friend said to me, "Why should I pay £3 a week so that that car can be parked free?" It is like Gresham's Law. One bad motorist drives out all the good ones. We must therefore have enforcement.
I should like the views of the House on this matter, because there is controversy. Should we have traffic wardens? The hon. Member obviously has been looking at television. At one time, I thought he wanted to call them the highway patrol. Should we have traffic wardens? Some people object to them, others do not, but there are two points which I should like the House to consider when hon. Members put forward their views on this subject. First, in local authorities, who look after the parking meters we virtually have traffic wardens. A ticket is issued and a person has to pay 10s. if he parks longer than the prescribed time. That has been started by local authorities in respect of offences at parking meters. But, for the man who double banks his car and causes a traffic jam, there are no traffic wardens. He must be brought up in court for obstruction. This process may take six months and, finally, the man may be fined a small sum. I do not propose 776 to make any announcement on this, as was forecast in the Press. I first want the views of the House on traffic wardens. Unless a Minister can take this House with him, he will not be successful.
Local authorities operate the ticket system. The question is, should the police operate it? In one Continental country, when a person is given a ticket for the first time he goes to the police station and pays £1 and the offence is noted in the book. For the second offence, he is fined £3. He is allowed three offences in the year. For the third offence, the fine is £8, and then he has to go to court. I wrote asking how effective this system was. I was told that it was extremely effective—no one ever parked in the wrong place. [Interruption.] I forget the country. I must look after foreign policy as well as transport policy.
I agree with the hon. Member that paint should be used on our roads in order to get more lane discipline. At the moment, vehicles straddle all over the place in a most alarming fashion. It may be that on the inside of the kerb we should have a special lane for scooters and motor cycles. We have a great number of them in this country, although they are not used so extensively in America. I agree that we should consider places like Tottenham Court Road, Gower Street, the Embankment, the Strand, Wigmore Street and Oxford Street to see whether one-way traffic can take the place of two-way traffic. I think that the number of permissible right turns should be reduced. In the Old Kent Road, congestion was reduced effectively by filtering the traffic off to the left, turning it right and right again and then making it come across the main crossing. I advise hon. Members to consider that.
More through-ways out of London should be made. From here to Wembley, on the Cromwell Road, and so on, through-ways should be marked in a distinctive manner, perhaps with a yellow line down the centre, so that people would know that between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. no car should park on the through-way.
We should have more of what is called "tidal flow". At Waterloo Bridge at night one finds, at the most, two lanes of traffic struggling to go southwards 777 over the bridge. There is a row of cars parked on the nearside and a row of lamp standards in the centre. Waterloo Bridge was not built as a car park but as an artery to go to the South of London. Therefore, I suggest that the car park should go, that the lamp standards in the middle should go, and that there should be five traffic lanes—four devoted to southbound traffic in the evening and four devoted to northbound traffic in the morning.
As for loading, everyone has to make a contribution. It must be so, as it has been in the Pink Zone, which has been extremely successful considering the difficulties which the police have in keeping the roads clear. Loading must be restricted. It is no good traders saying that they cannot accept it. They must play their own part like everybody else in getting the maximum utilisation out of our roads. They and the chambers of trade can write to me if they like, and I will listen sympathetically, but it is my job to be as fair as possible.
The U-turns in the middle of the street ought to be stopped. Therefore—and this is not a thought but a definite order which will be going out—all vehicles, including taxis, will be stopped from making U-turns in the main roads of the Pink Zone. This will apply when they are on the move. When taxis are stationary in the centre of the road it is a different matter; but when they are moving U-turns will be stopped within the next few days.
After mentioning these ideas, I ought to remind the House that Goethe said, "Thought is easy, but action is difficult"; and I am bound to say that the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East was right. I have looked at some of the cases at the Ministry, and it is extremely difficult to get something done. There are 28 Metropolitan boroughs, all of which are elected to look after their ratepayers. They are not elected to look after through-traffic. They are too small. For instance, Holborn is two-thirds of a square mile. And they are too slow. Their committees meet every so often, and so do the local councils.
The reason why local authorities do not act quickly is that their terms of reference are wrong. There is a case I have in mind in connection with a High Street. I will not mention the local 778 authority concerned, because I would not wish to embarrass it. We have been arguing about this case since April last. There is loading and congestion, and yet nothing happens because the authority wants a 75 per cent. grant towards the total cost, which we cannot give and because the police cannot provide and operate flashing bollards. There is the case of improving traffic flow over a bridge; again, there are two local authorities on the north side and one on the south and the L.C.C. in the middle, and if any hon. Member can come to an agreement with that bunch he is a very much better man than I am.
There was the case of a very congested place which came up last July, before my time in the Ministry. Traffic signal control with a diversion for right turns would have eased the matter considerably, but it could not be done because one pedestrian crossing had to be moved and one councillor objected. In the council's minutes, I found that one councillor objected to a certain scheme because another councillor would have had two pedestrian crossings in his ward and the objecting councillor would not have had one in his. One simply cannot run a system on that basis.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is not casting any reflection on the London local authorities. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is."] What he is indicating is that the set-up of London and the local authority system historically prevents the co-ordination of these plans. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is driven to the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, SouthEast (Mr. Benn) that there must be some central authority for the whole area.
§ Mr. Marples
I am glad to have that support from an unusual quarter. I am not blaming the local authorities but the terms of reference within which they are working. They have been acting within these terms, but the terms are wrong. In the evidence given by the Ministry of Transport to the Royal Commission on Local Government, it is stated on page 176, paragraph 42, that there should be a central traffic authority which could go so far—and it is high time that this was done—as to co-ordinate street works and the associated traffic diversions. 779 Local authorities at the moment open up roads without regard to the traffic.
Here is a suggestion on which I should like the views of the House as to whether it would support the Government. Suppose that the Ministry of Transport, pending the Royal Commission's report dealing with this matter—because we cannot wait for that—takes charge, as it were, of an area slightly larger than the Pink Zone for a limited period of time as an experiment. Suppose that it sets up a traffic engineering unit to act fast. It would, of course, use the local authorities as far as possible, because their existing organisation is good for carrying out these works and I am grateful to them for the work that they have done.
The principle I think should be that this would be an experiment for a limited time, say a couple of years or so. We could concentrate on a manageable area and make some impact on it. If we could tackle the hardest problem of all, which would be that area, we could perhaps set an example which might be followed in other urban districts. I am going to meet the various authorities concerned to discuss this, but it would help greatly if hon. Members would give us their views on it.
§ Mr. Mellish
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to make clear what he has in mind in such an area, so that we can help him? Has it anything to do with planning and reconstruction of the zone? Does he say that the Minister should have these overall powers? I ask him to let us know more about it, because we want to help.
§ Mr. Marples
I am grateful to the hon. Member. I would remind him that paragraph 42 of my Ministry's evidence to the Royal Commission, to which I have referred, speaks of making regulations governing moving or stationary traffic, the erection of signs to give effect to regulations, and other traffic signs; the siting of bus stops, taxi ranks, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, street lamps, guard rails, and so on, the provision of off-street parking accommodation, and the co-ordination of street works and associated traffic diversions. In other words, it would be to try to do the job which the traffic department does in a city in the United States. I will let the 780 hon. Member have a copy of the evidence for examination before he winds up the debate.
§ Mr. Mellish
Let us get this point quite clear. Does this mean that the Ministry of Transport would have overall powers of direction to the police and the local authorities concerned? Is the right hon. Gentleman asking for this for experimental purposes? We would like to know so that we can argue the case.
§ Mr. Marples
I want the co-operation of the local authorities, with the final decision, if necessary, to be made by a central traffic authority, but not overruling the police, because they do not come under the Ministry of Transport. I want to conduct an experiment. If it failed, we would admit failure and abandon it straight away. If we do not move quickly now we shall soon be in a jam.
§ Mr. Mellish
We understand that so many people now object to various things that the right hon. Gentleman's Department is held up in making its decisions. The right hon. Gentleman said that he wants to take overall control of a much larger zone in respect of matters which have nothing to do with planning or reconstruction but merely with off-street parking and so on. Would the Minister visualise a person acting as his agent, with overall control over that area and in complete charge, apart from the co-operation of those concerned? If co-operation broke down, would the Minister say, "I will make the final decision because this belongs to me"?
§ Mr. Marples
I would not say "belongs to me". It never will. It belongs to the local authority. I should like the views of the House on the matter. I think that the Minister of Transport should set up a department of traffic engineering to apply traffic engineering principles to an area in London which is a composite whole. The department would take powers, if necessary, though I hope it would act in cooperation with the local authority. But the Department would look at the whole problem as a through-traffic problem instead of a parochial problem. It could not take over the powers of the police. If hon. Members have suggestions to make I hope that they will make them, because I should like to listen to them. 781 The Pink Zone has been a success, though limited in a way. The reason why it has been a success is that the police have worked extremely hard. I should like to congratulate them and to thank them for the efforts they have made on behalf of Londoners in this Christmas period. Many more people have been able to shop in comfort this Christmas than could do so last year, and the police have been extremely helpful. Where they have been helpful is in this way. Their central control headquarters are immediately informed when a traffic jam takes place. They send to the spot policemen on motor cycles who direct the traffic and a squad to tow away cars causing the jam. It is rather like logs coming down a river. Suddenly the flow stops. One log in the middle is causing the jam. It is removed and then the flow of logs continues freely.
The Motionregrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government … to tackle the growing problem of traffic congestion in the urban areas.I maintain that this selective towing away of cars has certainly been effective, and no one is better qualified than the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to testify to its effectiveness because his car was towed away. He causes the jam, but when the Government take his car away so that hundreds of other cars can flow freely he puts down a Motion of censure on the Government. We find that the next person on the list is the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). His car has been towed away, too. So here we get the Leader of the Opposition and the deputy Leader strangling London's traffic, the Government take remedial measures and then getting censured because those measures have not been effective enough.
The public preaching of the two right hon. Gentleman is "The greatest good for the greatest number," but the private thinking in a motor car is, "I'm all right Jack." There is no doubt at all that Dr. Johnson was right when he said that we cannot pry into the hearts of men but that their actions are open to observation.
I hope that after his good humoured and constructive speech the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East will repent and 782 will not divide the House. I really hope so. The record of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite is bad and I think that this Government's record is good. This is an immense task, and I would like to conclude with these words. I find it the most stimulating problem that I have ever encountered. I shall want all the help I can get from hon. Members on both sides of the House and from the public. I hope that hon. Members opposite will not divide the House because I think that we have put up a reasonable case. Therefore, it is with confidence that I commend to the House the Amendment standing in the name of my right hon. Friend.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
The two speeches to which we have just listened, the one by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and the other by the Minister of Transport, have both, in their style and presentation, been serious contributions to the solving of the difficulties which face the nation in regard to the growing complexities of the traffic problem.
I think that in his speech the Minister realised quite seriously the enormous job he has to do in coping with one of Britain's major social problems. The contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East was enjoyed by the whole House, and I hope that the ideas which he put forward will be seriously looked at in an effort to find a solution to this problem which aggravates pedestrians, motorists, public transport drivers, the police and everyone who has occasion to use the roads.
This is a threefold problem. It is a planning problem, an architectural problem and, above all, an economic problem. We cannot divorce the effects of a rapid increase in the output of the motor car industry from the problems which that has brought by way of congested roads in Great Britain. Nevertheless, in our economic struggle we cannot deny to the motor car industry the freedom to export to the limit of its capacity. Its output has brought this problem home to our own doorstep.
The rising standards of living of our people and their demand for new consumer goods are things which none of us would like to deny or should deny to 783 them. It is up to everyone to lead as full a life as possible, and consumer goods and motor cars contribute to that end. Society would be wrong to take away from people that facility.
Before I answer some of the Minister's points and reply to some of his suggestions, I think the House would do well to have a look at the size of the problem with which we are faced. I propose to deal first with the road programme and with the net tax yield from all sources in regard to the motor car industry. I had the same problem as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East in making my researches. It is difficult to find in the Library independent, accurate figures, without supporting either one body or another, in order to give the House a true picture of the position. Therefore, I have taken my facts and figures from various sources and have tried to strike a mean average.
One figure which we cannot deny is the total yield from all sources of motor taxation, which comes to the staggering figure of £560 million. That is 10 per cent. of the national revenue of the country, and yet, in this day and age, the total amount of money that we are spending from all sources on the provision of new roads, road widening, straightening of bottlenecks, safety measures and so forth totals only about £133 million. This is in relation to an industry which, on an investment basis, is growing by no less than £70 million a year, is employing 2 million people and is exporting £300 million worth of its products every year as against an import bill of only £10 million.
It is interesting to look at the number of private cars produced in Great Britain in 1958. No fewer than 1,050,000 were produced, and, in addition, 15,000 buses and 300,000 commercial vehicles were produced. We exported 487,000 cars and 112,000 commercial vehicles. This gives some idea of the problem. We have to maintain our export market by virtue of the health of the industry and to provide at home the means of transportation on our road system to which the public is entitled. Even the Ministry's forecasts on this problem have been knocked sideways on several occasions.
It is interesting to note, for instance, that in 1914 the London General Omni- 784 bus Company scheduled for its vehicles a road speed limit of 8½ miles on hour. In 1959 we are in London down to an average of 8¼ miles an hour. Even the Ministry's figures for 1954 forecast a 75 per cent. increase over 20 years and yet by 1958 the vehicles had increased by 50 per cent. and it is forecast that by 1967 there may be 16 million vehicles on the roads.
Can anyone imagine what that will mean? At the present time there is one vehicle for every 42 yards of road. Unless the country is to come to a standstill, action on the lines outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East and by the Minister will have to be taken. It may mean radical thinking by local authorities, by vested interests, by people who own property, by planning experts, about what has to be done and the manner in which it has to be done—with all due respect for individual rights and liberties—in order to iron out the problem so that traffic can be kept flowing.
We are exporting no less than 40 per cent. of our vehicles, but if we are to maintain our position in the face of growing competition, especially in view of the Common Market, we shall have to take action to maintain our mean average figures. As the Minister said, we are up against stiff foreign competition for overseas markets particularly from Germany, operating, in the main, a more modern industry than ours and enjoying a better transport system. For instance, I understand that in Germany there are 1,500 miles of true motorways available—that is, those approached either by fly-overs or by special underpasses—and 1,000 miles are planned in the next ten years, whereas throughout the whole of Great Britain there are, as far as I can gather, only 160 miles of true motorways at present. This gives some idea of the problem which must be tackled and which emerges even more as one studies the statistics involved.
One thing which is holding up local authorities more than anything else in regard to planning is the provision of money by the Ministry through an annual Vote and an annual budget. If the local authorities, working on the basis of an annual budget coming from Westminster, are only able to make plans in the current year for which the money 785 will be available, it is easy to see their difficulties in planning for five or more years ahead. So something should be done through the Treasury, in agreement with the local authorities, to provide advances for road construction for at least a five-year programme, with planning permission in advance, so that local authorities can co-ordinate with the transport planners and present an advance programme of planning which will produce order in the present disordered system. At the present time, registered vehicles are coming on to the roads at the rate of no fewer than 900,000 a year with a total registration figure of 8½ million.
Now I wish to devote a little time to the problem of property acquisition for road widening. The Minister rightly said that he had no idea until he entered the Department of the amount of vested interests concerned in the construction of roads, road widening and clearance for road purposes and the difficulties encountered by people entering on this work. It is true that ratepayers with a low rateable value take a different view. They say it is not their responsibility to provide motorists with motor ways through their town at their expense. It is true that Class 1 roads attract from the Ministry of Transport a 75 per cent. grant, but, even so, most authorities are finding the provision of 25 per cent. a heavy burden on their rate. The question arises whether the Treasury, in view of the large yield from motor taxation of £564 million, can any longer deny the local authorities their measure of justice by refusing to take over this burden completely. It would mean, in effect, that the five-year plan of which I have spoken could be agreed at the source by the Treasury providing all the money.
I will take a typical town as an example of the present position. I live in Watford, which is an old-fashioned market town and has a main roadway running though it only 17 feet wide, the pavements of which are about 6 feet wide. Multiple shops have taken possession of the old property and have rebuilt on the existing building line because of the high value, and the problem of the local corporation is that it cannot buy out these people because it cannot afford to pay compensation. The town was built after the advent of the 786 railway, which cut it in two, so it is L-shaped with only one way in and out. The multiple shops I have mentioned have rebuilt in the areas of expanding new towns such as Hemel Hempstead, Boreham Wood and Oxhey, drawing £x million from public funds and public highways which are too narrow for the job and yet refusing to build farther back from the building line, and the borough council cannot afford the millions of pounds which would be necessary to buy them out.
Somehow these problems must be dealt with by the Minister. Talks should start with the legal advisers of the Treasury, the property companies, the conveyancing solicitors and all those connected with property which abuts in urban areas and prevents the fast and easy flow of traffic, because until we examine these problems there will be no end to the complications which will pile up. Let us face it. In the rural areas between the towns the traffic flows, though not as fast as it should, but when we get to the towns there are bottlenecks and the traffic is strangled.
I can travel from my home in Watford to Park Lane in 35 minutes, but it takes me longer to get from Park Lane to the House of Commons. This gives some idea of the extent of the problem. When I was a boy we used to spend our Sunday mornings on the street corners of our town in Lancashire backing car numbers. For instance, we would back No. 5 of the digit figure. We could get under-over for a penny even odds, and we could get 7–1 on any given number. In those days cars used to come along every ten or twenty minutes, but nowadays one can stand on any motorway and can get cross-eyed trying to count them; they go by so fast.
This gives an idea of the problem. We have got ourselves into this difficulty because, although it could not have been foreseen twenty years ago, as my hon. Friend said, it could have been foreseen ten years ago. Year by year there has been a rising tax yield. It was Lloyd George who first raided the Road Fund and successive Chancellors, including the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), Chamberlain, Snowden, Chamberlain again, and Cripps in 1947. have all come to the Fund for money for different purposes not connected with public roads and all with different 787 excuses. At one time the right hon. Member for Woodford advanced as a reason why he was asking for the money that it was to protect the railways from road competition. The late Stafford Cripps said, when he put forward a proposal to increase the tax by 9d., that he had to check the demand on foreign exchange. But they all had the same object in view—they wanted the money for something else. Let the House face that, and use the funds now available for the purpose for which they are provided. The motorist pays a lot in general taxation, especially if he buys a new car, the price of which includes Purchase Tax, and he does not get a fair deal from the money flowing into the Treasury.
I hope, therefore, that the Minister will agree that this money should be used for the purposes for which it is collected and will tackle the problem with the local authorities. I know all the difficulties about canvassing, about property being sacred and about invested capital, but something must be done in agreement with the local authorities to control the position by acquiring property, paying reasonable compensation if necessary, in order to provide access to towns for traffic which wants to get there.
The other subjects which the right hon. Gentleman raised are worthy of the consideration which he asked the House to give them. As a London Member I am mostly concerned with London. Combing all the sources of statistics I could find, I discovered that no fewer than about 1,020,000 commuters travel into and out of London every day by public transport. It is estimated that another 70,000 travel daily by private car.
That state of affairs has a twofold effect on our system. Our roads are choked, making very great difficulties for the public transport system which is thus unable to use the streets to the full. Easy access and agress are denied, so that public transport is unable to provide the public with the sort of service which it ought to have. If the Minister is prepared to continue and expand his Pink Zone plan, at least during peak hours, and set up a special corps of 788 traffic marshals, or highway patrols, or whatever they are to be called, will he also arrange for police on motor cycles to be available to ensure that convoys of buses can get through the traffic easily?
I did not take too kindly to the proposal for staggering hours which my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East put forward. In this country we have become accustomed to fixed hours of work. With the spread of urbanisation to districts outside London where more and more people are buying houses, the staggering of hours would present many difficulties. Let us take my own case as an example.
Before I became a Member, I used to rise at the unholy hour of a quarter past five, leaving home at a quarter to six. I had to walk to the station to catch a connection to the local junction from which I caught a connection to London. In those circumstances, I would not take kindly to being wakened earlier than a quarter past five, nor to being held back at the other end from getting home as quickly as possible. There is a limit to what can be done with the staggering of hours and I do not think that the public will take kindly to suggestions of that sort. Whatever other remedy is found, I do not think that that is a starter in our present industrial system.
I want now to refer to the general programme for road improvement and road building. I live near the Watford section of the M.1 and I saw that road being constructed. I was amazed by the amount of machinery involved. I am told that at one time there was no less than £5 million worth of specialised machinery on the job. I came to the conclusion that I had seen the ultimate in automation and mechanisation applicable to road construction, but what I saw in the building of the M.1 had to be seen to be believed. Thousands of feet of roadway were built mechanically, trains on rails laying concrete, and so on. Time and motion study was applied to the work of truck drivers bringing sand and ballast. Such a technique could be used on roads between towns, but the major problem arises in the towns themselves because of drains, sewers, electricity and gas mains.
A programme to co-ordinate the servicing of such mains should be 789 worked out so that we do not have a road taken up and laid down one week and then taken up the next week. Time and again that sort of thing gives rise to comment in the newspapers and astonishes the general public. Surely we are able to co-ordinate these matters much more closely. That co-ordination can be brought about. The Minister has asked for special powers, for a super traffic commissioner. I do not believe that such a man is available. If he were he would be worth his weight in gold, but goodness knows where we shall find such a man. If such a man can be found, then, despite all the difficulties— and there are many—he must be vested with the control of executive powers.
The Minister spoke of on-the-spot fines for motoring offences instead of taking offending motorists through the complicated network of the police courts, a process which sometimes takes six months and which seems to be the major item in the working time of policemen, judges, magistrates and so on. On-the-spot fines could be imposed on motorists for speeding and parking offences, although perhaps dangerous driving should always be a criminal offence and subject to the full rigours of the law. I suggest that after a man has been fined four times for such small offences he should be liable to lose his licence. If he does not learn after being caught three times, he is beyond being taught.
We will not get a proper system of transport unless we fully consider one of the nation's most valuable assets—its railway system. I know that the railways have been starved of capital development for almost the whole life of the system. Originally, engines were expected to last, and did last, for fifty years. There were no plans for reinvestment or re-employment of capital on the sort of scale which we should have had. The system spread throughout the country from 1830, and the problems involved were not properly appreciated.
However, with the help of research officers, economists and industrialists, surely we can now find out what proportion of the nation's traffic should be carried by rail. For example, surely heavy bulk liquids, heavy steel joists and heavy minerals should go by rail. Such a decision is not beyond our capacity. I know the advantage to industry of being able to send goods straight 790 from the workshop to the port, but our road system was not designed for that traffic. The industries concerned, the Ministers concerned, the shipping companies and the British Transport Commission must find ways of encouraging transport by rail for those goods which ought to be carried by rail. Until that comes about, we shall never have a completely integrated transport system which the country ought to demand and which we as legislators should see it gets.
We have had arguments about the denationalisation of road transport, but we have now seen what follows from denationalisation. It is time that hon. Members opposite did some rethinking about what they have done to the transport system and to industrialists by permitting road transport to attract traffic away from the railways. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot raise taxation, through Purchase Tax and licence duties, and then deny private motorists the amenities to which they are rightly entitled, at the same time offering industries facilities for which motorists pay. The Minister must do something to put back on to the railways the large volume of goods that should rightly and justifiably be carried by them.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
In rising to speak for the first time in this House I ask the House to extend to me the customary indulgence which forms such a courteous part of its many gracious traditions.
I am grateful for the opportunity of taking part in this debate for two reasons. First, it is a subject that has exercised my mind since I left the United States of America in 1952. For about three years before leaving America I was able to witness at first hand the resolute manner in which the Americans tackled the irksome problem of urban traffic congestion. During this summer I was able to spend two months there and I saw some of the results of their endeavours.
My second reason—and, in a way, this is more important to me—is that the constituency which I have the honour to represent, Holborn and St. Pancras, South, faces this problem in its most 791 acute form. I think that most hon. Members are familiar with my constituency, especially those who come from the North. The main-line termini of St. Pancras, Euston, and Kings Cross are the gateways to the very heart of London. I cannot claim, certainly on this occasion, that he who is tired of Holborn and St. Pancras, South is tired of life, but I do claim that within the boundaries of my constituency one will find as rich a microcosm of London life and human endeavour as one will find anywhere else.
It has its railwaymen, its university men and women, its doctors and nurses at some of our most famous hospitals, its lawyers at the Inns of Court, its traders and retailers both large and small, its publishers, its office workers, its famous restaurateurs and hoteliers, not to mention the diverse racial groups which live there. It is a shocking indictment of this automobile age that this cosmopolitan area should find the very fabric of its life rent and in danger of being torn asunder by the traffic which clogs its streets.
For a short period of its history, I am glad to say, the St. Pancras part of my constituency was known as the "Red Flag borough". The Minister of Transport will appreciate, therefore, that some of my constituents are somewhat sensitive to their being included in what is now called a "Pink Zone". It is a harsh privilege, but, harsh though that privilege be, it has helped to speed the flow of traffic in that part of London to the extent that most of my constituents are grateful to my right hon. Friend. For a man who spends a lot of his time using a bicycle as a method of transport it is remarkable how sensitive my right hon. Friend is to the interests of motorists.
As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the Pink Zone is not a long-term solution. Indeed, those who work in the Pink Zone and are waiting for a solution can be pardoned for believing that it is hardly a solution at all. Off-street parking is virtually non-existent. My constituents come to me and say, "Where can we put our vehicles? We cannot put them outside our homes, or our places of work". Those of my constituents who live cheek by jowl with the Pink Zone have found that they are little 792 better off so far as parking is concerned because people who have been in the habit of parking in the Pink Zone have crowded into the areas just outside.
I am sure that no one would wish to destroy what vestige remains of my constituency's residential character. From a social and economic point of view that would be untenable. Every great city demands that at least part of its heart should be residential. Where else can people live whose livelihood is tied up with the essential functions of Central London with its valuable hospital services, the General Post Office sorting offices, its hospitals, its railways, its newspapers, and, indeed, some of its entertainment? How else is the great University of London to find accommodation for its thousands of students if the residential property is slowly chipped away? It seems to me that we have a social responsibility to maintain the character of this vitally important part of London.
With that background in mind I should like to touch on two aspects of urban traffic congestion which, I believe, offer some hope to those who must live in the centre of this great city. First, there was the very welcome speech made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government at Kew, on 17th November, when he said that he was determined to bring to an end the concentration of all new office employment in London. It is well known that as fast as the residential population of London has decreased over the past few years the daytime working population has increased at the staggering rate of about 15,000 a year, so great has been the increase in office building.
The vast army of commuters has contributed as much as anything to the traffic congestion which at present afflicts the centre of London. I remember the time when I was almost as new a member of the London County Council as I am of this House. Along with others I suggested that one way of mitigating the effects of office building was to set aside the top few floors of such office buildings and use them for residential purposes, or, better still, building a few flats instead.
On that occasion my friends and I had the book thrown at us, the book in question being the County of London Development Plan. We were told that 793 what we had suggested was a muddled form of mixed development. We had committed heresy. We were told that what we had suggested ran counter not only to the principles of the County of London Development Plan, but the County of London Plan of 1943, its illustrious and distinguished sire.
When the County of London Development Plan received approval, in 1955, the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), reduced the London County Council's plans for increasing the area allocated to office building, and insisted that certain portions should remain residential. Without wishing to be over-controversial, or to take advantage of the courtesy already afforded to me by the House, may I express the hope that in their strictures on the Government hon. Gentlemen opposite will bear in mind the past attitude of the London County Council and the past performance of my right hon. Friend.
To be quite fair, the London County Council, along with other institutions, is capable of benefiting from its experience and in the summer of 1957, two years later, it changed its attitude and reduced the bulk of buildings for office purposes and introduced the concept of mixed uses in the Central London zone.
To people who lived in Central London, particularly in my constituency, it seemed that that decision came rather late in the day. The damage had already been clone. Too many office blocks had been put up and too many commuters had come in with their own transport to clog the area. However, I believe that if this new policy is prosecuted as vigorously as the old one there is still some hope of achieving an effective salvage operation.
I now come to the second aspect of the problem of urban congestion. The crux of the matter obviously lies in the fact that there are far more vehicles than there are parking spaces. My right hon. Friend has invited us to say whether we think that the introduction of parking meters would serve a useful purpose. I am convinced that they would fulfil a very useful purpose indeed, and I am glad to see that plans for them are in an advanced stage of development in my constituency.
794 In what way can they help? It is a mistake to believe that they can ever solve the problem of too many cars for too few spaces, except in the negative way of deterring people from bringing their cars into the area. The function that I should like to see them fulfil— and this is what I believe is their real function—is to provide tailor-made parking, precisely suited to the needs of the area they serve; that is to say, they should take into account the busy-ness of the thoroughfare in question, on the one hand, and the specific demands of the motorist, on the other.
Perhaps I may be allowed to illustrate my point with one example from outside my constituency. I refer to the area surrounding Harley Street, and I choose it because it is well known to all hon. Members. Many people who go there do so to see their doctor or dentist for half an hour or one hour. If parking meters were introduced into that street or its environs, to obtain the maximum turnover those meters would have to have a time limit of between 40 minutes and one hour.
To be given the opportunity of parking for two hours would surely be too much of a temptation to those people whose real purpose in going into the Harley Street area is not to see their doctor or dentist, but merely to park their cars with the object of going into the nearby shopping areas and the big stores in Wigmore Street and Oxford Street. Whether meters should be put in that street, on either or both sides, is another point, which I cannot go into now.
If parking meters offer one way of coping with the problem, many of us are still convinced that if the overall parking problem is to be solved we must provide for the legitimate needs of the long-term parker, whose future lies off the street, as my right hon. Friend pointed out. The Report of the Advisory Committee on London Roads—the Nugent Committee—has estimated that about 50,000 vehicles are parked daily in the streets of London, and that about 30,000 of that number are long-term parkers. The L.C.C. members on that Committee have estimated that if those cars are to be got off the streets and into garages it could involve a capital investment of £45 million. 795 Who is to pay this princely sum? The majority of the Nugent Committee thought that off-street parking facilities could be provided by local authorities out of the rates and the revenue from parking meters, combined with help from private enterprise, but the L.C.C. members of the Committee thought differently. They were of the opinion that the Government should provide financial support, at least in the initial stages. They argued that we could not prevent indiscriminate free parking on the highways until at least some garages had been built, and that during the initial period, while an area was being completely covered with a network of multi-storey garages prior to the full enforcement of parking restrictions, those garages which had first been built might be only half used, as I believe is the case with some of the private garages which already exist in London. The L.C.C. members felt that, in consequence, if they were only half full they could not hope to be self-supporting; hence their feeling that there should be a further measure of assistance from the Government.
I ask myself what is to be done, because someone must break this spell of inaction. I was interested to have called to my attention the other day the manner in which this problem has been tackled in Baltimore. I note that the city authorities there have given financial assistance for the construction of multi-storey garages in an attempt to get the cars off the streets. They have done it by advancing 85 per cent. of the cost on a long-term loan at a low interest rate of 3½ per cent. for twenty years, the money coming from the city authority's staff pension fund. This sounds a most interesting and intriguing idea. As for the fee paid by the motorists using one of these garages, I feel that a balance must be struck between making it so cheap that it only encourages more motorists to come into London and so expensive that the motorists will refuse to co-operate.
It is with those thoughts that I conclude my remarks. I will deny myself the pleasure of a peroration, because I have no wish to detain the House any further. It only remains for me to thank hon. Members for having listened to me with patience.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
In my fifteen years' experience in the House this is the first time I have had the pleasure of extending the usual courtesies to a maiden speaker. This pleasure, so long deferred, is a real one, and I offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith). His broadcasting experience has given him a confidence which is not usually found among Members when they first address this assembly. His very confident manner, the weight and eloquence of his speech, his knowledge of the subject, and the energy with which he spoke, cause me to believe that the House will look forward to his making many more contributions to our debates in the future. He has acquitted himself well, and he can take comfort in that fact.
Having uttered those pleasantries, I regret that I cannot extend the same pleasantries to the new Minister of Transport. We listened to an interesting and well-delivered speech that was weighty in parts—a speech that we would expect from the present Minister. With one or two exceptions, however, it was a very disappointing effort. What picture did he put before us of the powers that this new and dynamic Minister would take to do something effective to solve the transport problem? He talked about a design for living with transport, but in spite of this he never touched upon the real transport problems which face the nation. He merely attempted to outline the need for some architectural thinking in road development, and then went on to talk about the terrible toll of accidents, to which I shall refer later.
For many years the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors in office have shown a shameful neglect of the situation underlying the growing toll of accidents. He suggested that there might be a case for the establishment of some kind of commissioner, with certain overall responsibilities, and I think that the idea of traffic engineers is a good one. But the Minister did not give us any indication of his line of thought about how the real problem would be tackled. We all know that on nearly every road the traffic suffers from severe anginal pains and that acute thrombosis is developing. In the cities and urban areas conditions are such that traffic movement stops 797 entirely for a period from time to time; and we have all experienced the inconvenience that that causes.
I thought it regrettable that the Minister did not say how he proposes to deal with this matter. Probably he finds himself in a difficult position, because this state of affairs is an example of the free-for-all Tory policy. We see the pouring out of motor vehicles, but the roads are not yet there to accommodate them, and our cities are completely unprepared for their advent. I am sorry that the Minister did not tell us that there would be any change in this policy. That is the reason why we have moved our Motion, in which we draw attention to the growing volume of traffic, and the Government have moved an Amendment drawing attention to the growing volume of traffic for which some provision must be made. But the provisions which the Minister has indicated he will make are mere palliatives.
Year by year we see this traffic problem increasing and in recent years it has been accentuated to a remarkable degree. Successive Ministers of Transport in Conservative Governments, and hon. Members opposite, have talked and talked about this problem, but they have done little to solve it. Our efforts at road development have been pitiably small. It is no use the Minister trying to ride off this problem, as he and his predecessors have done, by asking what was done by a Labour Government between 1945 and 1951. We might as well ask what Gladstone did in 1870. The circumstances are entirely different.
We heard a lot of "ballyhoo" about the Prime Minister opening the Preston by-pass. We have heard a lot of talk from the former Minister of Transport who is now the Minister of Defence. We are used to hearing that from the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will do a better job at the Ministry of Defence than he did at the Ministry of Transport, because as Minister of Transport I think that he was the biggest liability which that Department has had. We certainly hope that the present Minister will have a better record, and I say that freely and frankly, making no apology for doing so.
We heard a lot of "ballyhoo" from the previous Minister about the London-Yorkshire motorway which it was said 798 would be the last word in motorways. But what happened? It was truncated, and ended, ultimately, as the London— Birmingham motorway. Had the civil engineers been given the opportunity they could have gone ahead and done a really useful job in quick time. It was the inertia of the Government which prevented that road from becoming the London—Yorkshire motorway and caused it to be stopped at Birmingham. Not sufficient preparation was made in the planning of the further stage.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)
Has the hon. Gentleman studied the story of the London-Yorkshire motorway which I gave during an Adjournment debate about three weeks ago? Does he realise that our problem regarding the second part of that motorway was not caused by inertia on the part of the Government, but the difficulty of obtaining a line through, on the one hand, good agricultural land, and, on the other, a natural beauty spot, from the local authorities and from the great number of vested interests, which, as was said by my right hon. Friend, were concerned in the matter?
§ Mr. Popplewell
I have studied that carefully. Has the Parliamentary Secretary considered the length of time which elapsed before this matter was solved? Ultimately, it had to be solved and now the line is agreed. Why could not that have been done years ago? There have been three bites at the cherry because the Minister was shilly-shallying and could not make up his mind.
§ Mr. Hay
The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. It was not because the Minister was shilly-shallying. If there was any shilly-shallying, it occurred in Leicestershire, where people could not make up their minds what line they wanted. Eventually, we managed to get a compromise line suggested by the county council.
§ Mr. Popplewell
The compromise line suggested by the county council was offered many months earlier. The Parliamentary Secretary should look up the history again, when he will find where there has been shilly-shallying.
If London wants to tackle its road problem, what happens? There is a lapse of at least five years from the initial 799 discussions until any tangible development is observed. Take the case of my own city, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At present, we are having discussions with the Minister. About two years ago we put up a scheme for a roundabout in City Road and Pilgrim Street. What happened? We got a compulsory purchase order. In 1958, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) a compulsory purchase order was made. An inquiry was held last June and we are still awaiting a reply from the Minister. "Dame Rumour" informs me that the right hon. Gentleman may have told a deputation from Newcastle something about the matter this morning. If that be so, I hope that he will tell me something about it on Monday next.
Here we have delay and procrastination. Some years ago, when the right hon. Member for Bedford, Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) was the Minister of Transport, he came to my constituency to look at Scotswood Bridge, a terrible contraption across which only one line of traffic can proceed. Nothing weighing over eight tons can cross over it, and the result is that traffic must travel for miles to avoid the bridge when getting from the south bank to the north bank of the Tyne. The three local authorities concerned have been pressing for something to be done. They asked the Minister to meet a deputation as long ago as last August and we are still awaiting a reply. One could go on giving chapter and verse to indicate the inertia of the Government and their failure to get on with the job.
The Government talk about expenditure on major roads. From 1954 to 1958 the expenditure on major roads and new improvements by the Government, amounted to approximately £12,300,000 a year. In the period 1958–59 they suddenly woke up and said that expenditure would be £40 million a year. Because the General Election was then somewhere in the offing they stepped up that figure and said that for 1959–60 and onwards not less than £60 million a year would be spent. I think that my figures are correct.
Why has that not been done previously? The problem has been known. There has been this "throm- 800 bosis" I have been talking about, which has been developing month after month, yet nothing done. We welcome the approach of the Minister if he really intends to make a start on this problem, but he did not indicate that to the degree I should have liked. It is the old, old Tory story—do not do anything until you are forced, and then do too little and far too late.
§ Mr. Popplewell
Do not start that one. I know that you have got the cheek to do anything and the cheek to drape election campaign tables with the Union Jack.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
On a point of order. Is it in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the hon. Member to accuse you of cheek?
§ Mr. Popplewell
Why is this £60 million programme so modest? It is not nearly of the magnitude required to meet the real needs of the nation. The growth of our motor traffic is terrific. Since 1952, the number of vehicles on the road has increased from about 4½ million to about 8 million. We encourage our motor industry to increase production and it is doing a wonderful job. It is pouring out more and more cars, but we want our people to be able to enjoy using those cars. We want to see as many families as possible owning cars. We want to be sure that they can get enjoyment out of owning them and not have to park in the backyard. When they go to the coast they do not want to have to go round in circles to find somewhere to park. When they come into towns they do not want to go round and round to find parking places.
The Government are showing little or no initiative in encouraging local authorities in this matter. Pink zones are not the complete answer unless there are garages within them. The present Pink Zone in London takes up a large part 801 of common land for parking those cars, which, of necessity, must be for only a temporary period. I suggest that the Government might approach the oil companies. They might approach motor manufacturing companies and ask what contribution they can make to assist in the problem. It is difficult to make a garage an economic unit unless the charges are very high.
In addition to the tremendous growth of private cars on the roads, there is a tremendous growth of heavy goods traffic on the roads. There has been a complete change over in the pattern of freight haulage. In 1922, 18 million tons of goods freight traffic was carried on the roads and 23 million tons was carried by rail. Today, the figures are completely reversed. About 23 million tons of freight traffic is carried on the roads and only 18,400,000 tons is carried on the railways. What a ridiculous situation we are in. Everyone acknowledges that the nation must have a railway system, but the free-for-all policy of the Government has encouraged the stifling of the railway system. That has been accentuated by their policy of denationalisation of road haulage, which has assisted in strangling the railway system.
§ Mr. Burden
May I ask the hon. Member to give serious consideration to that point? If he does so, I think that he will realise that if the Government insisted that merchandise should be carried by rail there would have to be on-loading first, off-loading at the end of the journey, and on-loading to another distribution agent. That would increase the cost of imports and the effect on exports would be absolutely disastrous.
§ Mr. Popplewell
The evidence when there was a fully integrated system was remarkable. I shall not be led off on that tangent, but probably we may cross swords on it in a future debate.
I want to pinpoint a part of the argument more narrowly. A vehicle of 2½ tons unladen weight can carry about 5 tons and a vehicle with an unladen weight of 5 tons can carry about 12 tons, 15 tons or 20 tons and we find a tremendous growth of this type of traffic on arterial roads. That is bringing about such congestion on Class A roads that it is almost impossible to pass convoys of heavy traffic.
802 The Minister says that we must make a contribution with a view to clearing this bottleneck. A contribution could be made if heavy goods were carried on the railway system, which, at present, is losing £89 million. We are told that our road system is costing the nation £500 million. If there cannot be any adjustment on a voluntary basis, surely that indicates the need for co-ordination by other means.
What is taking place in the off-street parking areas under the Pink Zone scheme? Victoria Square is a little square which is paved in the centre. When I went into it the other day I found a double line of cars parked so that residents in the square could not get to their front doors by taxi or private car. There is chaos and congestion galore The Minister must "get cracking" quickly on this problem of off-street parking.
The Minister rightly mentioned the accident rate. In 1952, there were 150,000 road accidents and in 1958 there were 299,000. In fact, the number has doubled in five years. The total number of casualties since the end of the war is about 3 million. This is terrible. It is a greater death rate and incidence of accidents than occurred even during the war. Up to now, the Ministry has been complacent about it. We hope that the new Minister will show some drive and energy. At one time the Ministry used to organise Safety Weeks and similar programmes, but, quite frankly, these were soft-pedalled by the last Minister of Transport. It is no use the Parliamentary Secretary shaking his head. That is true.
We wish the new Minister well. We know that he has energy and drive and that he will use them to reduce this terrible accident rate. In my opinion, the only way to do it is by following some of the advice which I have given in my speech. It is not just a question of dealing with parking, or preparing parking schemes here and there. It is a question of regulating the traffic on the roads.
We wish the Minister well in his suggestion that there should be more traffic engineers. I wish that our universities had shown more energy in this respect, for only Durham and Birmingham have provided two Chairs 803 for Traffic Engineering. America pays a lot of attention to this aspect of the problem. I hope that the Minister will give direction and guidance about it because, through their study of traffic flow and traffic needs, these traffic engineers can play a big part in planning the lay-out of a city and devising the network of road systems which is so necessary.
These are some of the problems, and we challenge the Government because we believe that they have failed to solve them. That is the reason for the wording of our Motion. We think that the terms of the Government's Amendment beg the question. If they spoke their true thoughts, many right hon. and hon. Members opposite would agree with me.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Molson (The High Peak)
This debate has been inaugurated by two speeches from the Front Benches which have been refreshing in their imagination and constructive approach. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) on the whole manner and substance of his speech. It augurs well for the future if we are to have the help and the co-opertaion of the hon. Member and his hon. Friends in introducing some of the ideas which he put forward and which I think will commend themselves to all who have made a study of transport.
He began by complaining about the inadequacy of the research resources available to hon. Members. His own speech clearly demonstrated that he stood in no need of further help in his research. It is remarkable that, in the short time he has been responsible for dealing with this matter, he has mastered the subject so well. The helpful suggestions which he made, however, come from his own thought.
His research into history was not quite so profound. Let me remind him of the true story about Canute. Canute was not a vainglorious and conceited man. Rather, he was a modest and pious Christian. When some courtiers, wishing to flatter him, said that even the winds and waves obeyed him, he sat by the sea and bade them not to wet his feet—and then demonstrated to his courtiers that he, too, was only human.
804 The hon. Member perhaps fell into a similar error in the censures which he passed upon previous Ministers of Transport. I served at the Ministry for three and a quarter years and under three Ministers. Indeed, I served there longer than any member of this party since 1951. We were conscious of the problems which were arising, but until quite recently Ministers of Transport were not supported by public opinion and by the House in taking the measures which were needed. It is only now, when London is on the verge of being stopped by chaos, that in this debate I have heard for the first time hon. Members on both sides of the House expressing their willingness to support the Minister if he takes drastic action.
Let me begin by saying a few words about long-term policy. I very much welcome what my right hon. Friend said about a study group. If he has not already done so, I ask him to read a most remarkable article in the Architects Journal of October. This makes it plain that this is not merely a traffic matter but a matter of the planning and construction of our cities in the future. My right hon. Friend will have to secure the co-operation not only of the Minister of Housing and Local Government but also of all the local authorities in the country. Until recently there was far too little co-operation. Indeed, I may claim that it was at my suggestion that the present Minister of Defence appointed a study group consisting of representatives partly of the Ministry of Transport and partly of the London County Council. I imagined that I should preside over it, but it fell to the lot of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent) to do so. The Report which this group produced, although I do not agree with all its recommendations, is a contribution of the utmost value to the study of urban traffic problems.
I am sure that the improvement of London and other urban roads should take priority, if there is a need to establish priorities, over the building of motorways and the improvement of speedways between the cities, because it is no good travelling much faster from Birmingham to London if, when we arrive in London, we find that the congestion is even worse than it was before the new motorway was built.
§ Mr. Molson
Indeed, in Birmingham too.
I am glad that both the Minister and the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East referred to the importance of staggering working hours. There will be a little difficulty in securing the co-operation of everybody in bringing about this staggering. We have done our best, and I should like to pay tribute to one gentleman outside the House, a member of the Labour Party, Alderman FitzGerald. He presided over a committee, gave a great deal of time and used his powers of persuasion and tact in order to bring about an extension of the staggering of the hours of work. That contributes not only to a reduction in traffic congestion and tends to bring about a reduction in traffic costs but also adds greatly to the comfort of travellers and reduces the fatigue in those who are starting or ending a long day's work. We must do all we can, I am sure, to bring about the staggering of hours, but I notice that there was a substantial difference of opinion between the ideas of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East and those of his hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) as to how this should be done.
I come to what my right hon. Friend called the short-term remedy and to what we did when I was at the Ministry.
If I talk about "us", I do not mean to be egotistical, because the work done while I was in the Department was done by my right hon. Friends, but I was the link of continuity during the period of office of three different Ministers of Transport. If to some extent I appear to be justifying what was done by us, it is not primarily in order to justify what we did, but rather to point out the difficulties which prevented us from being as successful as we had hoped we should be. It may be that my right hon. Friend will be able to gain some experience from that.
There is no doubt, and everybody who has spoken today has agreed, that the main cause of the problem of the thrombosis in London traffic is the motor commuters who flow in as a tide in the morning, leave their cars encumbering 806 the streets during the day, and flow out as a tide again in the evening. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend say that the day of the long-term parker is over. We wanted to bring it to an end a long time ago.
§ Mr. Molson
I will give the reason and tell the hon. Gentleman what we tried to do about it, and why we failed.
A very distinguished representative of the motoring community, a man whose name is a household word, once said to me that he had been watching this procession of motor cars arriving in the mornings, with perhaps four or five out of six cars containing only a single person. He said, "Much as I stand for the rights of motorists, that is a thing which I cannot seek to justify." Of course, they clutter up the streets all day with their parked cars. It is a great misfortune for us that when the internal combustion engine is left alone, unlike the horse, it does not become bored and meander off down the street, or take fright and suddenly run away. If internal combustion engines were like that, we should not have this problem. They did not have it in Victorian times, because those who had to go about in a cart had to provide somebody to hold the horse while it was waiting.
Will it be said, perhaps by some of my hon. Friends on this side that the expansionist economy which we put forward at the last election precludes us from imposing restrictions upon the parking of cars in order to discourage the commuter from using his own car to come into London? I want to give just a few figures—some have already been given—because I think that they show that no other course of action is either realistic or possible.
At present, only 7 per cent.—my right hon. Friend said 6 per cent.—of the commuters coming into London use cars. There are a million commuters who use public transport. There are 70,000 commuters who use private cars. It is intolerable that the whole of the traffic of London should be held up by 70,000 people who prefer to use their own cars and who are not prepared to put their cars into garages. Let us make no mistake. It is not the case that all the garages are full at the present time. 807 We have to consider the likelihood of an increase in incomes. Only one in eight of the population at present owns a car. Supposing that this is doubled, as we hope it will in the years to come. Cars will also become cheaper, and, unfortunately, they are also likely to become larger. There is no end to the demands that may be created for parking in the centre of London if facilities are provided—and we must always remember that it takes about 15 times as much road space for a commuter to come into London in his own car as if he comes by public transport. A colossal cost would be involved.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith), in his most interesting maiden speech, reminded us, it would cost £45 million to provide the off-the-street parking accommodation for even the 30,000 long parkers of today. When we consider the future, that figure of £45 million may be doubled, trebled, quadrupled or multiplied even more. It would involve the demolition of London. Let us make no mistake, the people of London and the amenity societies are not prepared to tolerate the demolition of the whole of London merely to suit the convenience of commuters. The same thing applies to other towns, resorts and any places to which people go.
The effect of this upon public transport must also be borne in mind. Public transport must be maintained. Even the motorists expect public transport to be maintained in order to be able to move about London after they have come in. In a large number of cities in the United States of America the public transport system is virtually bankrupt. We must remember that these cars, blocking up the streets and slowing down public transport, are adding immensely to the cost of public transport. It was calculated by the London Transport Executive that if it were possible to speed up the central London buses by an average of one mile an hour it would reduce the cost by £2 million a year.
Confronted with this problem at the Ministry of Transport, we had to consider what should be done. A colleague of ours, the head of another Department, said to me, "Sooner or later we shall have to forbid private cars in the centre 808 of London. If the Opposition win the next General Election. it will happen soon. If we win the next General Election, it will take longer to come." That was the Election of 1955. We turned down that idea, not so much on grounds of principle, as for purely practical reasons. We have people living in the centre of London, and we cannot prevent such persons having cars, if they live in the middle of a place where cars are prohibited. They may have a business address there, and from that we might also get to bogus addresses, but we also have the problem of the doctors, nurses and the disabled. We have all the problems of commerce, business and so on.
Therefore, we had to resort to the idea of trying to distinguish between what we regarded as legitimate and illegitimate parking. Short-term parking is the perfectly legitimate use of the Queen's highway in which, if one wishes to call on a person in a place, one leaves one's car for twenty minutes, half an hour or an hour and then goes on. Illegitimate parking, is involved by driving up in the morning and leaving the car on the road all day. We resorted, as a reasonable but not 100 per cent. efficient method—very few things in this world are 100 per cent. efficient—to the idea of the parking meter. By that means the short-term parker would be able to pay for short-term parking, and all the profits from the parking meters were to go towards the provision of off-the-street parking accommodation for long-term parking. But that all depends upon the success of enforcement, not only the enforcement of the rules about the parking meters, but also the enforcement of the "no parking" regulations in all the adjoining streets.
We came up against two practical difficulties, and we tried to deal with both of them in the Road Traffic Act, 1956. The first was that, at that time, towing away was restricted to vehicles that were creating a danger. We extended that to cars that were either creating obstruction or were breaking some statutory rule. When these words were drafted I was given clearly to understand that it would be possible for the police to employ contractors to remove the cars and for a charge to be made for the cost of removal. Only after it was on the Statute Book was it found that, for technical reasons which I need 809 not state, the police themselves must remove the cars.
If a success is to be made of towing away cars, it is vitally important that one should overcome the watershed. As long as so few cars are being towed away that it is worth the while of any individual to take a chance, no progress will be made. If a car is towed away only two or three times a year, a motorist will go on illegally parking it and the police will never be able to tow away a large proportion of the 30,000 long-term parked cars which there are at present. When someone has lunched in Soho three times in a fortnight and his car has been towed away two out of the three times, he will not try it again and we shall get over the watershed. We must aim at increasing the rate of towing away.
The second, and perhaps more important, reason was that at that time, if a car was parked in a no-parking area, the constable had to wait until the person in charge of the car appeared. Most people, seeing a constable waiting by their car which they had left in a no-parking area, found that it was very convenient to leave the car for an extra hour or two, or even more. We provided in the Road Traffic Act, 1956, that it should be sufficient for a constable to take the number of a car, and then he could set the legal procedure in motion.
It has been found since that what we thought at the time would be effective is not effective. The legal procedure is still so long and complicated that it is not working satisfactorily. The House must take a bold step forward and introduce the ticket system. There is nothing new or revolutionary about it. It has long been the law as regards Road Fund licences. It can be done in the case of a motorist who has not taken out his licence at the beginning of the year. If the Sharpe Committee recommended against it in paragraph 64, it did so only on the ground thatthe system of pleading guilty without appearing before the court"—which it recommended and which has been introduced, should begiven a thorough trial before any more extensive changes are considered".The time has come for more extensive measures not only to be considered, but to be put into operation as soon as possible.
810 It is of the utmost importance that the Government should reiterate what was said by the present Minister of Defence on 7th May last, that they are not prepared to subsidise the provision of off the street parking accommodation. My right hon. Friend on that occasion said:After the most careful thought, I am satisfied that no case has been made for a Government subsidy for off-street parking. … it would lead us in the long run to some very odd consequences."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1959; Vol. 605, c. 591.]So it would. If it applied to London, it would have to apply to all the great cities. If it applied to the great cities, it should apply also to the smaller cities and certainly to market towns where the rural population come in perhaps once a week and require accommodation. Why should inhabitants of towns provide parking accommodation for people coming in from outside? It would be necessary at seaside resorts, and so on. I was glad that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) supported the same conclusion on that occasion. The motoring organisations at the last election asked us to agree in principle that public funds should be used for that purpose. It would be useful, to get us all on to practical methods of dealing with this, if the Parliamentary Secretary were able to say that the Government have not changed the views expressed in May of this year.
§ Mr. Marples
The policy is exactly the same. If one wants to store a grand piano in the centre of London, one pays a certain economic price for it. If one wishes to store a motor car there, one should pay exactly the same economic price.
§ Mr. Molson
I agree entirely. That is almost the exact phrase used by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall in the previous debate.
If I have emphasised that a great deal of the failure to deal with this problem is due to the inability of the police to enforce the regulations, I do not want that to be taken as any criticism of the police. It is their courtesy and consideration which make them reluctant to enforce the regulations. The police feel that they would be put into a false position if, having told a motorist that parking at a certain spot was not allowed and having been asked by the motorist where 811 he could park, they were required to say, "There is no place where you can park. You just must not bring your car into London." That is the position which the Minister should take up, and I hope the House will support him when he takes up that view. It would, however, be most unfair to constables if they were expected to adopt that attitude in dealing with the public. Much of their success is due to the fact that the vast majority of them enjoy not only the confidence and respect, but I might almost say the affection of the general public, including the motoring public, because of the help they give.
By the introduction of the Pink Zone my right hon. Friend has, by his public appeal, his skilled public relations and the fact that it is temporary, managed to achieve for at any rate a limited period a measure of co-operation from the motoring public, support from the police and encouragement from the Press and public opinion never experienced before when we have asked that this should be enforced twelve months of the year and everywhere where these Regulation apply. The Minister is right in recognising that further steps must be taken and that the good will may prove evanescent, as it has so often in the past, and in that case enforcement will be necessary.
To deal with urban congestion, we must continue with our efforts to secure the staggering of hours. We must introduce traffic wardens to help the police. It is most unfair for newspapers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Herald, when there are burglaries and crimes of violence, to gibe at the police for having been engaged elsewhere in dealing with "trivial motoring offences". Offences by motorists are not trivial. A motor car is a lethal weapon, as the casualties on the road remind us in a tragic way. We must have traffic wardens. We must have fines leviable by the ticket system without court proceedings. We must have an extension of the towing away system. We ought also, I think, to have an increase in meter charges. With such measures, and with the support of public opinion and of the House, my right hon. Friend should be able to succeed.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
I am very pleased to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for The High Peak Division (Mr. Molson). For A number of years we were very closely associated in transport debates, and although we disagreed upon most points, we certainly agreed that each of us was approaching the problem with sincerity and purpose.
I welcome this debate, as it gives Parliament a chance to re-examine its approach to this nation-wide problem. Nothing short of a warlike effort will bring about a worth-while solution. I regret that so far today there has been too much talk about restriction. It is stupid to think in such terms except as a very temporary measure—and I mean very temporary. We should think rather in terms of enormous expansion of both road and rail facilities, blending the two together in the best interests of the industrial and social life of the nation.
What is the size of the problem? The estimated number of vehicles on our roads is 8½ million, and at the present rate of increase that figure may well go up to 10 million in 1962, representing one vehicle for every 35 yards of public carriageway. The cost of the traffic congestion in loss of time per man hour and the wasteful consumption of petrol and oil is estimated at about £500 million a year, and that is reflected in costs of production and in the prices that the housewife has to pay for food and household commodities.
Far more important is the human side. The Ministry's figures show that the number killed on our roads in October was 655–67 higher than in the same month of last year. The total number of casualties was 31,218, an increase of 4,497. When these figures were announced by the Minister, he said, "I view with horror the fact that we can slaughter over 6,000 of our citizens each year." He has repeated that statement in much the same word today. We all share that view. We have been expressing it in this House for many years. What is wanted, however, is not an expression of horror, but a way of getting rid of this slaughter altogether, and unless we have a scheme to deal with 813 the whole thing carried out with determination, we will not solve this very difficult industrial and human problem.
What is the cause of the present congestion? If I were asked to pinpoint it. I would say that it results from the ever-growing volume of traffic, lack of suitable roads, and the decline in the use of the railways. The remedy lies in two main factors; first, how far we can speed up the road construction programme; and, secondly, how much freight and passenger traffic we can bring back to the railways. It is by directing our attention to those two important factors that a worth-while solution will be found.
Above all, we must be prepared to spend vast sums of money over the next five years to ensure that both our road and rail systems can play their part. Their development is vital to our economy, but the two cannot be treated in isolation, as has been the unfortunate policy of Conservative Governments for the past eight years. Conservative Governments have insisted upon dealing with the road and rail systems as if they were separate, instead of treating it as one vast problem involving safety and mobility. I therefore tell the Minister of Transport that there must he a change of ideas on that side of the House. There must be an acceptance of the fact that unless we treat both road and rail as one unit, and deal with our road and traffic problems through those two channels, we shall not find a real solution.
I regret that almost throughout the debate we have been playing with restriction and the position in London while the vital question of national transport and the proper use of available resources has been entirely forgotten. This debate will only be worth while if we leave trivialities and get down to the main reasons of the trouble. I beg the Minister not to worry too much about trivialities here and there. What is wanted is a recasting of our national policy.
I shall not attempt—I never have done—to deny the Government credit for having started with the motorways. Whatever criticism I have made of the Government whenever I have spoken in the House on transport has been of a constructive character, rather than trying to find a political reason for opposing 814 them. The Government have made a small start in the construction of motorways, but the whole yearly expenditure is totally inadequate to meet the urgent needs of the times. What is necessary is for the Minister of Transport to tell his Cabinet colleagues, "We shall not solve this vast problem unless millions and millions of pounds are made available, almost at once, to get on to the job."
In the past, the Ministry of Transport has been very sympathetic towards road development schemes, but it has been frustrated by the financial restrictions of the Treasury. I hope that the Minister, after this debate, will go to his Cabinet colleagues and tell them that this problem must be tackled with a war-time effort. They must put everything into it that they know, forgetting their political prejudices about the nationalisation of the railways and getting down to brass tacks with industry about it.
There should be a real five-year plan for modernisation and new construction. The Minister ought to put before the Chancellor of the Exchequer a reasonable and practical proposition. If the Chancellor says that only £x million can be allowed this year, next year, or for the next five years, the Minister of Transport should arrange with the Chancellor for a system of loans so that money can be borrowed on long-term repayments, so that a really first-class job can be done quickly.
Everyone knows about the scandalous way in which taxation on road vehicles and petrol is being fleeced from industry and used for the relief of taxation in other ways. It is high time that the Government decided to restore the Road Fund. Taxation on motor vehicles and the petrol they used should bear some relationship to road expenditure.
We need new machinery and arrangements to accelerate road construction and planning and for training more road engineers. The procedure for the acquisition of land has led to great delays and difficulties in the past. I understand from my travels abroad that some countries have a method for taking over the land first and getting on with the job, settling questions of payment or compensation afterwards. Although I have no particular sympathy for Ihe landowner, I understand that, as a matter of fact, 815 the landowner is in no worse position financially when the settlement is made in that way than he would be if the settlement were made before the road construction.
In the past, when we have decided that there should be a main road, a by-pass, or a motorway, there have been months and months of negotiations about the purchase price, compensation for displacement, and the like. The Minister should take powers to purchase land and use it immediately for construction work, with safeguards in legislation to protect the proper interests of the land owners.
The powers of local authorities to hold up the planning of a motorway should be limited. The delay which has taken place in planning the extension of the motorway to Yorkshire is an example of what objecting local authorities can do. I have spent many years dealing with local authority matters, but I cannot at all see why a local authority should be able to hold up a scheme for the benefit of the nation as a whole, very often simply on pure technicalities, or because there is jealousy between one local authority and another. While I would defend to the last ditch the proper freedom of local authorities in performing their duties, I believe that the time has come when we as a Parliament should say that those powers ought not now to be vested in the local authorities themselves.
I come now to a question which has not been discussed today but which, nevertheless, is of vital importance. How can we increase rail traffic? At a time when there is an ever-increasing demand for transport, it is absurd that the railways should be so hampered by heavy debt that they are compelled to reduce their services. I am sure that the Minister of Transport, with his past experience at the Post Office, would be shocked if the new Postmaster-General announced to the House that he proposed to give up some of the rural collections and deliveries, or to reduce the telephone services in the countryside because they did not pay. The whole foundation of the magnificent service which the Post Office gives lies in the provision of an efficient and cheap national postal service, the benefit going very greatly to those who live in the outlying parts of the country. That is quite right and proper.
816 The same could be said of our nationalised electricity system. Private enterprise would not take electricity out to the countryside, because it would not pay. Let us acknowledge these things without being too political about it. Under our national electricity systems, farms are being supplied with electricity and the cost is spread over the common pool. 1 say frankly that this is stupid in these days when traffic problems are so difficult.
I have heard different Ministers of Transport on the benches opposite defending the closing of district railway lines or stations. The argument has been, "They are not profitable; we have got to close them." As a consequence, the agricultural areas were denied those services. They were also denied the services of buses, because the bus undertakings could not afford the loss in running them in those areas. We have got to the maddening stage of not assessing our values correctly. When we insist on the railways closing these stations throughout the country, simply because they do not pay, we have forced people to use motor cars, thereby causing greater congestion on the roads. Surely it is time that Parliament took a different view on this matter.
We are spending vast sums of money on road construction and repair—very rightly so—yet we expect the railways to be the only transport undertaking to provide their own road and traffic signalling system. A preposterous situation has developed. How can we, in common fairness, maintain this policy of bias in favour of road transport? Why not accept the cost of the maintenance of tracks and signalling on the railways as a defence expenditure and relieve the railways of the heavy debt which they are carrying?
I believe that industrial firms are not seriously concerned whether their goods go by rail or by road, provided that the cost and the services are satisfactory to them. I am sure that there is a big future for an extension of the road-rail service system. I remember when I and other hon. Members visited one of the greatest industrial firms in the country, a combine which has a subsidiary company which provides its transport. We found that a most sensible arrangement, convenient and profitable to the firm, 817 had been arrived at between the firm and the railways.
The company had established regional depots in all parts of the country which were stocked with goods sent there by rail. The company had its own small fleet of vehicles at each regional depot for the purpose of distributing the stores to the customers in the region. This saved miles of transport on the road and probably hours of congestion and it was economic to the firm to have an arrangement with the railways whereby this road and rail system was applied.
Some hon. Members may say, "That is all right for the great firms in the country, but what about the smaller firms?" I suggest to the Minister—and he has asked for suggestions—that he should call a conference of industrial firms or associations, together with railway representatives, to discuss how far the system of road and rail transport could be extended? The railway company may say, "As we shall benefit by some of the traffic on rail, we will, either wholly or partly, provide the regional depots that are necessary for the convenience of the smaller firms."
It may well be that the railway companies have buildings idle at present which could be used for this purpose. If, at the request of the Minister, we could get industry and the railway companies to consider this, I believe that we could get an extension of the road and rail services which would help to solve the road problem by distributing the traffic in a more sensible way.
I think that we are making heavy weather about the traffic difficulties in the City of London. It seems obvious to me that there should be on the outskirts of the city, either at the tube stations or adjacent to them, adequate parking facilities for people who normally come into London by car. They should be invited by the Minister to help prevent the congestion on the London roads and streets by using the parking facilities available on the outskirts and going into the City by tube. I do not like the idea of compulsion, but if the problem cannot be solved in that way then the Minister and Parliament will have to consider whether some compulsion should be applied.
If we are to consider this vital matter of road congestion seriously, it is 818 essential that we should examine the whole plan of transport, nation wide, and provide a plan which will make use of all the facilities available today. Do not let us allow any pettifogging political considerations to prevent us from taking the action which is necessary.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
During the past few weeks, I have listened on numerous occasions to new Members who, on rising to address the House for the first time, have craved the indulgence of the House. Although the House has always shown them every kindness and tolerance, I have sat on these benches with that unpleasant feeling of a myriad of butterflies in my stomach, partly in sympathy with the maiden speaker himself, but mainly because I have been conscious all the time that sooner or later I had a similar ordeal awaiting me. That moment has now arrived, and I rise confident in the ability of the House to show me that indulgence and kindness, which I, too, must now crave, even if not so confident of my own ability to prove worthy of this House.
I have the honour to represent the St. Albans division of Hertfordshire, a constituency which boasts not only the fine old city of St. Albans, with its ancient cathedral, but some 55 square miles of that pleasant countryside for which the County of Hertfordshire is well known. No doubt, to many hon. Members the name of St. Albans conjures up memories of heavy traffic jams and of sitting at the traffic lights, or somewhere near them, on the A.5 when they have been on their way from London to the Midlands or the North.
That, however, is now a thing of the past, thanks to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, who took the decision to build the M.1 and, having taken the decision, saw that it was built in a remarkably short time. As a result, St. Albans is a changed place. Not only can one now cross the London Road without endangering one's life, but it is possible to walk along the pavement and hear the conversation of one's companion and even to breathe freely, whereas in the past we were overwhelmed by the noise and noxious fumes of the heavy transports thundering their weary way through the City. I am grateful indeed, 819 even if some hon. Members are not, and I am glad to have this opportunity to express the gratitude of the people of St. Albans to my right hon. Friend for having taken that decision and their appreciation of the efforts that were put into that magnificent project, both in its design and in its construction, by all concerned.
My experience of traffic problems is not limited to my constituency. For six years, I served on the Westminster City Council, on which I made traffic one of my major interests. Today, indeed, I represent the Cities of London and Westminster, a constituency of which you, Mr. Speaker, may know something, on the London County Council. That is, of course, the town planning and road improvements authority for the London area.
There I find myself in the position in which the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) finds himself in this Chamber today. I can stand up, point to the party opposite and say that it has failed entirely to react to the changes which have been apparent all around. I can point to those on the benches opposite and say that it is they who permitted all the new buildings to be put up in the centre and who have moved the residents out of London, thus increasing the total volume of people rushing in and out of London all the time. I must not, however, be diverted into becoming controversial here today.
I have also driven at least a quarter of a million miles, mostly in the London area, during the last twenty-three years when I have held a driving licence. Therefore, I can claim not only to have studied the problem but to have lived with it. Over the years, I have seen the position deteriorate to the stage when my right hon. Friend has had to produce what, on the face of it, appears to be an extra-ordinary project for a Tory Minister—a "Pink" zone in London. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will want to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the speed and energy with which he put the plan into being so that we could prevent the traffic of London from grinding to a halt during the Christmas period.
There are many factors which contribute to congestion on our roads. I 820 should be abusing the good nature of the House if I were to attempt to deal with all of them tonight. I will content myself by dealing with what seems to be the first consideration, particularly in large urban areas like London. I refer to the question of effective control of parking on the streets.
The first thing we need is a new sense of urgency from the viewpoint of administration. We must find ways of reducing the time taken for these measures to get through the usual channels. The experimental parking meter scheme in the north-west corner of Mayfair, for example, took 12 months to be translated from the agenda paper of the Westminster City Council into a Ministerial order. Although that might have been considered reasonable for a new and somewhat revolutionary idea, we still find that although the extended scheme for the whole of Mayfair left Westminster City Council ten months ago, it has only recently been announced as being accepted by the Minister, and we still do not have an order for it. This means that no expense can be incurred and, therefore, the meters cannot be ordered until the order comes through. I do not blame my right hon. Friend the Minister. I merely say that it is the general way in which our usual channels operate that results in these delays. Similarly, it has taken six months to get planning permission for the first multi-storey car park in Westminster.
With all these delays, as each month goes by things get worse and worse and the stranglehold on the Metropolis tightens. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will find some way of cutting this red tape so that he can eliminate the kind of delays we have had in the past, even if it means his coming to the House of Commons to ask for amendment of the Road Traffic Act, 1956.
One of the things which I am pleased my right hon. Friend mentioned today was the confusion for the motorist about where he may and may not park. It is absurd to have some streets marked to show that parking is allowed on either side for a limited period; others where motorists may park on one side only for a limited period; some with a temporary notice prohibiting parking; others with a yellow band so that drivers must not even wait; and yet others in which no parking at all is allowed. 821 An innocent-looking street is often a big trap for the motorist. Seeing no "No Parking" signs, the motorist thinks he may park, but how wrong he may be. He has chosen, perhaps, the one place where he is likely to be caught by the police for obstruction. We must sort out the law of parking and of obstruction to obtain a cut-and-tried scheme so that the motorist knows exactly where he may park.
That having been done, our next step is clear. I am sorry if I appear to be echoing much of what my right hon. Friend said this afternoon. It may be that he has had access to information from authorities on which I have served which has caused him to reach the same conclusion as myself, or which, possibly, has led me to come to the same conclusion as he. We cannot emphasise too much the importance of enforcement. It must be made clear from the outset that any new regulations will be enforced ruthlessly. My right hon. Friend was quite right to refer to the selfish motorist. The selfish motorist must not be allowed to cheat and thereby make the ordinary law-abiding motorist suffer as a result.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement about traffic wardens. I am glad that so many people have suggested that these wardens should be able to issue tickets for parking offences. If a parking-meter attendant, who is, after all, a traffic warden under a different name, can give a ticket to a motorist charging him 10s. for exceeding the time he has purchased, I see no reason why the same sort of warden, even if called by some other name, should not be able to give a ticket to a motorist who either has parked where he should not or who has parked for too long at a parking point. There is no doubt about the saving in public expenditure that would accrue from the economy of time in the administration of our courts and from the saving of the valuable time of an already overworked and understaffed police force.
I see no reason why, if the regulations are clearly defined, a system of ticket issuing should not be imposed and, indeed, accepted by the public at large. I agree that heavier fines may be necessary. I do not think that in these days of depreciated currency one guinea or two guineas is enough to act as a 822 deterrent against the parker who nine times out of ten gets away with it. One thing which will have to be considered is the question of graduated fines for the persistent offender.
Once this well defined system of street parking is effectively in force, we come to what is, in my view, the most difficult question of all, namely, accommodation for long-term parking. I say that it is most difficult because we are up against the problem of finding the sites in the first instance, but the real demand will not and cannot be assessed until parking restrictions are enforced fully on the streets. I realise that large numbers of cars in the central area will be displaced if there is a proper parking meter scheme and other methods of parking on the street. Various estimates have been given, but it seems that at least half of the cars parked in the area will be displaced. That will involve 20,000 to 30,000 motor cars.
Will all the people driving those cars be prepared to pay the economic cost of garaging their car for the day? We know the cost of providing multi-storey car parks and underground car parks will be such that the charge will have to be between 8s. and 12s. per car per day. It is difficult to say how many motorists will be prepared to pay that sum of money. I thought that most of the people who parked for a long time in London had come from long distances and therefore would be prepared to pay because they would thus save high rail or bus fares, but this is not so if certain figures published in the parking survey's final report are correct. A police analysis was made of parking offenders in the Mayfair area. Forty-eight per cent. of them came from within a radius of five miles of Charing Cross and 73 per cent. from within a radius of ten miles. The owners of these cars are not saving themselves heavy rail and bus fares. Therefore, it is unlikely that they will be prepared to pay 8s. or 12s. a day.
I hope we shall not act hastily in this matter and build all over the place large multi-storey car parks and underground car parks. I hope we shall tackle the matter by a very carefully planned programme of accommodation, strategically placed. My right hon. Friend spoke about car parks around the periphery 823 of the central area of London. That is most essential. It is no use having people driving into the centre of London and then parking their cars. They should be able to park around the periphery.
It is not possible to build a ring-road because London is too built up, but we could at least designate existing streets for the purpose and make them one way streets so that through traffic can travel easily round the central area. Then people coming into London by the main routes would be able to go to the nearest car park on the edge of the central area and thus avoid cluttering up the roads. The logical development of this is to build an outer ring-road, a really good fast motorway with few interceptions, around the outskirts of London, such as there is in Rome, to enable the motorist to get round London quickly. I am perhaps wandering from my main point. I said that I would concentrate on parking, and I must do so.
I should like to summarise the four points which I have put to the Minister for his consideration. I think he has agreed with several of them already. First, drastically cut the red tape necessary to get these measures through in order to cut out unnecessary delays. Secondly, inaugurate as soon as possible a really well-defined comprehensive scheme for parking throughout the whole of the central London area. Thirdly, the rigid enforcement of the scheme, with traffic wardens, a ticket system and, if necessary, higher fines. Fourthly, the provision of carefully positioned multi-storey and underground car parks around the inner area. The motorist has watched the chaos in London grow year by year, and he has seen the police virtually abandon any serious attempt to control it, except where there are parking meters and in the Pink Zone. He has been tempted to say, "Everybody else parks his car where he likes. The police do not seem to do anything about it, so why should not I park where I like?"
My right hon. Friend has proved that he is a man of action who has an imaginative approach and is not afraid to risk short-term unpopularity in order to secure order out of chaos. I am convinced that if he shows that he is determined to succeed in this monumental 824 task, he will have not only the support of the vast majority of the motoring public but, I hope, of all sides of the House.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Gunter (Southwark)
I feel singularly ill-equipped to congratulate the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew). The hon. Gentleman referred to butterflies at the opening of his speech. I have as many butterflies as he had. Although this is not my maiden speech, it is eight years since I left the House and I find the second immersion almost as bad as the first. The hon. Member sounded more confident than I feel at the moment. I also detected, I think, a note of delight in controversy in his speech which I am sure will stand him in very good stead in the House. I am happy to congratulate the hon. Member on his maiden speech.
I regard the debate as rather odd. We have had excellent speeches from both Front Benches, but I failed to detect a real determination to face up to the fundamental problem of transport. I should like to go back thirty-nine years and refer to Sir Eric Geddes, who was certainly not a member of the Labour Party. He realised, which, perhaps, no one else did at that time, the effect of the consequences that would flow from the development of road haulage and the internal combustion engine. He said that this country would have to face up to the problem of transport and decide that that portion of traffic which could most efficiently and economically go by road should go by road, and that that which could best be carried by rail should be carried by rail.
We shall not find a final solution of our transport problem until the nation recognises that transport must be seen as a whole. It is the great distributive industry of the country. The sectional and vested interests to which the Minister referred, who argue these days with such vehemence on behalf of themselves, are damaging and distorting the national transport facilities.
As I see it, the task before us is to solve the problem not because of any doctrine, but in the interests of the economy of the nation, to ensure that all the sections of the transport industry are used in the best possible way. We pay a heavy price in transport for the fact 825 that the Government and the managements of the 'twenties and 'thirties took few real steps to pattern the industry as a whole to the new circumstances arising from the end of rail monopoly.
I cannot see that a modernised, efficient, dieselised, electrified railway system can be any other than the real backbone of the whole transport industry. Whatever priority is given the roads, whatever measure we take to deal with parking problems and the rest, we shall be unable to cope in an orderly and efficient manner with the vast increase in the number of vehicles pouring out each year on to the roads unless we have a railway industry which is modernised and capable of bearing the main part of the burden.
Today, what really matters is the speed of modernisation of the railways, so that we can determine the development of rail transport and solve many of our major problems. Despite all the appalling difficulties with which it has been faced on the railway side—the hostile opposition, the attempt to keep services going whilst proceeding with vast engineering works—the British Transport Commission has done a magnificent job.
The pattern for a smaller but more efficient railway system is emerging at present. The more rapidly we can have the railway industry modernised and efficient the better for the nation and the solution of many of these old problems. The diesel services which will be taking over very soon large areas of regions, the progress in electrification, the planning of great terminal stations with modern equipment through which will flow fast freight trains, new and better signalling equipment, the building of modern marshalling yards, the efficient co-ordination of road collection and delivery, with modern railheads—all these are now emerging. This is the pattern of the railway industry of the future. I believe that I carry the Minister with me in thinking that the real solution of many of our problems is to bring back to the railways under modern and efficient conditions much of the traffic that is now pouring on to the roads.
Given a fair chance, I believe that modern railways can claw back from the roads much of the heavy loads that are now jamming our highways. When 826 I say that, I say it as one who has lost a great deal of faith in doctrine, having been engaged for the past few years, in the grass roots of the industry, in discussions on matters of transport policy. I do not believe that we can legislate the traffic back from the roads on to the railways, but I believe that if we had the chance—and I shall speak later of the chance—we could compete in this modern world and relieve ourselves of the problems that beset us on the roads.
We believe that electrified and dieselised railways can play their fundamental part in the country's economy in the future. It can be done, but over it all there is the shadow that haunts the British Transport Commission, and certainly the railway unions. We want all these things to solve our problems and serve the country's economy, but no one yet will make up his mind about the nature of the direction that is to be given to the Transport Commission and whether British Railways are to run on strict commercial principles, or whether they are to be a public service, or a little of each. Until we have the answer and the directive, it will be impossible to make the progress that is required.
Much has been said today about London transport. As a politician, I suppose that I should be very cautious about criticising the public, but the British public get into some curious moods sometimes. They want and demand a comprehensive and fast train service while, at the same time, they concentrate their demands for that service during the peak hours of the day or certain periods of the year—a service which is particularly expensive to provide. And then they exert every ounce of pressure whenever there is any talk of raising fares to meet the cost of these most expensive services.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House demand that rural areas should be well served and that the Commission should maintain services in all country areas, whether they are economic or not. If anyone wants to close a small branch line or a station, all the people who have never used the line or the station rise in their wrath. Members of Parliament sometimes imagine that we can keep branch lines open as historical monuments, but we cannot unless the money is forthcoming from somewhere. 827 The general public regard British Railways as a semi-public service. They want the service and I believe that they are entitled to it, but that does not relieve us of the financial problems of the Transport Commission. Industry reserves to itself the right to send the cream of its traffic by road and to use the railways as a standby It would object to any restriction on the amount of traffic it desired to send by road and, at the same time, it would object to paying a full contribution towards the capital cost of providing the standby service which is the railways.
I cannot imagine that the nation would desire that all unremunerative services should be ruthlessly obliterated, but if British Railways are to play the tremendous part in the future which they ought to play in the solution of our traffic problems, the Government are required to face the Commission's financial position. Despite all the dreams and the hopes that many of us have that rail transport shall emerge, modernised and equipped, to deal with the problems of the last half of the century, there is not an hon. Member who does not know that at present the strain on the morale of the railwaymen is terrible. They have not had a square deal; they have not shared in the fair times and the prosperity. During this tremendously important period of revolution in rail transport, this peak period of modernisation, the Commission is not able to meet the fully justified demands of those who serve it as employees.
The Commission is in an impossible position. Seeking to serve the nation in the manner I have described, it wants to recruit the best type of person for its staff and to get into the industry the best possible brains. But, owing to its financial position, the Commission is unable to offer the terms and conditions required. It is a tragic indictment of transport policy that notices have been put up in the Western Region during the last few weeks stating that, owing to the shortage of key workers in the industry, trains might be late and even might be cancelled.
I say to the Minister, therefore, that when he faces the overall problems of transport it would be as well if he paid attention to the financial structure of 828 the Transport Commission. We are moving in the economics of Bedlam. We are talking about congestion on the roads, yet we are told that we can place great faith in British Railways. We are pouring billions of £s into railway modernisation, and yet doing it in such a way that a great shadow is hanging over the industry.
I may be wrong and I hope that the Minister will correct me if I am, but I assess that when we have modernised British Railways, which may be in five or ten years, the industry will be inevitably smaller, although much more efficient, and it will be asked to service a capital sum of probably £3,000 million. That will be made up of old capital, money borrowed for modernisation, interest which is now going into the suspense account, and interest on the interest which has accumulated. It is time for the Government to face the realities of the situation of the railways. Much of the capital could be found in other ways, and if the railways are to function properly and to perform their tasks as they should, they ought to have some security.
It is not often in this country—perhaps unfortunately—that trade unions pay tribute to those with whom they negotiate, but the Transport Commission, with whom I spend much of my life negotiating, so far as lies within its power is the best employer in the country. The Commission has enabled us to work out some of the best redundancy agreements in the country. It has done many things for joint consultation. It is hard, indeed, upon men of honour like Sir Brian Robertson and other members of the Commission that they are unable to make improvements in the salaries, wages and conditions of their workpeople which they know to be justified.
1 hope that the Minister will appreciate that and that in the next few months, when we have received a very important report which may lead to some long night sessions with the Minister of Labour, the right hon. Gentleman will be a friend. The unions are willing to play their part with the Commission in helping the Minister solve transport problems. We hope that he will help the Commission to meet the justifiable demands of our people, for pride of craft still remains with many railwaymen. Although it has 829 diminished, it is still there. I hope that the Minister will be able to help us and this industry, of which many of us are so very proud, so that it can play its part in solving our major traffic problems.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
While the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) is a worthy successor to Mr. George Isaacs who sat for that constituency for many years, I hope he will excuse me if I do not follow his argument about the integration of transport. It is a very interesting subject, but I think we should confine ourselves strictly to the Motion, which deals with traffic congestion.
After the Minister of Transport had spoken, I detected some doubts on the Opposition Front Bench about whether hon. Members opposite should vote for the Motion. In order to help them make up their minds, I would point out that the Government have made considerable progress in highway construction in the London area in the last few years. The Dartford-Purfleet tunnel is under construction, the Park Lane highway scheme is now being built, the Cromwell Road extension has been finished, as has the Chiswick flyover, and all the way round there is evidence of progress.
One must congratulate the Minister on the success of the Pink Zone. He has succeeded in making Piccadilly, Park Lane, Grosvenor Place, and so on, clearways for traffic. I add my congratulations to those already extended to him on that subject.
The difference between transport in the nineteenth and the twentieth century is that the former was a century of collective transport. If one wanted to go any distance, one could not travel unless at least 100 other people were ready to go at the same time—by train. We are now becoming accustomed to individual, personal transport, and it is that which is the root of all our problems. Everyone will soon own his own carriage and pair, as it were, and all the carriages and pairs will be crushed into eighteenth century streets built on the duck shoots of Mayfair and so on.
The House has been deluged with statistics tonight, and I do not intend to give any more. However, the other day I noticed that about ten years ago 830 the motor industry was making half a million vehicles a year. One firm alone, the British Motor Corporation, now intends to make one million vehicles in one year. There are many other firms which have great expansion plans that will result in a great increase in our traffic in the next few years.
We are naturally proud of our efforts in road construction over the last few years—our motorways and so on—but we ought for a moment to consider the efforts of the Victorians with spades and shovels and wheelbarrows. In the years 1840–50, they built 250 miles of railway every year, a great triumph. Of course, they realised that railway trains did not run continuously and had to stop, and so they built no fewer than eleven railway terminals in London. Going round the compass, they are Euston, St. Pancras, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street, Cannon Street, Holborn Viaduct, Charing Cross, Waterloo, Victoria and Paddington. We shall have to build motor terminals in our chief cities for our motor traffic.
I feel that I can speak with a little authority on this subject because it was as long ago as 1936 that I publicly advocated that the only way to solve our long-distance motor traffic problem was by building a network of motorways. That was not a very popular view in those days, but it happened that I was the secretary of a delegation of 224 Members of Parliament and county councillors who inspected the autobahnen in Germany and who were very impressed with them. Indeed, I have the feeling that Adolf Hitler and I practically invented motorways.
Looking back over the last twenty years, one sees a rather sad history of London traffic. I do not know that it is anybody's fault, although it may have been the fault of the Government of hon. Members opposite. The Bressey plan came out in 1938. That advocated the building of a number of through-ways for London at a cost of £200 million, which would now be about £600 million. I still have an original picture from Punch showing Mr. Burgin, the then Minister of Transport, climbing up to a pigeon cote at the top of a ladder in 1968 and looking into the pigeon holes for the Bressey plan. The Abercrombie plan was produced at the end of the war 831 and has mostly gone by the board, and we have now come to the watered-down ultimate plan of 1951. In that time, much water has gone under the bridge.
However, London County Council is now coming into its own again and spending about £3 million to £4 million a year on big schemes. The problem in London and in other great cities is that the centre of the city is a commercial centre—goods have to be taken to the shops in the morning and perhaps in the afternoon, buyers have to come and buy the goods and take them away in the afternoon, and that sets the pattern of traffic.
I had an example of that the other day. I motored up the Edgware Road at ten o'clock in the morning. The Minister might be interested to know that for the first five miles there was not a single parked car on either side of the road, but the road was reduced to one-lane traffic each way because vehicles were loading and unloading every 100 yards. People were turning right at every one of the traffic lights, and for about every quarter of a mile the road was being taken up by either the electricity or the gas authorities.
I also went up Bond Street at ten o'clock one morning. The road was again reduced to single-lane traffic because every ten yards a vehicle was loading or unloading at the side of the road. We must find space somewhere in London for vehicles delivering goods. Roads ought to be like rivers and widen as they approach their destination. The opposite happens at the moment. We have been asked tonight to throw into the pool ideas for both long-term and short-term solutions.
We must direct our attention to setting up motor terminals and multi-storey garages round the centres of our big towns. They must not be too far away from the centre. The car park at Chelsea Barracks has space for 700 cars but at no time are more than thirty cars parked there. The terminals must be near the centre of the town. I suggest that places like Marble Arch, Euston, and Finsbury Park would be suitable.
I was told the other day that Hornsey Council in conjunction with Islington Council has a scheme for acquiring from 832 the British Transport Commission a half-used coal depôt at Finsbury Park and building a multi-storey garage there. That is an estimable idea. In addition, there could be terminals at Whitechapel and Vauxhall Bridge Road. I hear that a garage in the latter district would build a terminal if it could get permission from the London County Council to do so. It would be a great help to have a terminal in South Kensington or Knightsbridge, and one in the centre of Mayfair.
Despite what has been said, I think that we must provide grants from the central fund towards the buildings of these multi-storey garages. We should give a 50 per cent. grant as a shot in the arm to local authorities to start building these multi-storey garages. I do not believe that local authorities have sufficient resources of their own to undertake this task.
§ Mr. Chapman
I have followed the hon. Gentleman's argument with great interest. Can he give the House an idea of the number of cars that he will get into these terminals? He mentioned ten garages and assumed that they would make a difference. I feel that that would be a mere drop in the ocean.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I do not agree. I understand that in the coal yard at Finsbury Park it would be possible to park 300 cars. If there were several terminals taking 200 to 300 cars each it would make a lot of difference. The number of cars in The Mall and Horse-guards Parade is numbered in hundreds only, and that has made a great difference to the centre of London.
As a long-term solution, I suggest that every time a shopping area is reconstructed we ought to pay attention to the possibility of elevating the pavement to the first floor so as to allow room for vehicles to unload underneath. I was glad to see that in the scheme for Piccadilly Circus, which in some respects we have criticised, provision is made for a piazza at the first-floor level for shops.
We must squeeze more roads out of redevelopment sites. I am delighted to see that in the redevelopment of the Stag Brewery at Pimlico arrangements have been made to squeeze out a new road between Victoria and Buckingham Palace Road. 833 Lastly, as a long-term solution, we would be justified in starting the Victoria to Walthamstow tube. The traffic carried by that line would be equivalent to a fourteen-lane highway in London.
All those things would cost a lot of money, perhaps £200 million, but we must face that over the years.
Dealing with short-term proposals, I agree with the Minister about the marking of lanes on our highways. We must discipline traffic, but as soon as we begin to mark lanes in the main roads in London we run up against the amazing variation in the curve of the pavements alongside. In many places like the King's Road, Buckingham Palace Road and Knightsbridge, we find a pavement that is 20 feet wide bulging out into the carriageway. How many people are aware that on the north side of Knightsbridge there is a pavement 18 feet wide with only a few people using it?
Parking meters must be extended. I agree that we must be tougher in seeing that they are used by fining people more if they indulge in unauthorised parking. In America, one can be fined 30 dollars for illegal parking. If the magistrates imposed a heavy fine in London the areas that are now congested would soon be cleared. Whereas businessmen do not mind paying £1 or £2 which they can add to their expenses, they would not want to pay as much as £10.
London Transport should make another experiment to free traffic in the centre of London. These great big lumbering double-decker buses going along in convoys of three, two of which are empty, make their own congestion. I agree that there is a case for a shuttle service on the No. 11 route from Sloane Square to the City. I should like to see London Transport experiment again with single-decker buses with tip-up seats round the sides so that the whole of the bus could be available for standing passengers. These buses should be able to carry about 50 people. They could carry a conducter with a ticket office so that the people could pay for their tickets as they entered at the rear, as is done abroad, and leave the bus through a door at the front end. In that way it would permit buses to empty and fill up at a faster speed.
Lastly, there is the poor, unfortunate, highly undisciplined pedestrian. One 834 reason why he is undisciplined is because when he gets to traffic lights he cannot see whether they are red or green because of the mask over the lights. He does not know, therefore, when it is safe for him to cross. I ask my right hon. Friend to arrange tomorrow for a man with a step ladder to go round London with metal shears and punch out some holes in the side of the masks so that the unfortunate pedestrians can see whether the lights are for or against them when they want to cross the road.
We have had a number of long speeches tonight. I will not detain the House any longer, but we want our city, in particular, and all the cities of this country to be reconstructed so that they are worthy of an educated democracy. Much of London is, architecturally speaking, Victorian trash, and we should not be sorry to see some of it go and be redeveloped in a modern and beautiful fashion.
I commend the Government Amendment to the House, because in the Minister of Transport we have a man who will show the energy and foresight that our Victorian forefathers showed when they built the railways. I ask the House for support for him tonight, and I shall vote for the Amendment.
§ 8.0 p.m
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
We have listened to many speeches this evening, nearly all of which dealt with the transport problem from a national point of view. They contained many constructive proposals, and the Minister should be able to get something worth while out of them. I propose to deal mainly with the problem from a parochial point of view. The Motion mentions congestion in the urban areas and I want to refer to that problem as it affects the City of Bristol.
There is no doubt that the road transport industry has far outgrown our roads. The other day I heard a woman complain to a boy that his coat had grown too small for him. She was making a mistake. The coat had not grown too small for the boy; the boy had grown too large for the coat. That is the position with the transport industry. It has grown too large for the roads. We knew that this growth was coming. It was prophesied a year ago 835 that the growth of the transport industry would continue.
Our trouble is that we have not made provision for that growth. We have never kept pace with developments in the industry in matters of speed, weight and numbers. We have been told that a further 250,000 vehicles come on to our roads each year. That is an unprecedented number, and it demands an unprecedented roads programme. We have enlarged the port of Bristol. We have widened and dredged the entrances to prepare for the increased size of vessels which will be using them. That is what we should have done with our roads. We should have anticipated future needs and drawn up a programme accordingly.
If we have the biggest road programme in our history we also have the biggest traffic problem, and our success in overcoming it will be measured by the amount of traffic our roads can carry. The Gracious Speech said that the Government wouldpress forward with their policy of building new highways and improving existing roads.Are we carrying out this promise as we should? The civil engineering industry can do twice as much work as it is now doing if the Government will give it the opportunity.
I am concerned mainly with local authorities. I understand that all local authorities are willing and anxious to help the Minister in his work and planning, but as local authorities like mine try to use the accelerator, and go a little faster, the Minister puts on the brake and prevents them from doing their work. My local authority is straining at the leash to get on with the job of providing roads. Desks in its offices are cluttered up with plans, but they cannot be carried out. I do not know what the Government are waiting for. They know the size of the problem that has to be tackled.
A century ago the Rebecca riots occurred in South Wales. The Government failed to deal with the problem of the toll gates on the roads, with the result that riots occurred throughout South Wales. Commissions were sent from the House to make inquiries, but it was only after serious rioting took place that something was done and the 836 toll gates were abolished. Are the Government waiting for local authorities to do something serious before they take action?
Local authorities can do this work only if the Government will provide the money and give their sanction. Local authorities cannot make bricks without clay, neither can they build roads without the permission of the Minister and his financial assistance. He has placed upon local authorities a great responsibility for our roads, but he is depriving them of the wherewithal to carry out that responsibility. We have heard today about the number of road accidents, fatal and otherwise, which have taken place on the roads. I am convinced that it is the condition of the roads as much as the carelessness of the drivers which is responsible for the accident rate.
The Minister may say that local authorities are pushing at an open door, but as I see it they are pushing at a concrete wall, which they cannot move at all. My local authority is concerned with one specially big project at the moment. I have written to the Minister about it, and it has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). It is known as the Bristol Inner Circuit Road. Thousands of pounds have been spent upon it, but because all the roads forming it have not been completed there is a bottleneck, which means that we cannot reap full advantage of the money spent. I ask the Minister to give careful consideration to the completion of that road. I hope that he will give the local authority permission to complete it so as to remove the bottleneck.
In a recent letter to me the right hon. Gentleman said that this was a responsibility of the local authority, but the authority can move only with his permission. I now ask him to give that permission, and also to provide the wherewithal to enable the local authority to carry out the work. If he will only tell the authority to go ahead, the job can start almost immediately. It is not a job for my local authority; it is a job for my local authority plus the Ministry of Transport. If the two can work together, the job can be done.
I ventured to take part in the debate only because this is a most pressing need. It is essential that we have this road. 837 because we feel that it is the height of folly to build part of it and leave the unmade part as a bottleneck. The Bristol City Council has written to the Minister about it. The Bristol Chamber of Commerce has also taken up the problem. Business people have written to me to say that they established their businesses near the site of the circuit road because they anticipated that the road would be completed this year. But it has not been completed, and they are losing thousands of pounds as a result of the delay.
I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to this problem. I do not want him to tell me that the Government are spending a great deal of money in Bristol and the West Country. I know they are spending money, but they are not spending enough to meet the demands of that area. The roads through Bristol are the arteries to the South and to the West Country. Bristol is the gateway to the holiday resorts in the South-West and for the commercial traffic from the Midlands to the South and the South-West. Cargoes coming from Portishead and Avonmouth must pass through the Bristol bottleneck on the way to the Midlands.
The roads are narrow and there is congestion. There are numerous bends where vehicles cannot overtake each other. Queues of vehicles form, and, as a result, accidents occur because the drivers take risks. During the holiday season these roads are almost impassable. There is congestion everywhere. I am dealing with the matter from this parochial point of view, because I want the right hon. Gentleman to look at the problem as it exists in Bristol. I assume that there is a similar problem in other cities.
I know that the question of finance will worry the Minister. Where is the money to come from? In 1910—this has been referred to already—a fund was set up which was called the Road Fund. That is still in existence. The licences on motor vehicles are still called Road Fund licences. Money was paid into that fund to make provision for the maintenance of the roads. If there is no money in the fund there is nothing to prevent the Government from providing a Road Fund. In 1926, the Road Fund was raided by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who took £5 million from it. But the Fund was established as a horse- 838 power tax on cars and the proceeds were assigned to the newly established roads. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who raided it?"] The Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time was the right hon. Member (or Woodford (Sir W. Churchill).
A Question was asked in the House by Major Sir Archibald Sinclair, in 1926, and that Question is as relevant today as it was then. He asked what was the balance of the Road Fund and why had the surplusnot been expended on, or at least earmarked for, definite schemes of road improvement which, in many counties, are now held up for lack of money?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1926; Vol. 195, c. 30.]The Chancellor said then that the money in the Road Fund was to be used for the roads. I ask the Minister to examine this problem especially from the point of view of the difficulties in Bristol, and to see what he can do not only for Bristol, but for the whole of the South-Western region.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
In rising to make my first speech in this House I crave the indulgence of hon. Members and trust that I shall be shown the courtesy which the House always shows to those undergoing the agony of making a maiden speech.
It is ironical that I should seek to lose my "L plate" in a debate on traffic problems. There is a certain similarity between making one's maiden speech and taking one's driving test. The similarity, of course, is that they are both nerve-racking experiences. But at least in respect of a driving test one can have a second chance, and for some poor souls there are third, fourth and even more chances. I can remember all too well my first attempt to pass my driving test, when I failed, and quite deservedly so, and I am certain that the poor examiner who took me out on that occasion would have been perfectly justified in applying for danger money when we eventually got back to base. It was with a great feeling of relief that I managed to pass the test on my second attempt, but I can assure hon. Members that I shall have a greater feeling of relief when I have finished making this speech.
Before referring to the traffic problem I wish to take the opportunity to pay 839 a tribute to my predecessor who represented the constituency of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East. Although I differ from him politically, I share with him a great pride in the City of Newcastle and, indeed, in the whole of north-east England. We in the North-East sometimes think that we live in a forgotten area, and therefore one finds that hon. Members who represent constituencies in the north-east part of England are continually pushing the claims of their region. I know that that is something which my predecessor always did, and I only hope that I shall carry on in that tradition as successfully as he did.
We have undoubtedly made a great deal of progress in the road-building programme since the war, but it is a sobering thought when one considers that the amount being spent on roads, which totals about £170 million a year, represents only about 1 per cent. of the national income. I think we are entitled to ask whether that is sufficient. After all, the roads are of tremendous value and importance to this country. If we are to have a satisfactory road system the extra money has to he found for the necessary work to be done.
I should like to join in the tributes which have been paid by hon. Members on this side of the House to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence who, when he was Minister of Transport, did a first-class job. I am very hopeful that my right hon. Friend the present Minister will use his considerable ability and imagination to solve this vital problem. However, it is not enough to build new motorways, welcome as they are, because the problem of congestion in the urban areas calls for urgent attention. Traffic congestion causes great annoyance to the general public. There can be few people in this country fortunate enough never to have had to endure a traffic jam. There is nothing more frustrating than to have to sit in a vehicle in a long line of traffic which is crawling along. Tempers get frayed and new excuses for unpunctuality have to be devised.
Before becoming a Member of Parliament I taught at a school in Newcastle and I had to travel across the Tyne every day to get to school. From the mouth of the Tyne one has to travel 10 miles up river before coming to a 840 bridge, and, therefore, it is no wonder that the bridges leading into Newcastle are always congested during the peak traffic hours. The Tyne is not an extremely wide river, yet I have known mornings when the bus in which I was travelling has taken over 15 minutes to cross the Tyne Bridge.
As I have said, I was a schoolteacher, and on such mornings I was invariably late for school so that I was not in much of a position to reprimand any child who came to school late. Had I been late because I had overslept, that would have been my fault, but to be late through no fault of my own was not only embarrassing but extremely annoying.
Next year we hope to start on the Tyne Tunnel which will be welcomed by the people of Tyneside. Not only will it help to ease the congestion on the bridges across the Tyne but, I believe. it will prove a tremendous asset to trade in the area. It has been reckoned that traffic congestion costs the country something like £200 million a year. Those figures show the damage done to trade from this cause. I therefore welcome any steps which will help trade and, as a consequence, employment in the northeastern part of the country.
It is not, however, only in terms of trade that I am concerned about the road situation. Also, as the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) said, there is the human side to the question. I read the other day that it was estimated that since the war 72,000 people had lost their lives in road accidents in this country. When we add to that number the accidents in which people have sustained injuries, we ought all to realise that we have a duty to do all we can to prevent these numbers from rising. New roads which are good roads would be a great help in reducing those casualties.
To return to the problem of congestion in urban areas, obviously much of this is caused by bad parking or lack of parking facilities. Here there is much that can be done. To begin with, I think motorists should be helped as much as possible. To come by car into a strange town and have to start looking for somewhere to park is no one's idea of pleasure. Therefore, I advocate that there should be a clearer definition of 841 streets where parking is allowed. In some parts of the Continent there is a very simple but effective method. In streets where parking is allowed there is a sign with a large P on it and where parking is not allowed there is a sign with a letter P and a stroke struck through it. In this way one knows where it is safe to park.
So often in this country the signs have so much writing on them that one has to stop to read them from beginning to end. In 99 per cent. of the cases, one discovers one cannot park at that time or on that particular day. Then one has to continue the pilgrimage to find a place to park, thereby adding even more to the problems of congestion. I suggest that where parking is permitted in the wider streets it would be a good idea if it were allowed only in the direction of travel. In that way we could do a great deal to avoid the dangers resulting from cars pulling out from the wrong side of the road.
I also suggest that on those same wide streets if for some reason—for example, shopkeepers' requests—parking is to be varied from side to side of a road, we should make the definition much clearer. Some signs say that parking is allowed on one side of the road on odd days of the month and on the other side on even days of the month. Many people are never sure what day it is. When they draw up in their cars they ask themselves, "Is it the 9th or 10th today?" and they are at a complete loss to know. If we must have alternate day parking on a street, could it not be done on a monthly basis, by allowing parking on one side in odd months of the year—January, March, May and so on—and on the other side on the even months—February, April, June and so on? People often have to think of the date, but I am sure they can always remember the month. These suggestions, I think, would help to ease the problem in some way.
I feel that much of the trouble and friction between the police and the general public has been caused by parking offences. So many people who are completely respectable and have had no trouble at all with the police suddenly find themselves charged with a parking offence. They become annoyed and they ask, "Why do the police pick on 842 me? Have they nothing better to do with their time than wander about the streets sticking labels on cars?" They feel aggrieved. I am certain that the police are just as unhappy about that state of affairs as are the motorists. If we had a simplification of parking signs it would be welcomed by all. The answer is to make perfectly clear to motorists where they can park and where they may not park. If that were done, I am convinced that friction between the police and motorists would be considerably reduced.
I apologise if I have talked for too long or if my suggestions have not been acceptable to hon. Members. I have talked about friction between the police and the general public. Because I know that many hon. Members wish to speak in this debate and because, in this speech at least, I do not want to cause friction in the House, I propose to take my own advice and to park very smartly.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Ledger (Romford)
There falls to me the very pleasant duty of congratulating the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery) on the speech he has just made. I assure him with all sincerity —and I believe the House is with me—that he did not speak for a moment too long. We were really enjoying what he had to say and we could have gone on listening for a while longer. Because of the way in which he made his speech and the humour of which obviously he is capable, we shall all look forward to times in the future when he takes part in debate and when he has a chance of being controversial. On the showing he has made tonight, we can assure him that, although he may have failed his first driving test, he has passed this test with high honours.
Because the time is passing quickly and I know other hon. Members want to speak, I shall stick mainly to one point, a suggestion I want to make to the Minister. Because I am a driver and a car owner I want to give the House a short impression of this debate so far.
We are supposed to be debating congestion and ways of dealing with it, but I am coming to the conclusion—I was partly forced to it by the latter part of the Minister's opening speech—that the 843 motorist can look forward to a future of almost bitter persecution. Having been encouraged to purchase a car, and having been told that his car will represent a much higher standard of living, he will be persecuted for using it. I think that is quite wrong.
Another thing which worries me is that the Minister said he was not changing the policies of his predecessor. I wish, therefore, to quote a statement of his predecessor as recently as 7th May, 1959, in this House. The right hon. Gentleman said:It is worth considering that if we did not have a problem of acute traffic congestion in our cities we would probably be a great deal more worried than we are today, because traffic congestion is at least a sign of an expanding and lively economy. … Do not let us regard it, therefore in too tragic a manner. It is a by-product of an advanced technological way of life."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1959; Vol. 605, c. 584.]If the present Minister agrees with that, I suggest that we cannot take too seriously his statement that he regards this as a major problem. The fault of the previous Minister was that he could not see that, because of this traffic congestion, we were failing to master the technological advances of our age. The machine was becoming the master. It is futile for the Minister to paint a picture of himself carrying two buckets of paint, one pink and one white, wandering around the streets of London marking demarcation lines to try to solve the traffic problem.
When people begin to discuss the problem of congestion they think of the number of cars on the roads, or obtain the correct number from the statistics available, and calculate what the problem is. They suggest that it is possible in London, for instance, to find parking spaces for 30,000 cars to be left all day. One hon. Member pointed out that there was such a thing as a multiple garage which could hold 300 cars, but one can picture the scene at 5.45 p.m. when 300 drivers rush to the garage and all want to drive on to the street at the same time. This would simply create another problem for the Minister to tackle.
The worst fault of present-day thinking is that we do not bear in mind the increase which has taken place in traffic on the roads in the past and the possibilities for the future. The Minister 844 pointed out that by 1967 there would be twice as many vehicles on the roads as there are today. We therefore assume that the problem in London and other big cities will be at least twice as great as it is today. Indeed, I understand from experts that the problem of congestion grows twice as fast as the increase in the number of vehicles on the roads. We have to look forward ten or fifteen years to see the problem which we shall have to solve, but we must begin to solve it now.
It is futile to talk of providing parking spaces for these people who park all day. I was interested when the Minister said that there would be virtually a war on the person who parked his car for eight days in London. In order that we may all be aware of the problem which this involves for the car driver, I suggest that the Minister should close for a fortnight the car parks which are available to Members of Parliament. We should then appreciate the difficulty which faces the 30,000 people who try to find a place to park in London. Let Ministers, with their normal parking places closed to them, try to find a space to park. They will then appreciate the problem.
We should not treat these motorists as criminals—and that appears to be the tendency today. I do not think that they are selfish. When a man has bought a car it seems to me quite unreasonable that he should be expected to pay tares in order to travel around the country by public transport. That is also the view of most motorists.
Hon. Members will gather from what I have said that all these suggestions for painting white lines on the road, for having channels of traffic and for having parking meters and pink zones will, in my view, not deal with the problem of today and certainly will not deal with the problem of tomorrow.
A number of suggestions have been made which we hope will help the Minister to deal with the problem speedily. He will have some difficulty because he has to sift all the information which has been given him today. He has to build better roads in order that industrial traffic can travel faster and he has to improve the railways to ensure that industrial traffic travels by rail and not by road. He has to try to sort out all these 845 things. In trying to deal with the problem, however, he must look a number of years ahead. He cannot help us with present problems, and the immediate plans which he suggests appear to me to be totally inadequate.
Three things must be done. We must go ahead with the present proposals as fast as possible. We cannot stop now because the matter is urgent. Secondly, I welcome the Minister's idea of a long-term study group, because in the past we have lacked a source of information from people who have studied the problem, not as it is today but as it will affect us in ten or fifteen years' time. I think that would be an extremely good idea, and I think that many of us would take considerable interest in its activities.
There is, however, a third thing that has to be done in connection with public transport. Many hon. Members have said that public transport has to be developed, and I do not think there is much argument about that. We have heard from some hon. Members about how America and Germany have been building roads, but what those hon. Members forgot to tell us was that, having built those roads, they still had the problem of congestion. They have not got over that problem in those countries. What we have to do is to find the answer to that. If we spend millions of pounds upon the roads and are still left with the traffic congestion we have got nowhere.
I want to develop an argument for the better use of the public services which might appear to be a little revolutionary, but the Minister wanted ideas, and he regards himself as very progressive. I do not think that he would mind a little revolution if it would help to get rid of the congestion on the roads. Certain figures have been mentioned of the cost of traffic congestion, and I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman accepts them. These are the figures which are given for the cost of all traffic congestion, and one figure which has been given as the actual cost is £200 million. If we take into consideration the time lost by individuals, I believe that the figure is nearer £500 million per year. I am given to understand that the actual cash cost of accidents in this country is £130 million per year.
I want to know whether the Minister accepts these figures as a rough estimate, 846 and whether he uses them as a basis for his considerations. If he would nod his head one way or the other, it would help me in putting my argument. If he will not nod one way or the other, he will, in my opinion, be like other Ministers in that he refuses to accept advice when it is there, and refuses to accept information when it is given to him. So I shall have to accept the figures which have been mentioned by so many hon. Members as the cost of traffic congestion, plus the fact that this cost will increase at the rate of 14 per cent. per year. I am going to accept this as correct, because I need it in order to put my argument across as best I can.
I also understand that the passenger revenue on the railways is £165 million a year. Another figure given by the Minister was that the trouble in London, and I presume that applies to other big cities as well, is that about 6 per cent. of the people coming into the cities cause the main problem of congestion. We must try to get as many of this 6 per cent. who come in cars to change their mode of travel and to come in on the public services. If we could persuade a large enough number of them to do that the immediate problem of congestion would he met.
The question is how to get them to accept that. I do not think that this idea of providing car parks will necessarily do it, even if we provide car parks right outside the tube and railway stations. I do not believe that for the reason that a man is not going to buy a car and pay all the expenses connected with it, and, on top of all that, pay fares. I therefore suggest to the Minister that there should be no payment for travelling on the railways. [Laughter.] This is not as funny as it sounds. We have gone into the cost of congestion. It is over £630 million a year, and it is increasing at 14 per cent. a year. Railway receipts from pasengers amount to £165 million a year. Surely, it is reasonable that the Government should pay £165 million to London Transport and British Railways, and induce people in large numbers to come into town on the public transport rather than by their own cars.
Many hon. Members might inquire what motorists are to do with their cars. It is not an intelligent use of a car to put up with such congestion as 847 exists in London. In any case, any suggested measure—even the present restrictions—will restrict a man in the use of his car. We should induce motorists, not force them, to come into congested areas by public transport, thus relieving congestion on the roads.
I will now state one or two points in favour of my suggestion, because it has considerable value. First, roads would be freer for industrial goods which, delivered more freely and quickly, would reduce the cost of transport and therefore reduce the cost of the goods. The scheme would be invaluable in that sense. Secondly, if travel on the railways were free the cost of printing tickets would disappear. The staff employed at present on issuing and collecting tickets could be used for the vital job of making the public services much more efficient. All public services have the problem of providing sufficient labour to do the job. They have the labour if it could be given the proper job to do.
I put forward my proposal with all seriousness. I have discussed it with traffic experts, who consider that it is feasible. If the Minister is interested in suggestions being made from this side, this is one which could be put into operation very quickly. If adopted, it would have an immediate effect upon congestion in all cities. It is this sort of measure which the Minister will require if he is to convince hon. Members, the country at large and motorists that he is concerned with congestion. But I am not sure that he will be too impressed by what I have suggested.
§ Mr. Ledger
That is sound advice coming from my right hon. Friend, and I will take it. The big problem is that the Minister may feel that the public services as social services will in those circumstances become extremely popular and efficient. The Government are not noted for looking favourably upon social services. I hope that the Minister will take my suggestion with all the seriousness with which it has been advanced. I am being very serious about this, although I suspect that the Minister is laughing, but he may be harshly judged in four years' time if he has failed to 848 solve the problem with pots of paint. He is proud of his Pink Zone scheme, although I cannot see why. The logic of it is that he will have to extend it until, ultimately, it will be impossible to own a car in London unless one has a garage. The Pink Zone will have to cover all London. That is the logic of the action the right hon. Gentleman is taking at the moment. I believe that his actions and those of his predecessors are too small. Their outlook should be broadened. The Government should take another look at the public services, when they would see that they would be the best and speediest way of solving the present problem.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
Of a number of debates on traffic that I can remember in recent years this is the most popular, from the point of view of the number of hon. Members who want to speak. I only wish that we were to have an extension of an hour or so, or even a second day. We should realise that this subject is rapidly becoming one of the most important that we can discuss, and I hope that it will be given much more time in the future than it has been given in the past.
I am only sorry that the Opposition have put down—for the first time, I think—a rather critical Motion, as there is obviously not much disagreement on broad principles, though there may be on the details. They may, of course, get a "kick" out of chivvying the Government, but the Government do not need chivvying. As my right hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) said, the handicap under which the Government have suffered in the past has been the complete lack of public interest and of any sense of urgency. Now the emergency is upon us in full blast. I wish the Government every possible success in dealing with it, because the more delay there is the worse will things become.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport asked for our views on some suggestions, one of which related to traffic wardens. As one who has for some time urged the adoption of this system, I hope that it will be brought into operation. I am quite certain that if we had these wardens. Who would 849 surely not need to have the same standard of fitness as the regular police, to handle parked cars and, perhaps, some other things, there would be a great saving of manpower.
The regular police, who now spend a great deal of the day walking round car parks and, on other days an even greater part of their time waiting in police courts to give evidence, would be released for the more important task of tackling crime, From the point of view of crime prevention alone, we ought to adopt this system without delay.
My right hon. Friend also said that he was to experiment with more one-way streets. I hope that that will be done and that, when they are instituted, the one-way streets will become permanent. I cannot remember, certainly in London, a single case of a street, once made one-way, reverting to the two-way system. Every one-way street system that I can think of in London has been a success.
My complaint is that in the past there has been far too much delay in introducing one-way streets, and far too much reluctance to experiment. Jermyn Street is a case in point. It took years before that was made a one-way street. For years, we had the spectacle of cars parked on both sides, room for only one line of traffic in between, and vehicles going both ways, with the inevitable jam in the middle. Since Jermyn Street was made a one-way street, there has been a free flow of traffic.
My right hon. Friend must be bold in his experiments with one-way streets. I am sure that he will be judged not by what he does, but by what he does not do. I would like to endorse the suggestion of experimenting, possibly, with Wigmore Street and Oxford Street, possibly with King's Road and Fulham Road, or the Strand and the Embankment. After all, if it does not work, we can change back again, but we will never find out whether it will work unless we try it.
I am glad that turns by taxis right over the street will be stopped. I recall that some years ago I asked a Home Secretary to stop that, but my request was refused. I do not see why taxis should be privileged beyond other road users to use the street in that way although, of course, the only reason they make their U-turns is that they have a far greater lock than have normal cars.
850 Another traffic alleviation that I have mentioned before is to do away with many pavements that are too wide. I would like a survey to be made by local authorities of all pavements on any road in their area where there is an appreciable amount of traffic, to see whether those pavements need be so wide. Just across the road from this House there is Great George Street. I have not measured the width of the pavement there, but it is enormous in relation to the number of foot passengers using it, though the carriageway is very narrow and, as we all know, jammed with traffic in the rush hour.
I understand that one of the difficulties is that there are Treasury cellars beneath the pavements which need to be propped up. I do not know what is in the cellars, but I imagine that the job could be done. I should not mind being a member of a squad from this House going out to do it if there is no other way of getting it done. Seriously, it should be a simple matter to prop up cellars like that and strengthen the pavement so that it will carry cars parked there, if they are to be allowed to park, though I would rather see the road left free for a greater flow of traffic.
There are many similar ones. A survey should be undertaken. In the Borough of St. Marylebone, where, I know, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) has interested himself in the matter in the past, there are many wide pavements which carry virtually no foot passengers but which, on the other hand, do detract from the width of the highway and, therefore, delay a very considerable flow of traffic.
Another way to help traffic along would be to co-ordinate some of the traffic signals. Along seven miles of the Great West Road there are 11 sets of traffic lights at 11 cross-roads, yet hardly ever does one pass down that stretch of road without being stopped by at least three or four of them. It should be possible, at a certain speed of travel, to pass all the lights at green. It is done on the Continent, and, I think I am right in saying, it is done on a part of the Bath Road just west of Slough, with great success. I do not understand why that should be the only experiment in this country. 851 It ought to be possible to try similar arrangements on any road where there is a succession of traffic lights at reasonable intervals. On the Hendon Way, just as it leaves the Finchley Road to go north, there are four sets of traffic lights, if I remember aright, which are completely unco-ordinated. The flow of traffic could be accelerated by traffic light co-ordination there, and there are many other examples. We seem to be rather slow to think of such things. Such arrangements are commonplace on the Continent where, as some of us know, it is possible, by observing an indication beneath the traffic lights of the speed at which one should travel, to pass all the lights at green.
The provision of car parks is a problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) would like many car parks within what I might call the inner ring of London. Other hon. Members suggest that they should be put further out. In my view, we want both if we are to solve the problem. More use should be made of railway space. I was very glad to read in the Press the other day—I hope that the reports are correct—that there are plans for building car parks over some of our London stations. This is an excellent idea.
I suggest, also, that there is plenty of railway siding space over which it should be possible to build car parks without interfering very much with railway operations. If such car parks were built in conjunction with some office accommodation as well—I am speaking now of parts farther out—it might be possible to construct them economically at a price which would not be a burden on the motorist. I gather that the cost of building car parks over railways is rather heavy, but much more use could be made of railway space if there were real determination to do it. I am glad that the British Transport Commission is, apparently, thinking along those lines.
The Minister should be bold and try experiments. I am sure that we should be only too glad to put up with temporary inconveniences if he did. We might find streets which we had expected to be able to go down in one direction closed to us and have to go 852 another way, but I am sure that we should all prefer that rather than that nothing at all should be done. It is much less exasperating to have to go a little further and be able to keep moving than to go a short distance and be stuck in a traffic jam. I urge my right hon. Friend to take courage. He should experiment as much as he possibly can.
One does not do any harm or commit a crime by trying something and being proved wrong. A few years ago, when I was a member of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, I was told by one of the Ministry's officials that it was as much as his job was worth to try something—this was an improvement at Hyde Park Corner—and fail. That is an appalling attitude for anyone in any Ministry to have, because it stifles all initiative and experiment. I only hope that that attitude no longer exists and that everybody will have the courage to make all the suggestions he can. Everyone should be given the power to experiment and try new ideas. If they fail, we can go back to where we were before, but surely it is better to try and fail than never to try at all.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
Unlike the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell), this is the first time that I have had the opportunity of speaking in a transport debate. I had prepared quite a lot to say, but I shall confine my remarks to about four minutes, because I realise that the debate must be brought to a conclusion, although I agree with the hon. Member who said that it would be a good thing if it could go on longer.
I want to bring the debate back to the provinces. I feel very strongly about the City of Birmingham. It is only one-third the size of London, but it is trying to carry an improvement programme far in excess of anything that London has ever contemplated. I ask the Minister to give us some hope and encouragement and to say that he will give us help, without our haying to exercise the same kind of pressure that we had to exercise on his predecessor, when we pointed out to him that Birmingham would be a bottleneck and in a serious position unless something was done. 853 My constituency, Ladywood, runs through the centre of Birmingham and my central committee rooms at the last election were in Corporation Street, right in the centre of Birmingham. I had to enlist the support of the police to enable me to get inside my committee rooms and to get out again. The police were certainly very co-operative.
I have seen this congestion problem in the City of Birmingham gradually getting worse. On 13th November, there was a traffic jam in which I myself was involved. I was trying to get from one part of the city to another but every road was blocked. The roads to the North, to Coventry, to Bristol and to Burton were all blocked in the worst traffic jam in the history of the city.
We have had seriously to consider over a number of year how to deal with this problem. The City of Birmingham has put forward plans for improvement schemes from 1962 to 1966 involving an expenditure of £37,296,350. Of that sum, over £17 million is for land alone and £17 million for works. When I asked the Minister of Transport yesterday what he proposed to do about this problem of congestion in Birmingham, he told me that he hoped… to bridge the period until the series of road improvements, some of which have already been provided, take on their full shape."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1959; Vol. 615 c. 45.]What I and Birmingham want to know is whether the Minister is prepared to give us authority to go forward with this £37 million scheme. The Lord Mayor of London, speaking at the Guildhall this week, referred to London's expenditure. One would imagine from what has been said by hon. Members opposite that London was the be-all and end-all, but it is proposed to spend £17 million for the County of London as against £37 million for Birmingham, which is one-third the size of London.
I, like the chief engineer for Birmingham, want a realistic scheme for the whole country. We want Birmingham to have authority for its proposals. I say to the right hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), who seems to be discouraging the idea of all these parking places, that Birmingham is proposing to have 13,000 parking places over the next ten years. We want to know whether we can go on. Birmingham is not the 854 city of a thousand trades. It is now the city of 1,400 trades. But it will be a city of complete chaos unless we can get authority to go forward.
I therefore appeal to the Minister to help Birmingham. Let it lead the country. When one considers what is being spent on new roads and road improvements, it is ridiculous to imagine that the money that the Minister is spending is adequate or satisfactory. The Government have failed. I am not concerned whether the Labour Government did or did not do as much as they should have done. I am looking at the last eight or nine years. I am not concerned about what happened before. I want something to be done now. I want the Government to act to help the police and all the other authorities in the city.
Let us see that Birmingham is able to pursue its objective and fulfil its contribution to the export trade by getting its goods out of the city and getting trade, so that the country's economy can be strengthened.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) for cutting short his speech and allowing me extra time to reply to the debate. My first and post pleasant duty is to acknowledge the maiden speeches we have heard during the course of the debate. We have heard three first-class maiden speeches. The first was from the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith). He came to the House with a high reputation, and he lived up to it with a first-class speech and a contribution which we all enjoyed. I hope that some of his suggestions will be replied to by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary.
We had another very good speech from the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), whose local government experience was obvious. He made one very apt remark. He said that he was a member of the London County Council and was in the opposition. He said what joy there was in being in opposition because one could put up a number of proposals in the knowledge that one carried no responsibility for them. As one who has been in opposition for over nine years, I can only say that I am fed 855 up to the teeth with it. When the hon. Member has had as long as I have had in opposition, he will not enjoy it so much. It was, however, a good speech, and we enjoyed it.
The third maiden speech was from the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery), who also made a good contribution. I am glad that he paid tribute to his predecessor, Arthur Blenkinsop, who was a beloved Member of the House and a first-rate Member of Parliament. In paying his tribute, the hon. Member said that Arthur Blenkinsop always fought for his constituency, and we well know that to be true. He was always defending the people of his area. We are obliged to the hon. Member for his reference to our very good friend.
The debate is one of great importance. It can be fairly said that transport is now realised, not only by us in the House of Commons but by people outside, as being perhaps the greatest and most important domestic issue of our time. The debate began with a speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Bistol, South-East (Mr. Benn). It is unique that the four speeches from the Front Benches are being made by what might be termed new boys. We shall know at the end of the day which one of them has the least knowledge
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East, in what everybody would agree was a first-class speech, made an important point concerning the staggering of hours. I re-emphasise what he said about the great importance of the need to stagger hours. I know that everything that could be done voluntarily has been done. My hon. Friend spoke in terms of taxing employers who did not apply the staggering of hours. My hon. Friend was doing what the Minister himself asked. He was throwing out ideas. These were individual ideas, and I should like to emphasise that. All of us will agree that the whole purpose of debate is to be helpful and to try to assist the new Minister in the task before him. I should like to make it perfectly clear that my hon. Friend put his suggestions forward as personal suggestions and not on party lines, or anything like that.
856 I should now like to refer to the staggering of hours. It is important that we should be clear on this matter. We know from the figures already given that 30 per cent. of the people coming into a city like London travel between 8.15 and 8.45 in the morning and 20 per cent. leave between 5.15 and 5.45. During those times, the problem of our public passenger transport system is appalling. What we are after—and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will refer to this as well—is merely a slight alteration—perhaps half an hour's extension—by good will. If we could extend the times from 8 o'clock to 9 o'clock, for example, and 5 o'clock to 6 o'clock, the relief in that half an hour alone would be almost impossible to measure. We are not asking for a lot, and my hon. Friend was quite right to bring up the point.
The right hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) showed exactly why we should have tabled the Motion. He properly made a speech of great knowledge, because he has had, as he told us, three years at the Ministry of Transport as Parliamentary Secretary. He said that one of the troubles confronting previous Governments was that the public would not co-operate, or that it was difficult to get the public to co-operate. He said something about our not being in a position to co-operate and that in the production of any plans or ideas this was always a great problem. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that this is the indictment against the last Government and the one before. At no time have they come to the House with any original suggestions, plans, or ideas about the future on transport matters. The plea must come from the Dispatch Box opposite to galvanise public opinion.
We face a situation of tremendous seriousness. That is why we tabled the Motion, and we do not regret having done so. As the debate has continued, it has been proved to be right that, as an Opposition, we should focus attention on what has not happened in the past and on what is to happen in the future.
I must say that I like this Minister. He has almost as much cheek as I have, but he has publicity experts, whereas I have great difficulty in getting anything that I say in the local Press. He came to the House with the knowledge that a Motion of censure had been tabled, and 857 we expected him to tell the House something really worth while. After all, he was not in his job five minutes before he conveyed the impression that the Pink Zone was his own idea. One would have thought that this was something of which the Ministry had no knowledge at all. Then suddenly this new Minister arrived, and out of the blue a Pink Zone occurred. This is what he would have us believe. Frankly, we expected today, in view of all the kites flown in the Press recently, that he would tell us about a great scheme for the future and that we should be shattered with some of his revolutionary ideas.
What did the right hon. Gentleman say? He started off by saying that he wanted ideas and that he proposed to take full credit for any good ideas. That is what I like about him. This is the modest approach. I do not mind that, but—
§ Mr. Molson
Is it not a little inconsistent of the hon. Member to criticise the three predecessors of my right hon. Friend for not coming to the House and asking for our ideas and then blame my right hon. Friend for doing exactly that?
§ Mr. Mellish
If the right hon. Gentleman will give me a chance to develop my argument, he will see why I am so disappointed with this Minister. Our Motion is not directed against the right hon. Gentleman—he has not been in this job long enough to know anything about transport—but against the inaction of previous Governments. Anything that I say must not be regarded as being directed against the Minister for anything he has not done in the past, but with his great reputation and public experts one would have thought that he had a scheme, an idea, or a plan. However, he came to the House and said that he will consider any ideas put forward but that he will take the credit for them. I am obliged for that.
Then he spent a great deal of time attacking the Labour Government of 1945–50 and saying that the Conservative Government had done very much better. I do not think anyone in Britain will stand for that sort of argument any more. We have gone far too far away from that position where comparisons are made between the last nine years and what the Labour Party did in 1945–50. 858 It does not impress anybody any more, and in the House it has become a tedious joke. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take this matter seriously. What the nation wants is confidence that the Government have long-term plans. It was quite futile to compare the record of the present Government with that of the Labour Government after the war when much of their work was filling in holes in the ground after the bombing.
The right hon. Gentleman wants a study group. What has the Ministry been doing in the last few years when the right hon. Member for The High Peak and the present Minister of Defence were in office in the Ministry of Transport? Were they not studying anything? I should have thought that they would have had masses of plans and would have done a lot of study. But one of the troubles was that they did not produce a comprehensive plan for the future. As has been rightly said, one of the problems facing us is that they badly underestimated traffic requirements in the future. We have been given figures in the debate today to show that.
The Minister also said that he had plans to take over a very large zone somewhere. I gather that it is to be in London, though he did not say so, and that in effect the Minister of Transport will be completely in charge of certain powers. The right hon. Gentleman asked us for our views and quoted some of the things which he or his Department may do within that zone. I put this to him quite fairly, and it is very important. I understand that legislation will have to be introduced. The right hon. Gentleman cannot expect us in Opposition, or indeed any hon. Member, to express views on a scheme of which we have no prior knowledge.
We are prepared to co-operate right up to the hilt in solving traffic problems, provided that a scheme is produced with a proper sense of democracy and of wanting to do good to the nation as a whole. We shall encourage the right hon. Gentleman, and when his scheme is produced we shall co-operate with him provided that it proves worth while.
One of the troubles in winding up a debate is that everything one wants to say has been said already, and in my case far more effectively. As for 859 figures, I had masses of marvellous figures ready to be produced in this debate, but they have all been quoted by other people. I am sure that hon. Members opposite and probably the Parliamentary Secretary and some of my hon. Friends discovered exactly where the same books that I have used were to be found. This is very distressing.
There is one very serious point which I want again to emphasise. It has been put forward by a number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), whom we are glad to see back in the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) and my hon. Friend for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell). This is the straight issue about public passenger transport services. I plead with the Minister to understand that all of us in the House recognise that this is the No. 1 priority in the problems of today and tomorrow. There can be no doubt about that. Millions of our people are trying to use public passenger transport services of one kind or another.
We have used this argument as a political football for far too long. The virtues or the vices of the British Transport Commission have been kicked about from one side of the House to the other. I speak to the Minister as a fellow-Britisher. Is there any point, on the verge of 1960, in continuing to talk about the Commission as if it were some evil organisation which the Government are not prepared to help? All we get from the benches opposite very often is sneering and jeering at what the Commission is trying to do. This is something owned by Britain. This is something we want to run on behalf of the nation as a whole. The fact that the Labour Party introduced the legislation in 1947 has no relevance. It is here and it is here to stay, and it must be helped.
If the right hon. Gentleman intends to help, we have to alter the philosophy of the party opposite on this matter. It cannot be a Commission which must pay for itself commercially. If it is the argument that the B.T.C. must be run on an entirely commercial basis and show a profit at the end of the day, I warn the nation and certainly the Minister that it has no future. Our 860 buses and our trains will deteriorate and not improve in such conditions. We have to get the party opposite to understand that the Commission provides a public service which is essential to the country. If we say, as has been said in the past, that the Commission must find £40 million—the last Minister said it— by withdrawing all uneconomic units, then the Minister should take the blame and responsibility for the hardship which the withdrawal of the routes will create.
In the past, the Commission has been regarded as a Labour Party effort, and it has been the attitude that anything that has gone wrong with it has been the fault of the Labour Party. The party opposite has somehow enjoyed that and, at election times, has run down the Commission. If the Minister will say that he will help the Commission and give it loans free of charge and encourage it to become more efficient and thus able to lower fares, we will back him to a man. As he knows, if we can get more people on the buses and make the buses run more efficiently, many of our problems will be solved. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman in dealing with transport to help and no longer to jeer at the Commission.
There are many problems with which we have to learn to deal. One of them is the Pink Zone, this great Pink Zone about which we have heard so much. It was a first-class idea, and I give credit to those who thought it up. Having said that, I ask the right hon. Gentleman a straight question. One of the great things about the Pink Zone has been that by scheduling certain areas for car parking, 6,000 parking places have had to be found. When the Pink Zone ends, are those 6,000 car park places to be abolished? Will those places be lost when the great Marples scheme has ended and when Christmas has gone and everything is back to normal? It has been one of the great things about the Pink Zone that police have been able to tell motorists not only where they are not allowed to park but where they are allowed to park. It has provided the police with their first opportunity to do that.
Do not let it go from the House that we are united in persecuting motorists. The right hon. Member for The High 861 Peak frightened me at one time. Perhaps it was just as well that de did not have a comprehensive plan when he was at the Ministry of Transport, because some of the things he said about motorists were terrifying. Let it be understood that we have no intention and never have had any intention of cutting down motor car manufacture. The motor industry is one of our basic export industries, and 1 should have my hon. Friends from Coventry after me if I suggested that motor car output should be cut. It must he made clear to the nation that we are planning not only for today but for tomorrow, and if motorists are not to be allowed to park in certain areas at least parking space will be provided for them elsewhere.
I do not think the Minister paid sufficient tribute to the police. The police have done a magnificent job. They are 3,000 under strength in the Metropolitan area compared with 1938 figures, and yet we have asked them to deal with major traffic problems in addition to their other police duties. They have done a superb job and I thought the right hon. Gentleman was a little ungracious not to emphasise the part that they have played. I hope the public realises the debt owed to the police and that we have no right to complain when they do not catch juvenile delinquents and people coming out of warehouses when the House of Commons continues to impose on them such arduous duties.
I support the plea that the time has come when the police ought to be helped by traffic wardens. The Minister must get down to this. We have been crying out for an experimental scheme of traffic wardens whose job it would be to control the traffic and help the police in their work. I have been given some amazing figures. I am told that 95 per cent. of the time of the police in the Metropolitan area is spent on traffic duties. That is a pretty grim figure, and it is asking too much of the police.
We must make the best use of existing roads. One way of doing that would be to consult traffic engineers. They could do a magnificent job, and illustrations were given of the sort of things that they could do. We have heard about right turns not being allowed at intersections. Another thing that could be done is to stop cars entering a main road except 862 by certain types of roads. At the moment, traffic can come into a main road from either side. We ought to have a scheme whereby traffic can enter main roads only by selected side roads.
Parking meters have been a success. When will they be extended? How will it be done? What is being done to make certain that the scheme is extended?
We have not heard a word from the Minister of Transport about the Victoria to Walthamstow tube. That scheme has been "kicking around" since 1948. Is anybody surprised that we have tabled a Motion of censure? I know that the Labour Government were in office in 1948, but we have had nine years of Conservative Government and the scheme, which will cost about £55 million, has not been started. Every expert on transport agrees that that tube would be a great help in easing traffic congestion in London. Can the Minister give us a decision on that?
Four years ago my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) was responsible for a great deal of work on the scheme for the testing of vehicles. I am advised that in more than 20 per cent. of the accidents that have occurred—and some of those have been accidents in which people have been killed—the vehicles concerned had faulty mechanism. Four years ago the Government were asked to introduce a scheme for testing vehicles more than ten years old. That scheme has not been introduced. Is it surprising that we have tabled a Motion saying that we deprecate the fact that the Government have not produced that scheme? When will the scheme be brought in? What do the Government plan to do? What can we do to make certain that as many vehicles as possible are tested to make sure that they are in a fit condition to be on the roads?
A lot has been said about the financial aspect of this problem. It is monstrous that a great deal of road work has to he done by local authorities and paid for out of their own rates. We cannot go on with that, particularly where small councils who already have financial problems are concerned. At present, when a road is to be repaired it is dug up, and at five o'clock in the evening a lamp is put there to mark the site and the workmen go home. The result is 863 that the street becomes congested. At eight o'clock the following morning the workmen arrive. They then go off for tea and all the other things that the average workmen goes off for during a normal day. Why do they not work in the evening? [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite drink more than their fair share of tea.
Why do we not try to help local councils by giving them a 100 per cent. grant and thus make certain that where the job is urgent it will be done at night and at weekends? How long must we go on with this stupid business? Motorists are becoming completely bewildered. If we ask a local authority, "Why are you not putting a great deal more pressure on to this job?" they reply, "If we do it will cost a lot more money. We cannot afford to pay overtime rates, or to pay for double-time at weekends." It is simple and obvious, but nothing has been done about it over the years, and I plead with the Minister to help us on this matter.
When we turn to the long-term transport problem we find a terrifying picture. I have worked it out that since this debate began at 3.30 p.m. no fewer than 780 new vehicles have come on to our roads. Try to cram that lot into our New Palace Yard! It cannot be done. Every fifty seconds a new car is being produced, and no restrictions will be imposed upon production. They are not all for export. I believe that over 50 per cent. remain on the roads of Britain, and when the manufacturers really get under way with the Minimotor—the small, cheap family car—the problem will become that much worse.
It has been said that by 1967 there will be 16 million cars on the roads, and if anybody wants to be thoroughly frightened I can tell him that we hope to have on the roads, within fourteen years' time, more than 24 million cars. That is a conservative estimate. It is based upon the figures for car production now, but, like previous Ministers of Transport, I could be wrong. Production could be speeded up even more. But, on those figures alone, the outlook is terrifying. We want to help the Minister to make certain that there is a comprehensive plan to deal with the possible future situation.
We have heard of the wonderful efforts that have gone into the construction of 864 M.1, but what is the point of M.1—a wonderful road—if the motorist has to drive through a congested area before he can get on to it and then go through another congested area when he gets off it? What sort of planning is that? Only a Conservative Government could have thought of M.1, a wonderful road, running into congestion at both ends.
There are some fundamental principles to be considered in relation to the future. We have heard that about 74,000 people have been killed on the roads since 1945. We became very distressed and unhappy when we heard about the recent disaster in France, when 350 people were killed, yet we take the loss of 74,000 of our own people on the roads since 1945 with nonchalance. The train of misery left in the wake of those figures speaks for itself. We have a solemn duty to make it clear that we intend to plan the roads to cities and towns in the years to come not only with an assurance for the rights of the motorists, but with emphasis on the rights of pedestrians, by providing areas where they may be quite safe. I speak now as a family man. Whenever any of my children go out my wife and I are terrified to think of what may happen to them on the roads, and we pray that they may come back. I suspect that more prayers are going up today in connection with the Minister's roads than ever before because they are so dangerous.
That is the background to our Motion. We do not believe that the terms of the Amendment are satisfactory. We cannot accept it, and we shall vote for our own Motion because we sincerely believe that unless we can jolt this Government and the country into a realisation of the problems facing us we shall go on as we have done in the past, with a small effort here and there, but without any genuine planning. We believe that something can he done to improve the immediate position, and that something must be done to relieve the probable future position. That is why we shall vote for our Motion tonight.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)
I think that hon. Members, in whatever part of the House they may sit, will agree that we have had a debate 865 today which has been interesting, useful and good humoured. This is the first Motion of censure to which I have listened which has been debated with such good humour.
§ Mr. Hay
The hon. Gentleman says that we are all nice people and I am glad to hear it. I hope that in our future consideration of this matter we shall retain the spirit which has animated our discussion today, because it seems to me that in many respects this problem of traffic congestion is one which transcends party feeling and one to which everyone has a contribution to make.
We have heard a number of speeches from hon. Members which have been extremely helpful and, as did the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), I should like to refer to three hon. Members who helped us with their maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith), who has had a good deal of experience on the London County Council, raised a number of points to which we shall pay the greatest attention. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Good-hew) drew attention again to the difficulties of the local authorities in this matter, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery)—an old friend of mine from the days when he and I were much younger—was able to give the House the benefit of a good deal of advice. We were delighted to hear from these hon. Gentlemen for the first time and I know that we all look forward to hearing from them in the future.
Another speech which I am sure every hon. Member was delighted to hear was that of my right hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), who has given this country distinguished service over a number of years, and who, out of the fullness of his experience and knowledge, came forward with a number of most important ideas. We are glad to hear again from my right hon. Friend.
We were also interested in a contribution from the hon. Member for Rom-ford (Mr. Ledger), who had two suggestions to make. The first, as I understood him, was that hon. Members should leave their cars at home for a period of 866 some six months, so that they could get used to knowing what members of the public have to endure. His other, and more popular, suggestion was that everyone in the country should have free rail travel. I can only say to the hon. Gentleman that we shall look into what he said and that I hope that he will not press me to go further tonight.
In many ways this debate has been well-timed. It comes in what I suppose I can call the full flush of the Pink Zone experiment. The purpose of that experiment was two-fold. First, to try to ensure that during the Christmas period London traffic did not come to a dead stop. When my right hon. Friend arrived at the Ministry of Transport—I was already there, although not concerned with these particular matters—he met his officials, who said that last year London traffic nearly came to a dead stop. Since then there are approximately 10 per cent, more cars on the road and unless something was done this year it would come to a stop.
Accordingly, the London Travel Committee produced the blue print of a Pink Zone. I should like, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, to pay a tribute to the work done by the Committee and its chairman, Mr. Alex Samuels, whom many hon. Friends know personally. That was the first purpose, to ensure that the London traffic did not come to stop. The second purpose was to demonstrate to the public in a practical way that an improvement in London's traffic conditions is possible, because so many people, faced with the flood of cars and other vehicles on the roads, are inclined to wring their hands and say, "This is a terrible thing. Sooner or later we shall have a dead stop, and nothing can be done." There are others who say that we must lay down huge strips of concrete right through the centres of our cities. One result of the Pink Zone experiment has been to prove conclusively that with our existing roads in London a great deal can be done by intelligent planning and the provision of additional car parks. I shall return to that point later in my speech.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey asked what was the future of the Pink Zone. I am sorry to have to say this, but the Pink Zone experiment ends on 16th January. The trouble is that the 867 essential feature of the experiment was the provision of additional car park facilities in the Royal Parks and other places. Those facilities were granted to us for the purpose of the Pink Zone experiment and for the period until 16th January. I am sorry, but that is the situation.
Naturally, we should like to be able to continue the arrangement indefinitely, but the House must remember that there are other people who are interested in the amenities of the parks and wish to use them, and their wishes have to be considered. I think that it has been proved that we urgently need additional parking spaces in London, and we shall do our utmost to provide them as soon as we can.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
Will the hon. Gentleman say in what way the amenities of the Royal Parks are affected? So far as I know, apart from being places where people may "hack"—and they are used for walking and car parking—the present parts would not affect walkers. As for the Horse Guards, it is high time that they were put to a more useful purpose.
§ Mr. Hay
I cannot argue with the hon. Member on this. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who controls the parks?"] The House knows who controls the parks, but the amenities of the parks cannot be indefinitely taken away by the provision of standing waiting ground for motor cars. I do not think that is the long-term solution to the problem. What we have to find is off-street parking. It may well be that we shall be able to make use of the Royal Parks in a different way in time to come.
§ Mr. Mellish
I should have mentioned this in my speech. I understand that in off-street parking in the Pink Zone one thing has not been taken care of. That is the question of safety when cars are parked near schools. Whatever plans are made for future off-street parking, I hope that special emphasis will be placed on this matter because I have received a large number of letters about it.
§ Mr. Hay
I have not received information on that, but if the hon. Member cares to send me the information he has got I shall consider it.
868 I was reading in the Financial Times an article about the Pink Zone and one sentence struck me very much. It was that for a long time the general public has had a great deal of sympathy with the motorist, but that now we have got to the stage where people realise that a few selfish motorists can damage the interests of everybody and, therefore, public opinion may now be ready for a drastic move on this front. My right hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak referred to this and said that in the past it has been extremely difficult to make any kind of move to have really effective action simply because public opinion was not prepared to support the Government of the day on the subject. I think that it is true that now people as a whole realise that we have to do something about the traffic problem. We have to do it quickly, and that is the function of my right hon. Friend.
Perhaps it is the appreciation that time is not on our side in this and that we have got to make a move that accounts for the general unanimity there has been in the debate, despite the rather critical terms of the Motion. Our main problem, as the House will realise, is that we have an enormous and growing volume of traffic. All sorts of figures have been quoted in the debate. Some have conflicted with each other. I do not propose to go over them again now. I ask the House to bear two points in mind. The first is that the problem in Britain is more acute than in many other countries in proportion to the population simply because this is a small island with comparatively little space. It is true that one can draw comparisons with countries like Holland and Belgium, which are also small, but there the population is nothing like our 50 million.
The second observation is that, although we deprecate our traffic problems and are wrestling with it and worried about the future, it is at least—let us take comfort from this—an indication of the expanding prosperity of our country. One talks of the 60,000 commuters who come in to London. Probably they are businessmen coming in for the most part to do work of benefit to the country. Probably, also, the enormous number of vehicles the hon. Member for Bermondsey mentioned—780 since the debate began—are for the most part owned by families, not so 869 much for use on the commuter principle in the centres of towns but for ordinary family outings at weekends and holidays. We must keep that in perspective.
The fact is that the growth of traffic poses a problem which we must solve quickly. Many people say that our road system is hopelessly inadequate and out of date. There is a great deal of truth in that, but not complete truth. One has only to go into the main street of any town to see that the roads are badly used. It is cluttered up. Every main road is cluttered with all manner of things which we have put there, or have allowed to be there and which impede the free flow of traffic. There are traffic islands, refuges, and lamp standards in the centre of the road and there are pedestrian crossings.
I am not decrying these crossings, but they slow the traffic flow. We allow vehicles of all kinds to load and unload, we allow buses to stop and pick up passengers—[Laughter.]—we allow cars to do the same, and we allow cars to park. I do not know what is amusing hon. Members opposite. I am merely saying that we are not using some of our roads in the proper way, and I should have thought that that was not controversial.
§ Mr. Hay
Of course, we must try to find room for buses to stop. I was trying to make clear that we are not using our roads to the best advantage and that we need better planning of our roads.
As I see it, the needs of our road system at the moment are twofold. First, we must have more physical improvement in the way of buildings and works. Secondly, we must have better control of both standing and moving traffic.
I come to the terms of the Motion moved by the Labour Party. I know that there is no gratitude in politics and often very little kindness, but I thought that at least they would have had some regard to the facts, because it is quite untrue to say, as the Motion says, that the Government have failedin recent years to tackle the growing problem of traffic congestion in the urban areas.Let me remind the House of what the Government have done. Here, I want 870 to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence and to my immediate predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent), for the hard work which they have done over the last few years. May I speak of the works of major road improvement carried out in the last few years? Let me begin with London and the immediate region. The Cromwell Road extension is completed. There is the massive work done at Hammersmith Broadway. We have had a speech today by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney). There is the Hammersmith flyover, which has been started and which it is hoped will be completed by October, 1961. There is the Strand widening. There is London Wall, Route 11.
There is the great complex of work going on, with Government grant and help, at the Elephant and Castle junction. Many hon. Members have seen the work being done at Notting Hill Gate. There is the extra tunnel at Blackwall, costing £7.3 million. There is the Dartford-Purfleet tunnel. Last, but not least, there is the big Hyde Park Boulevard scheme. These are the schemes which have been completed or are under construction, and they are only a selection from a great many others.
Outside London, in most of our big towns work is already in progress on major schemes. On Tyneside, for example, there is the Tyne tunnel.
§ Mr. Hay
The hon. Member should let me finish the sentence. It has been approved. There is the work already begun, which I have seen, on Merseyside—the Runcorn-Widnes bridge, a long-felt want. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) was somewhat critical and asked many questions, but in Birmingham the inner ring road scheme was started in 1957, in the period to which the Motion relates. These are some of the schemes which have been or are being carried out, but I remind the House that it is not only by major works that we make an impression on the problem of traffic congestion. In fact, a great many smaller schemes have been carried out, many of 871 them in the form of by-passes, because the by-pass round a town relieves the congestion inside it.
Let me mention the St. Albans by-pass, to which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans referred, and which has done a great deal to relieve the situation in that town. There is also the Maidstone by-pass, the Oxford by-pass, the Lancaster by-pass and the Stamford by-pass. Since my right hon. Friend the Minister came to office, three new bypasses have been opened, at Wetherby, at Ingatestone and New Ferry. I see the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) here. I had the pleasure of opening the New Ferry by-pass at Bebington, and I saw his photograph on the wall. I believe that he is a former mayor of the town. My noble Friend Lord Chesham, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, is opening another by-pass tomorrow at Catterick. These are some of the things done in the last few years that are essential and which relieve traffic congestion. These are the things about which the party opposite criticises us, but I do not think that it is a bad record.
It is true, of course, that we should have liked to do more, but we should remember the scale of these things, and the fact that we are now spending, as someone said earlier, at the rate of £60 million or £65 million this year. Moreover, that relates to schemes which were started a number of years ago, for the payments do not fall in the years in which they start; they come in the successive years when the schemes are coming to fruition. We are gradually building up the programme, as the party opposite ought to know, because we stated in our election manifesto that we propose to double the amount spent on the road programme.
May I now turn to the second part of what we have done about the control of traffic as opposed to physical improvements.
§ Mr. V. Yates
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, would he answer a question? It is rather important to a city like Birmingham. He has mentioned, for instance, the ring-road in Birmingham, but that was only the beginning. It is now nearly completed. 872 There is a scheme for a £13 million ring road, and we want to know whether we can now go on with it.
§ Mr. Hay
The trouble is that practically every hon. Member wants to know whether his local authority can go on with its schemes. We have to measure the demands that are made upon us by local authorities, which want to go on with these highly desirable schemes all over the country, against the amount of money which we have available. We will certainly look into that scheme as a matter of urgency, but there must be some order of priority. We cannot do all that we want to do; we have to take time. All that I can promise is that we will certainly do what we can for Birmingham as quickly as we can.
Turning now to what we have done on the control side, as opposed to road improvements, I was asked a question by one hon. Member who mentioned the vehicle testing scheme. This was one of the main features of the Bill which we introduced in 1955, which resulted in the Road Traffic Act, 1956. The vehicle testing scheme, as my right hon. Friend said recently in answer to a Question in the House, is now in the process of formulation. He is about to make regulations which relate to the appointment of the garages to conduct the tests and of the councils to undertake the tests.
If all goes well, the testing of cars on a voluntary basis will start in the spring. Some months must then be allowed to pass before it is made an offence for a 10-year-old vehicle to be on the road without a test certificate. This is a debate mainly concerned with urban congestion and not road safety, important as the latter is, and I hope that I have now discharged my duty to the hon. Member who put the question.
The second feature of the 1956 Act was the institution of parking meters, giving the Minister the power to require in some cases, or in others to assist local authorities to place, parking meters on the highway. Here, I think that the House will know that we have already made good progress. The North-West Mayfair scheme has been working now for some time, and by all accounts has been extremely successful. The St. Marylebone scheme, which adjoins it to the north, is equally successful. 873 One of the first things my right hon. Friend did on taking office was to receive the Westminster City Council. I was present. The council asked whether he would be prepared to extend the parking meter scheme to the whole of Mayfair, in other words to confirm the Order which was before his predecessor. One of the first things my right hon. Friend asked was, "How quickly can you get the meters in?" The council said, "If you will give us the green light today, we will order the meters today". My right hon. Friend said, "Right. You have my authority to go ahead." We must tie up the details, but authority has been given.
§ Mr. Burden
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a need for taking in block areas for parking meters so that the block involves the whole of a shopping centre of a town? At present, the piecemeal schemes merely drive the all-day parker from one shopping area to another area, to the detriment of the second area.
§ Mr. Hay
We will have a look at that.
The third thing that the Act of 1956 did was to authorise the conduct, by the Metropolitan Police only, of traffic experiments. This authorisation is under Section 36. Under this power, which is a means of by-passing the statutory procedure laid down in the 1924 Act, we have started the 40-mile-an-hour experiment, which is proving extremely successful and which, I hope, will come before the Departmental Committee on Road Safety next Monday for it to approve and to advise the Minister upon. The police of London have been empowered to institute a series of loading and unloading bans on certain sections of road. These bans are paying very good dividends and freeing and speeding up the flow of traffic. Under this heading the police have managed to designate a considerable number of one-way streets. This, again, is contributing to traffic flow.
It may be said that this is all very well, but it is not enough. That is the burden of the debate, oddly enough. My right hon. Friend would not altogether dissent from that view, but we have to work a machine which was designed for a time long past. The 1924 Act was all right for the conditions of those days, but it has remained unchanged ever since. 874 Under it, the Minister has executive authority in the London traffic area, but before he can act he has to consult the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee.
If the Minister has a scheme which he wants to impose, he must go to the Committee for advice and report. That is laid down by the Act. He cannot short-circuit that procedure. He must then consult the police. If, as in the case of most of these schemes, some kind of road work is needed, or the erection of signs, or even the painting of roads, which has been advocated in the debate, he must consult the local authorities, which are his agents to do the work.
The House knows that the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council are involved in London and below them, at least in the London County Council area, there are 28 Metropolitan borough councils. I do not want to say anything against them, although some hard things have been said against them in the debate, but inevitably, they are bound to look at these matters from the local standpoint, without much regard to the greater needs of London traffic as a whole. This makes for slowness and delay in carrying out quickly the sort of things we want to get done.
In conclusion, I remind the House of the terms of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hay
I have not finished yet. We ask the House to giveits support for all practical measures to meet the problem.Four main measures have emerged from the speeches today. The first was for parking meters. The House and the public as a whole have come to accept the idea of parking meters and want to see them extended. We all know that the streets were intended for moving traffic and not as a kind of temporary repository for people's domestic furniture. That is really what a car is.
There is no need for us to go back. I think that we can go forward as quickly as possible with the extension of parking meters. It may well be that we would have to ask the House for some easement of the procedure to enable the Minister to act more quickly—perhaps 875 ex post facto—instead of going through all the dreary business of objection and public inquiry beforehand.
However, it is no good putting down the meters quickly unless, at the same time, we provide, or see that there are provided in the long term, off-street parking facilities. There has been a long argument between those who claim that we should provide for off-street parking before putting in the meters, and those taking the contrary view, who say that we should put in the meters first and that that would create the demand for off-street parking facilities.
We take the latter view. We think, as did previous Ministers, that we should put in the meters first, accumulate revenue, and show that it is intended to ban in the long-term the all-day car parker from the streets. Once we begin to have the demand for accommodation coming up, I think that either local authorities or private enterprise will come into the business. If I were not in my present job, and if I were a rich man looking for something in which I could invest some money, I think that I would go into the garage business in Central London. There may be quite a lot of money to be made in it in the next few years. Certainly, we hope that people will provide these garages as quickly as possible.
Lastly, I think that we must admit that we do need better enforcement. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bermondsey said that the police in London were 3,000 under strength—
§ Mr. Hay
I believe that it is the figure today. It is true that there are just enough of them on the ground to deal with this menace of the long-term car parker—the man who parks his car and gets "pinched". But he has to wait another six months before he goes to court, and even then he is fined only
§ 40s. He therefore gets six months' car parking free, except for the 40s. fine.
§ I think that the House feels that we need better powers of enforcement, and perhaps the House would also be willing to enable the police in future to tow away cars and make a charge for their recovery. Perhaps it would agree that we should have a corps of traffic wardens and, perhaps, that we should have a ticket system. All these things have been widely supported in the debate, and we shall certainly take account of what has been said.
§ The hon. Member for Bermondsey and other hon. Members asked about the Victoria line—I have now only a moment or two in which to deal with this—and suggested that we should investigate the whole question of public transport. That, of course, we do. In this debate we have been concerned with the car problem, but it is only part of the much vaster picture of how to move millions of people in and out of London every day. We shall certainly look at every suggestion that has been made. The report on the Victoria line is now in my right hon. Friend's hands, and is to be published soon. When the time is ready, we shall make whatever announcement we feel is necessary. Beyond that I cannot go today.
§ I think that it is clear that the House as a whole now wishes that my right hon. Friend should be invested with rather greater powers to take bold, imaginative, and, if need be, experimental action here and there. I sincerely hope that, if and when the time comes for us to ask the House for such powers, the House will remember this debate; that hon. Members will remember their speeches, and will not, at that time, criticise us for going too far or too fast.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 232, Noes 301.881
|Division No. 19.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Beaney, Alan||Bowles, Frank|
|Ainsley, William||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Boyden, James|
|Albu, Austen||Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Benn, Hn. A. Wedgwood(Brist'l,S.E.)||Brockway, A. Fenner|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Benson, Sir Georgo||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Awbery, Stan||Blackburn, F.||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Blyton, William||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Baird, John||Boardman, H.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Callaghan, James||Hunter, A. E.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Carmichael, James||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Probert, Arthur|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Chapman, Donald||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Chetwynd, George||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Randall, Harry|
|Cliffe, Michael||dormer, Barnett||Rankin, John|
|Collick, Percy||Jay, Fit. Hon. Douglas||Redhead, E. C.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jeger, George||Reid, William|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, 8.)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Cronin, John||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Rhodes, H.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Robens, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Darilng, George||Jones, T. W. (Merloneth)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Kelley, Richard||Ross, William|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kenyon, Clifford||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Short, Edward|
|Deer, George||King, Dr. Horace||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lawson, George||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Ledger, Ron||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Dempsey, James||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Diamond, John||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Dodds, Norman||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Snow, Julian|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Lever L. M. (Ardwick)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Driberg, Tom||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Lipton, Marcus||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Ede, Fit. Hon. Chuter||Loughlin, Charles||Steele, Thomas|
|Edelman, Maurice||Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McCann, John||Stonehouse, John|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||MacColl, James||Stones, William|
|Evans, Albert||McInnes, James||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Fernyhough E.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Finch, Harold||Mackie, John||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Fitch, Alan||McLeavy, Frank||Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Fletcher, Eric||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Swain, Thomas|
|Foot, Dingle||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Forman, J. C.||Mahon. Simon||Sylvester, George|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Mann, Charles||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Ginsburg, David||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Marsh, Richard||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mason, Roy||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mayhew, Christopher||Thornton, Ernest|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mellish, R. J.||Tomney, Frank|
|Grey, Charles||Milian, Bruce||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Monslow, Walter||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moody, A. S.||Warbey, William|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Morris, John||Watkins, Tudor|
|Grimond, J.||Mort, D. L.||Weitzman, David|
|Gunter, Ray||Moyle, Arthur||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mulley, Frederick||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oliver, G. H.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Oram, A. E.||Whitlock, William|
|Hannan, William||Osewald, Thomas||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Owen, Will||Willey, Frederick|
|Hayman, F. H.||Padley, W. E.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Healey, Denis||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)|
|Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Pargiter, G. A.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hilton, A. V.||Paton, John||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Holman, Percy||Pavitt, Laurence||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Holt, Arthur||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Woof, Robert|
|Houghton, Douglas||Pearl, Frederick||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Howell, Charles A.||Pentland, Norman||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Hoy, James H.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Prentice, R. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Bowden and G. H. R. Rogers.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Barlow, Sir John||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel|
|Aitken, W. T.||Barter, John||Bishop, F. P.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Batsford, Brian||Black, Sir Cyril|
|Allason, James||Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Bossom, Clive|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Beamish, Col. Tufton||Bourne-Arton, A.|
|Amery, Julian, (Preston, N.)||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Box, Donald|
|Amory,Rt.Hn.D.Heathcoat(Tiv'tn)||Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Berkeley, Humphry||Braine, Bernard|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Brewis, John|
|Balniel, Lord||Bidgood, John C.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Barber, Anthony||Biggs-Davison, John||Brooman-White, R.|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
|Bryan, Paul||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Bullard, Denys||Hirst, Geoffrey||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hobson, John||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Burden, F. A.||Hocking, Philip N.||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Holland, Philip||Page, Graham|
|Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Holland-Martin, Christopher||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Hollingworth, John||Partridge, E.|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hopkins, Alan||Peel, John|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hornby, R. P.||Percival, Ian|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricla||Peyton, John|
|Chataway, Christopher||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Pott, Percivall|
|Clarke, Brig.Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hughes-Young, Michael||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cole, Norman||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Collard, Richard||Iremonger, T. L.||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Cooke, Robert||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Cooper, A. E.||Jackson, John||Profumo, John|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||James, David||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Cordle, John||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ramsden, James|
|Costain, A. P.||Jennings, J. C.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Coulson, J. M.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Rees, Hugh|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Johnson Smith,G.(Holb.&S.P'ncr's,S)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Critchley, Julian||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Renton, David|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Curran, Charles||Kershaw, Anthony||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kimball, Marcus||Roots, William|
|Dance, James||Kirk, Peter||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmld, Sir Henry||Kitson, Timothy||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lagden, Godfrey||Russell, Ronald|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Lambton, Viscount||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Sharples, Richard|
|Drayson, G. B.||Langford-Holt, J.||Shepherd, William|
|du Cann, Edward||Leather, E. H. C.||Simon, Sir Jocelyn|
|Duncan, Sir James||Leavey, J. A.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Duthie, Sir William||Leburn, Gilmour||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Elliott, R. W.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Smithers, Peter|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Lindsay, Martin||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Erroll, F. J.||Litchfield, Capt. John||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Farr, John||Longbottom, Charles||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Fell, Anthony||Longden, Gilbert||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Loveys Walter H.||Stodart, J. A.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Storey, S.|
|Foster, John||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||McAdden, Stephen||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||MacArthur, Ian||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Freeth, Denzil||McLaren, Martin||Talbot, John E.|
|Gammans, Lady||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricla||Tapsell, Peter|
|Gardner, Edward||Maclean, SirFitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs.)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||McMaster, Stanley||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Glover, Douglas||Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley)||Teeling, William|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Temple, John M.|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H. (Dorset, N.)||Maddan, Martin||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Godber, J. B.||Maginnis, John E.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maitland, Cdr. J. W.||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Gower, Raymond||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Green, Alan||Marten, Nell||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Turner, Colin|
|Grimston, Sir Robert||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Mawby, Ray||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Mills, Stratton||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Montgomery, Fergus||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Moore, Sir Thomas||Wall, Patrick|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Morgan, William||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Morrison, John||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Hay, John||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Watts, James|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nabarro, Gerald||Webster, David|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Neave, Airey||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Whitelaw, William|
|Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Noble, Michael||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hiley, Joseph||Nugent, Richard||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard||Worsley, Marcus|
|Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||Woodhouse, C. M.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Wise, Alfred||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick||Woollam, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Legh and Mr. E. Wakefield.|
§ Proposed words there added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That this House while acknowledging the progress made by Her Majesty's Government
in improving and constructing roads throughout the country draws attention to the growing volume of traffic for which provision must be made and pledges its support for all practical measures to meet the problem