HC Deb 30 June 1959 vol 608 cc399-425

11.4 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Parking Places (Extension outside London No. 1) Order, 1959, dated 6th May, 1959, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th May, be approved. The effect of this Order is to extend to a number of provincial cities and towns the powers in the Road Traffic Act, 1956, to promote parking schemes. At present these powers are enjoyed only by Metropolitan boroughs and the City of London. If Parliament approves this Order, the ten local authorities listed in Article 2 of the Order will then be free to propose parking schemes if they wish, but their proposals will still have to go through the procedure with which we are all already familiar in London, as set out in the Third Schedule of the 1956 Act. That is to say, each scheme will still have to be officially published and brought to the notice of neighbouring residents and traders. Objections may be lodged and, if necessary, the Minister can order a public inquiry to be held, appointing an independent inspector for the purpose, who will report to him on the merits of a particular scheme before he decides whether to approve it and lay it before Parliament.

In effect, this Order does no more than put the specified local authorities mentioned in the Order in the same position as the Metropolitan boroughs, which can already promote parking meter schemes. For each of the ten cities or towns mentioned in the Order, we have called for reports from our divisional road engineers as to the general nature of the traffic congestion and so on and whether it appeared that there was a case for a controlled parking scheme.

The reports in each case have satisfied us that such a case does exist. Indeed, some of the cities concerned applied some months ago for power to promote schemes but we withheld giving power until we were satisfied that the first scheme—that in the city of Westminster—had shown its merits. I think hon. Members will agree that it has shown itself to be a successful measure in the right place, benefiting traffic movement and road safety and providing short-term parking facilities, and that most people have come to the conclusion that meter schemes are a real benefit when applied in the right circumstances. It is significant also that the second scheme, for St. Marylebone, was recently passed by the House. We felt, therefore, that the time had come to allow provincial cities to promote similar schemes. Already we are receiving applications from other towns; and from time to time we shall come along with other Orders to give other towns the chance to promote these schemes.

In these circumstances, I commend this Order to the House.

11.8 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)

It seems to me that in considering the Motion before the House we have to decide whether this power, giving the Minister the right to designate parking places in these ten towns, should be given in view of the fact that an experiment has been going on for parking on the highway in London.

The Parliamentary Secretary has just told us that the scheme has been a success in London and, presumably, because it is a success and because there is a parking problem in these ten other towns, the Minister should have the power to enable local authorities to submit schemes for the approval of the House. The hon. Gentleman has said that, by and large, the experiment has been interesting and instructive and mainly successful. I think that the House would agree; but there are some qualifications.

The scheme has been a qualified success, and I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman to what extent the lessons learned in London will be applied in the provinces. To what extent, when the Minister considers the Orders placed before him for approval, can he influence these provincial cities in applying the lessons which have been learned, or should have been learned, in London? Can he use his influence, through consultation, persuasion and the like, to ensure that certain requirements which I consider necessary to the success of parking schemes, which it is proposed to extend to these areas, are met?

Those requirements include the need that schemes in all these cities should be sufficiently comprehensive. In London, no doubt, parking meters had to be started on a small scale to see how they worked, but it quickly became evident that as the initial scheme in Westminster was so limited, parking congestion became so great in the neighbouring areas that the scheme needed to be extended; and that is being done.

I therefore ask the Minister, when he designates the parking schemes in the provinces, if we grant him the Order, whether he will be able to ensure that the schemes which are put up to him and which he embraces in orders will be sufficiently comprehensive that the congestion in neighbouring areas is not so great that the gain in the small areas where parking meters are installed is outweighed by the added congestion outside.

The second requirement is that there must be not only enforcement of the regulations concerning the parking meters, but enforcement of parking regulations in the neighbouring areas. It would be pointless to grant the Minister this power tonight unless he were convinced that the enforcement of parking regulations will be full and effective. That is something which clearly, here in London, has not accompanied the parking-meter schemes. Unfortunately, in the cities that we are considering, particularly Birmingham, the parking and no-waiting regulations are not observed and are not enforced any more than they are in London. If parking-meter schemes do not make their contribution in this way, I doubt whether charging for parking on the highway gives any effective easement of the parking problem.

Therefore, when it is decided to extend parking-meter schemes to these towns, will there first be consultation with the authorities, the watch committees and the chief constables, about how they will effectively enforce the law and see that the motorist observes it? If there is added congestion in areas adjacent to parking schemes, enforcement becomes more difficult. Once that happens, motorists ignore the regulations and it is difficult to know how to ensure that the law will be obeyed. I therefore suggest that before powers are given to these cities, at least there should be full and effective consultation with responsible authorities to ensure that schemes will be sufficiently comprehensive that by their observance and enforcement they will be fully effective.

The third and, perhaps, most important requirement on which we must be satisfied before agreeing to extend parking schemes of this nature is that there must be provision for off-street parking. When the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee drew up its survey on car parking a few years ago and recommended that parking meters should be installed in certain areas of London, one of the requirements put forward by the Committee was that there must be provision for off-street parking at the same time as parking meters were installed.

The Parliamentary Secretary will remember full well that when debates took place on the 1956 Act, under which this Order is being made, assurances were given that as soon as the parking meter schemes were in operation and the money was being raised from the fees charged that money would be devoted, as it has to be under the Act, to the provision of off-street parking. I hope that if this Order is approved the Minister will see that these city authorities do consider in advance what off-street parking can be provided. That would be a lesson learned from London. As far as I am aware, since the schemes have come into effect in London there has not been a single additional off-street car space provided by Westminster City Council. We know that there is a scheme now for a garage, but as far as the Council is concerned, after nine months no extra space has been provided.

Under parking meter schemes the amount of car space on the highways is drastically reduced—by between one-third and one-half. Consequently, unless there is provision off the streets there is increased congestion and the motorist is put to added and unnecessary inconvenience. It may well be that as these schemes are extended it will be found that off-street parking cannot be provided without subsidies from the local authorities and, possibly, from the central Government. That may be worth while to keep traffic, which is the life-blood of any city, flowing.

So it is the duty of the Minister, if these powers are granted, to see that provision is made at the outset for a right and reasonable balance between parking meters and off-street parking. Vehicles displaced by these schemes must be provided for elsewhere to the extent that this is physically possible, even if ultimately money for the purpose has to be provided by the authorities concerned, in addition to money raised from the meters.

Parking meter schemes are justified only if, overall, the parking problem is eased, and it cannot be eased unless there is provision for off-street parking and for the enforcement and observance of parking regulations generally. That means that the parking regulations have got to be accepted as reasonable by the motorist so that there is co-operation between the motorist and the police.

As we were being asked to extend to the Minister powers to enable him to designate parking schemes which provide for charging on the highway, I would ask if he is fully satisfied that adequate consideration has been given to alternative methods and that he is sure it is preferable to proceed with this rather permanent form of charging on the highway through meters, on which capital has to be spent. He is aware that a major alternative is the Paris blue disc scheme, which I shall not discuss tonight. But has full consideration been given to experimenting with such a scheme in at least one of these cities? The blue disc scheme, whereby a disc is put in the windscreen of the car by the motorist and the time is designated on the clock, is working reasonably well in Paris, although there are a great number of offences committed and a large number of people are necessary to enforce the scheme.

Mr. Speaker

This Order allows only for the provision of parking places, for payment, on the streets. We cannot discuss all the possible alternatives.

Mr. Davies

I shall not pursue this. I can see the point. The blue discs, of course, can be sold, but that is not part of this scheme. I thought that it would be in order to refer to alternatives before we decided on one method, but I certainly abide by your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I shall not challenge it or pursue the matter, but the Minister might be able to say what consideration has been given to possible alternatives before the decision was taken to lay this Order.

Whilst in principle the extension of these parking schemes to the major cities of England can be accepted, it does not of itself constitute a solution to the parking problem. These designated parking places may help in the solution, but the solution depends upon a great number of other factors. As I have indicated, the main factor is that parking regulations as a whole shall be reasonable and enforceable and therefore observed, and that there shall be not only an easement of traffic flow by altering the flow on the highways but provision for the vehicles displaced from those highways.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

As a matter of interest, arising from what the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) has just said, I was told only this morning by a Cornish constituent that he had made inuiries about the provision of additional off-street parking in the City of Westminster by private enterprise. He had inquired from Westminster City Council whether, if he provided such off-street parking it was possible for him to obtain assistance towards the cost of doing so from the parking meter scheme. Although I understand that the Council had no definite proposal at the moment, he was told that that was the ultimate intention. Therefore, it is premature to criticise the parking meter scheme for not providing additional off-street parking space.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Can the hon. Member say what additional off-street parking has been provided since the meter scheme came into operation?

Mr. Speaker

We are not discussing off-street parking but parking meters.

Mr. Wilson

Yes, but, with respect, the Road Traffic Act, 1956, provided that meters should produce money from which a council should subsidise off-street parking. This Order extends the provision of parking meters to the cities mentioned, including Bristol and Derby, for example. I understood the hon. Member for Enfield, East to criticise that because it was no good extending the Order to apply to those cities when in Westminster, where the Act operated, no additional parking was provided. I therefore mentioned the instance brought to my notice this morning where it was proposed that additional parking should be provided in Westminster with the financial help of the parking meters.

The inference is that if the Order were extended to Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool and other cities, additional off-street parking would be provided in those places also. The hon. Member for Enfield, East will have seen the ring road in Birmingham and will know that off-street parking will be provided there. Parking meters by themselves will not be enough. The extension of this experiment to other cities might be valuable because it may succeed in some places better than others. It will be a good thing to try it in different areas, with different circumstances, because in some cases it may be found that off-street parking may be provided more easily than in others as a result of the installation of parking meters.

Some of us have seen the traffic conditions in the cities referred to, and they vary considerably, and if these cities are allowed, in addition to their other methods of dealing with traffic, to have parking meters it is something which we should welcome, and we should pass the Order.

I will not make any comment on any other methods that one might use because that would be beyond the scope of the Order and you have observed, Mr. Speaker, that the blue disc scheme is hardly a matter to be mentioned now, but apart from the merits or demerits of blue discs I see no reason why we should not extend the provision of parking meters to the cities mentioned in the Order.

11.26 p.m.

Sir Colin Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)

I think that what I have to say might equally well be said on the subsequent Order, which deals with the extension of these provisions to Scotland. We are discussing the two Orders together—

Mr. Speaker

No. The second Order has not been moved.

Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley

I was saying that my remarks could equally well be made on the subsequent Order, but I was about to say, Mr. Speaker, that it would perhaps be more in order for me to make them now as the Minister responsible for these matters in the Cities of Westminster and London is here and has already spoken.

I share with the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) the feeling that the London experiments have not been as completely successful as my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary would suggest. I do not for one moment claim that owners of property should be insulated against the effects of normal changes in the character of a district, but where those changes are brought about by Government action, and where they could not, therefore, be foreseen even by a prudent property owner, then I think we want to look rather carefully at the matter.

I refer particularly to the designation as parking places of areas outside private property which has undoubtedly in the City of Westminster led to a great loss of amenity by private owners of property and a considerable depreciation in value. That has not been the case in business areas, but it has definitely been the case in residential areas.

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter which should have been discussed when we were debating the Road Traffic Act, 1956, giving the Minister this power.

Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley

Yes, Mr. Speaker, but what we are seeking to do tonight is to extend these powers to Birmingham and other cities, and I am suggesting that we ought to be careful before allowing these powers to other cities to ensure that some of the features of the London experiments are not repeated in those cities.

I have mentioned the difficulties in central residential areas in London. There are aso difficulties in suburban areas where there has been the experience of kerbside parking, particularly near suburban stations throughout the day, making it impossible for residents to get to their own properties because cars are parked locked along the kerb near the station by commuters to London. I mention these points not because I seek to dissent from the Order—I think it right that these powers should be given—but because we ought to point to the difficulties which have arisen hoping that they will not arise in future cases.

11.29 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

Now that powers are being taken to extend the parking meter schemes to the provinces, there are one or two details that it is worth mentioning as lessons from London.

One complaint that I have received—I have suffered from it myself—is that if one puts Is. into the meter one gets two hours of parking time but if one puts 6d. in one gets only an hour and at the end of the hour, the meter immediately jumps to the 10s. penalty. I cannot see why one should not be able to put a second 6d. into the meter, for which there is no provision at the moment, so that one could get the full two hours before the machine jumped to the 10s. penalty.

The second point is that in Mayfair it is obviously a concomitant of the parking meter scheme that there is a control zone in which the police are supposed to drive parked cars off the road. But they cannot do so at present in that zone because there are no off-street parking places for the motorists to go to. Therefore, it is quite obvious that the erection of any parking meters in the centre of a crowded city requires that off-street parking places should be made available at the same time. That has been realised all along. The Westminster City Council has a plan for erecting a parking garage in North Audley Street at the cost of £500,000, a great deal of money.

Of course, it has always been visualised that the surplus money from the parking meters should be devoted to the cost of these off-street parking garages. We have recently learned, of course, that the surplus money from the meters is going to be subject to tax. Personally, I think that is a great scandal because it was stated by two or three Ministers during the Committee stage of the Road Traffic Bill that the whole surplus from the meters was to be devoted to the building of off-street parking spaces. To my mind, it was quite wrong of the Treasury suddenly to announce that the money is now going to be taxed.

A good deal of capital expenditure is required in putting up these parking meters throughout the provinces and in London and in connection with the erection of off-street parking spaces, which are a concomitant of the meters. As was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley), a good deal of inconvenience is caused to the occupiers of property adjacent to where parking meters are erected. All these things represent the adverse side of the scheme. I am not opposing the scheme, but they are disadvantages.

I should have liked to have seen one of the cities adopting the Paris blue disc scheme so as to avoid these disadvantages. I would like to see an experiment carried out on those lines, subject, of course, to the details which I have mentioned. I should be interested if my hon. Friend would answer the practical point which I made about the jumping of the parking meter to the 10s. penalty at the end of the hour for which 6d. had been inserted in the meter.

Subject to the points which I have made, I have no doubt that the House will pass this Order and extend it to the provinces.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

May I ask my hon. Friend one question about the Order arising out of the point on enforcement? He will be aware that the relations of these authorities with the police are somewhat different from our relations with the Metropolitan Police. Is my hon. Friend able to make it clear that in enforcement these local authorities will not be in a position to use their local police forces but will be required to use uniformed or other sorts of attendants according to their choice? What is going to be the position of the police forces of these local authorities under the Order?

11.34 p.m.

Mr. Nugent

May I have the permission of the House to reply to the points that have been put to me?

The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) asked me some questions about whether we could influence the provincial cities to benefit from the lessons of London. The answer is that we can to a limited extent. We are preparing a memorandum of guidance which will be sent to all local authorities, and to those of these ten cities and towns in particular, which will be a guide to them about parking meter practice based on our London experience. I feel sure that that will be a help to these ten cities, and, indeed, to others which are contemplating permitting parking meter schemes in the future. That memorandum will be going out very shortly and will cover all the lessons that we have learned from our London experience.

We cannot of course oblige cities to promote their orders in this form, but I am sure they will welcome such guidance as they will get from the memorandum and, at the end of the day, it is for my right hon. Friend to determine whether there shall be a local inquiry and decide whether he will approve an Order and lay it before the House. If the scheme is hopelessly out of line with what seems practicable, my right hon. Friend will certainly use his powers and not approve it.

With regard to the question of the size of scheme, to which the hon. Member referred, local authorities will be advised as to our experience. The point he made is very germane, that if the area is too small the full benefits of the scheme will not be obtained. We shall have to see what size schemes they put up, but we shall give the best guidance we can.

The hon. Member was, of course, perfectly right about enforcement. In themselves these schemes could be perfectly useless unless they are properly enforced. The Metropolitan Police fully understand that. On the whole, enforcement has been good in the Northwest corner of Westminster where the scheme has been tried out.

We have left the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police in no doubt that as the schemes spread there will be additional burdens in enforcement and that to make them really effective the enforcement must be effective. I believe that the police are fully prepared to accept the heavy additional responsibilities which will fall on them in London and, no doubt, in the provincial cities the police are similarly prepared. One of the requirements of the Third Schedule is that the police shall be consulted in each case before a scheme is promoted so that in each of these cities, before a scheme can be promoted, the authority will have had to consult with the police to make sure that enforcement will be effective.

In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), the police will continue to have their functions of enforcement of the law. As to who will be responsible for administration of the meters, that is a matter for the cities concerned, but I presume that they will appoint attendants in the same way as Westminster has done. We are all aware that there has been a great deal of discussion about an alternative approach, by means of traffic wardens who might cover some of these functions. Personally that is an idea I very much favour. I know there are all kinds of difficulties attached to it, but it might be a considerable help. I cannot say more about it now, but our minds are very open to that solution.

Of course, my right hon. Friend must have regard to off-street parking provisions before he approves an order. Section 19 requires that. A number of these cities plans for increasing off-street parking facilities and most of them have a fair amount already. The divisional road engineers have given an indication of what facilities there are by making preliminary reports and most cities have plans for increasing them. These provincial cities are much better placed than Metropolitan boroughs which are making this provision. In the main they are much stronger financially than the Metropolitan borough which has a relatively small area. It is much easier for them to contemplate raising loans to finance these projects than for Metropolitan boroughs. It is certainly a problem for some of them.

My personal view is that as these schemes spread and the police make enforcement effective, the demand for off-street parking by those who want to leave their cars in the centre of towns, whether London or elsewhere, will be such that private enterprise, too, will supply it. Nobody will risk their money in private enterprise ventures when there is the alternative of parking in the street for nothing. I think that we shall get some help in that direction, and I have already heard of one or two quite likely inquiries in London and in these provincial cities, too.

The hon. Member asked whether we had given the fullest consideration to possible alternatives in extending the scheme for the control of parking, which means in the main by parking meters, to provincial cities. Here I must go carefully, Mr. Speaker, if I am not to get into "the black", although I shall not go very far into "the blue". We have collected fresh information about the possible alternatives and we believe that the parking meter scheme is the best scheme, but that does not mean that my right hon. Friend and I have closed our minds to an alternative. If any of these cities proposes an alternative similar to the Paris scheme we shall be quite ready to consider it, although it would need legislation to introduce it. At present none has suggested such an alternative.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Why would fresh legislation be required? If the blue disc scheme were introduced and charges made, surely that would come within the 1956 Act.

Mr. Nugent

I am advised that it would not and that fresh and complicated legislation would be necessary for a scheme of that nature. That does not mean that our minds are closed to it, but first we must find a town willing to promote such a scheme, and although one or two have considered it, in the end they have decided, for one reason or another, that it would not be appropriate. That is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke). So far no town has offered to make an experiment, but our minds are still open to such experiments if they are offered.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) for supporting the general principle, which I personally feel sure is right, of extending the scheme to provincial cities. My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) said there was depreciation of property because cars are left, locked, standing all day, by commuters outside private residences. To some extent this is mitigated by parking meter schemes because at least the cars will not be standing there all day. They cannot stand there for more than a couple of hours. To that extent there is an improvement. I think that the general principle was well and fully debated in the debates on the Bill, and this principle was acceptable to the House provided that the circumstances were right. I think that the London experiment has proved that it is generally beneficial and we are therefore justified in extending it to provincial cities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham asked why he should not be allowed to place an extra 6d. in the meter after he had put one in, so that he could leave his car an extra hour without having to pay the excess penalty of 10s. One of the difficulties in the administration of parking meters is to prevent what is called feeding in, by which the owner, having put his car by a meter, slips out every couple of hours and puts in another Is. and so leaves the car there all day. That is quite difficult to police. If it were legitimate to put in an extra sixpence, illegitimate feeding in after the two-hour period would be difficult to detect. Therefore, although I sympathise with my hon. Friend in his plea, I am afraid that it cannot be met. My hon. Friend must make up his mind, when going to the meter, whether he wants to stay for one hour or two, and put in his 6d. or Is. accordingly.

My hon. Friend also asked why the meter revenue is subject to tax. It is subject to tax only if treated on its own. If the meter revenues were used in combination with the financing of off-street garages, those revenues would very rapidly be swallowed up by the losses made in operating the garages, so there would be no question of tax liability arising. The present structure is such that there is the greatest possible incentive for local authorities which are collecting meter revenue to build some off-street garages and to use the revenue from their meters to help finance the garages. In effect, provided they do what the Act asks them to do, there will be no question of tax—

Mr. Gresham Cooke

If the Westminster Council has to borrow £500,000 to build such a place in North Audley Street, would it be able to set off parking meter revenue against the interest on the borrowed money? Is that my hon. Friend's interpretation?

Mr. Nugent

That is undoubtedly so, but naturally the two operations have to be combined in an ordinary profit and loss account. That is the general principle. But my point is that, normally, local authorities will find their receipts from operating the off-street garages will not be sufficient to meet their cost, even with the help of the revenue from the meters. The question of profit will not therefore arise once they start to provide the off-street garages, as we want them to do.

I hope that with this explanation the House will be prepared to approve the Order.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Parking Places (Extension outside London No. 1) Order, 1959, dated 6th May, 1959, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th May, be approved.

11.48 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

I beg to move. That the Parking Places (Scotland) (No. 1) Order, 1959, dated 4th May, 1959, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th May, be approved. Just as Section 19 (7) of the Road Traffic Act, 1956, provides that the Minister, with the approval of Parliament, may by Order apply Section 19 (1) to any area in England, so Section 19 (8) of the Act provides that the Secretary of State, with the approval of Parliament, may by Order apply Section 19 (1) to any area in Scotland.

The purpose of the present Order is to apply subsection (1) to the County of the City of Edinburgh. If approved, it will be the first step in a procedure that will ultimately enable the Secretary of State, on the application of the Edinburgh Corporation, to designate parking places on highways for vehicles in Edinburgh, and to enable the Corporation to make charges for vehicles left in those parking places. The next step will be for Edinburgh to apply for an Order under Section 19 (1) of the 1956 Act.

In Scotland, only Edinburgh has so far applied for an enabling order. Parliament has already approved in principle that parking meters should be provided in suitable areas, and the effect of the Order, if made, will be to give Parliamentary endorsement to Edinburgh Corporation's view that that city is a suitable area. At a later stage, the House may wish to examine in detail the places where Edinburgh proposes to put the meters, but that will not arise until a subsequent order is applied for by the Edinburgh Corporation.

The procedure for the local authority to make application is laid down in the Third Schedule to the Road Traffic Act, and the order designating the parking places will be subject to negative Resolution procedure. The House will thus have a full opportunity of discussing the details then. All we are asking tonight is that the House should make it possible for Edinburgh to prepare and submit a scheme for parking places under Section 19 (1) of the 1956 Act.

11.50 p.m.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I should like some information from the Joint Under-Secretary. The Order says nothing about parking meters. It authorises the Secretary of State in due course to authorise the City of Edinburgh to make charges for parking in the City. I am not going into the question whether parking meters will be obligatory when the Order is passed, but I gather they will not be and that the Secretary of State may make some other order under another part of the relevant Section of the Act.

On the question of charging for parking places in Edinburgh, I think everyone who has had any experience of Edinburgh will agree that something is necessary to stop the complete occupation of the streets by parked cars. I cannot understand how shopkeepers in Edinburgh are able to carry on their business in a normal way today, because nobody coming into Edinburgh from outside by car can stop at any shop in the centre of the city in order to make a purchase.

Edinburgh is completely occupied. In George Street the sides and the centre of the street are occupied, and so are the sides of Princes Street. If a person wants to shop by car he has to go out of Edinburgh and find a part of the pavement where he can stop. That has arisen because the occupants of cars drive to their business premises in the morning, and park their cars in the streets until their offices close in the evening. This problem is especially important in Edinburgh because we expect visitors to arrive from all over the world, not only at the time of the Festival but all through the summer season.

This question of parking cars all day has become an appalling problem for the police, shopkeepers and everyone else. There is no dispute about the necessity to do something about it. What we do not understand is why it is necessary to have the streets covered with parking meters. I should like the Under-Secretary to give us an idea of what is contemplated. Is the whole of Charlotte Square to have a circle of parking meters? I should imagine that there might be 200 cars parked in Charlotte Square on a Saturday forenoon. There must be several hundred cars along George Street. There must be another 200 or 300 cars in St. Andrew's Square. Does it mean that wherever a car is parked there is going to be a parking meter? Edinburgh has fortunately got rid of the electric tram wires that disfigured it for so many years. But is the whole of Edinburgh to be disfigured by these little pillars standing along George Street, round Charlotte Square, St. Andrew's Square and along Princes Street, or what is contemplated under this Order?

At present, every motorist is charged for a parking place in Edinburgh, not by the corporation but by parking attendants. They work a system of their own, which is quite effective, and they collect money from the motorists. I do not see any reason why money should not be collected from the motorists for the corporation. Even if we have parking meters, somebody has still got to see that fines are collected if a motorist breaks the law. In other words, we have got to have enforcement.

Everyone who goes to the seaside knows that there are plenty of places where one is charged so much an hour for sitting on a seat. I think at Brighton, Margate and such places collectors issue tickets and come round again after a certain period has elapsed. One is allowed an hour or two as the case may be; but that has to be done, even if the parking meter is there. The police are present to enforce the waiting times—I think a motorist is allowed ten minutes—and if the period is longer than that they warn the motorist. They are very polite about it, but my point is that it is just as easy to collect the money without these meters if only we have a proper system.

What I wish to ask is what alternatives will be considered before permission is given for Edinburgh to be cluttered up with parking meters? If the meters are to be around Charlotte Square, it will mean cluttering up George Street and Princes Street with cars. It seems to me that it will solve no problem. I agree that those people who leave cars all day should have to rent part of the street and that those using cars for shopping and other purposes should be able to use the streets freely. It will be very helpful if we can have some more information.

A good many alternatives should be considered. The Waverley Market is unoccupied for much of the week and it might be possible to take a lot of the cars off the street and charge for parking there. There was a scheme for using part of the Princes Street Gardens near the Waverley Bridge for parking purposes. Put a parking place under the gardens, dig into the ivy and put the cars out of sight, with some chance of making a substantial clearance of the streets. If the Joint Under-Secretary of State will give us a picture of Edinburgh in the future, we shall be better able to judge the best way for us to proceed in this matter.

11.58 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

This Order is for the purpose of carrying out decisions made by the magistrates in Edinburgh in respect of a certain area of the new town. As my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) has said, these very fine streets in the new town of Edinburgh have become almost impassable and the magistrates have recommended to the Corporation a scheme covering George Street, St. Andrew's Square, Charlotte Square, and the adjacent streets. Yet, I am not so certain that my right hon. Friend is correct in all the fears which he has expressed tonight. I understand that the parking should be mainly concentrated around the centre of the Charlotte Square; in which case, I am not so sure that parking meters would disfigure it. After all, we already have iron railings round the square and, in my view, parking meters on the same site will not tend to disfigure it much more. The same applies to St. Andrew's Square, and in George Street I understand that the parking will be centre parking.

Mr. Woodburn

Yes, but instead of the little pillars, could not parking meters be built into the pavement, so that they will not be a disfigurement when vehicles are not parked there?

Mr. Willis

Unfortunately, we do not have these other things and the traffic problem in Edinburgh is urgent. We cannot wait very long, because our traffic is already throttled along George Street and in practically every street leading up to it. Therefore, we must do something quickly.

If it were possible to have something other than parking meters and to get it fairly quickly, I would agree; but I am not certain that the fears expressed by my right hon. Friend are altogether justified. In any case, Edinburgh being Edinburgh, there will, no doubt, be a big dispute that will occupy columns of the Press concerning the placing of further street furniture in the new town. My right hon. Friend can be assured of that and that all the arguments will be brought to bear so far as they relate to this matter before the scheme is finally approved.

One or two things occur to me when I consider the scheme for Edinburgh. I hope that the scheme does not go down into Princes Street. I understand that the proposals that have been made do not include Princes Street. I hope that the Secretary of State will ensure that that does not happen, first, because of the need for people to draw up to the shopping side, and secondly, for the purpose of the through traffic that uses Princes Street in considerable volume.

It was mentioned in the previous debate that if we are to have this scheme in the new town, obviously the Corporation must provide off-street parking places. At present, I understand, the Corporation has it in mind to do something at the top of Leith Street and around Edinburgh Castle to provide additional parking facilities, for which there would be no parking charges and which would not be subject to the normal police regulation. I am not certain, however, that that is enough.

There are considerable older properties in the centre part of the town, between George Street and Princes Street and between George Street and Queen Street, some of which could come down and the space used either as parking places or for the building of garages. At the time when it was suggested that we should have public parking places under or in Princes Street Gardens, it was discovered as the result of a survey that there were 200 vacant garage places in the centre of the town. I do not know whether that would cope with the cars that will be moved from the centre as a result of the scheme which causes this Order to be placed before us. I very much doubt it. In any event, that amount of garage space is available.

In addition, the Edinburgh Corporation must consider the question of off-street parking much more urgently than it has done so far. Anyone who is familiar with the area knows that with the introduction of the parking-meter scheme to be sanctioned under the Order, people will drift further down the hill. We shall then simply have transferred the parking problem from George Street down to Herriot Road and further down. These streets themselves are becoming important through streets in Edinburgh. That is one of the urgent needs in Edinburgh.

I hope that in the solving of any of these problems that arise as a result of the introduction of the scheme and as a result of the fact that more and more cars come into the centre of the town, there will be no suggestion that either the public gardens or the private gardens, or Queen Street Gardens or any of the other amenities in the centre of the town, will be used for the purpose of providing parking places. We can, I think, solve this problem in Edinburgh without destroying the amenities that we possess and I sincerely trust that on no account will pressures be exerted on the Corporation to take over any of these open spaces for that purpose.

Dealing with the previous Order, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation said that he was circularising local authorities concerned with the results of the scheme in the West End of London, and the lessons that had been learned. Is that also to be done for local authorities in Scotland? Other local authorities might be considering schemes. I do not know whether Glasgow may. in the end, have to consider a scheme. Certainly, Edinburgh wishes to.

12.5 a.m.

Mr. Tom Fraser (Hamilton)

Could the Joint Under-Secretary say why this Order is confined to the City of Edinburgh? I gather that it is because Edinburgh has asked that this Order might be made to enable it to submit a detailed scheme which would be subject to discussion in the House at a later date. In preparing the Order I would have thought that the Secretary of State would have consulted other cities, if not the large burghs, and, in particular, the City of Glasgow where the parking problem is probably more serious than in Edinburgh. If he had extended this Order to Glasgow it would not have put any obligation on Glasgow to bring forward an application for a further Order to identify the places where the authorities wanted charges to be made. Will the Joint Under-Secretary say whether the Secretary of State has consulted Glasgow and the other cities, and if not, why not?

12.7 a.m.

Mr. N. Macpherson

If I may deal with the last question first, I would say that the lessons learned from the Mayfair experiment have been discussed with various authorities, and Edinburgh is the only one which at the moment has expressed a desire for the provisions of the Statute to be extended to it. It is just as well to have a pilot scheme in Scotland, as in England. As the English pilot scheme has been in the Metropolis it is not incongruous that in Scotland, too, it should be in the capital.

Regarding the circulation of the lessons learned in Mayfair, this is being done and will continue to be done. We have not yet had a complete year with the Mayfair scheme.

I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) what alternatives are to be considered before the Secretary of State agrees to a parking-meter scheme. Unlike one of his hon. Friends, the right hon Gentleman expressed some doubt about the possibility of preserving amenities with a parking scheme. The only alternative that can be considered under the Act is provided for in Section 20 (5), which states: Where no such apparatus is in use, the order designating a parking place may provide that the initial charge shall be payable on the vehicle being taken away from the parking place…. and so on. That is the only alternative that can be considered under the Act. But, as my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation said, if any other proposals are put forward they would be considered, but they would require legislation, and it might be complicated legislation. They would require legislation to enable charges to be made.

Mr. T. Fraser

I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and could not understand him. Section 20 (4) of the Road Traffic Act, 1956, says: If it is so provided in the order designating the parking place, there shall be apparatus of the prescribed description … But only "if", and I should have thought that under Section 20 the Secretary of State can prescribe the apparatus, and under subsection (5), where no such apparatus is in use, a charge can be made for a standard period. Why, therefore, does the Under-Secretary say that if an Order is to be made without apparatus of a prescribed description being in use new legislation is needed?

Mr. Macpherson

All I can say is that the advice given to us is that that is the case. The hon. Member is putting the emphasis in the wrong place. It should be on the words …there shall be apparatus of the prescribed description … I can only tell the House of the advice I have been given. We are advised, for example, that if there is a proposal that there should be a scheme such as the blue disc scheme operating in Paris, it would require legislation.

Mr. Woodburn

Perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary would ask some of the Scottish lawyers to look at this and get it put right.

Mr. Macpherson

The Scottish lawyers have already given the same advice as the English lawyers have given the Minister. The right hon. Member will see that subsection (5) goes on to say: …where such provision is made subsection (3) of this section shall apply with the substitution, for the reference to the period for which payment was made by the initial charge, of a reference to the standard period. In other words, there can be a standard period and a charge made. That is the alternative under the Act, but we were talking about other alternatives. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) wants to interrupt more than is necessary. His right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire asked what alternatives there were, and I said there was only one under the Act. I specified what it was and said what others would involve.

In reply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), I would say that there is general agreement that something must be done about traffic in Edinburgh. There is parking space in the central area for approximately 1,000 vehicles, and private parking space is negligible. When a count was taken in July, 1955, it showed that over a period of five hours 60,000 vehicles entered or left the centre of the city—and there is space for 1,000 to park. In addition, as the hon. Member mentioned, the Corporation has in mind to provide authorised parking space for a further 500 vehicles near the central area in Castle Terrace.

I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to go into details as to where it is intended to provide parking space. The Corporation has not yet expressed a final view on the matter. It would be appropriate to leave discussion of that until we consider the Order if, at a later date, Edinburgh applies for an Order to be made. I think that this short debate has shown that there is abundant support for extending these powers to Edinburgh. Indeed the hon. Member for Hamilton has asked why they were not extended still further. I do not think that the House will find any difficulty in agreeing to the Order.

12.14 a.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

We should have some information. No doubt it may be desirable, but why has Edinburgh been selected? Is it simply because Edinburgh asked? [An. HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] Surely there has been some investigation into what exactly would happen as the result of the application of this Order.

We have not been given any such information tonight. What we have been given is what we already knew—that there is a parking problem in Edinburgh and in many towns and cities over the country. From past debates we know that one of the results of Edinburgh using this power in respect of parking places and introducing meters will be to reduce the actual number of cars which will be parked at any one time. I am concerned about that situation.

Surely the Government must be satisfied that the overall problem will be eased by the action of Edinburgh in using these powers. I know that this is only the first stage and that later we shall have an opportunity of finding out the details of what is proposed in the way of parking places with meters, but surely we should be given some idea of the Government's intentions in giving local authorities these enabling powers and told whether any conditions are to be attached about how the overall parking problem is eventually to be met. In other words, do we glibly give these powers to Edinburgh and then equally easily pass through the House some detailed scheme without any relation at all to how overall parking facilities, either on the street or off the street, are to be provided in Edinburgh?

A lot depends on where these places are. While the present situation may be a nuisance for shoppers and so on, we have equally to realise that the centre of Edinburgh is a matter of tourist attraction and it is not always possible to estimate how long sightseeing will take. I remember going to Edinburgh Castle and leaving the car outside, but it took us much longer than two hours to get round the Castle because there was a holiday in Glasgow and there was a long queue.

Mr. Willis

There is to be private car parking space at or around the Castle.

Mr. Ross

Yes, without parking meters.

Mr. Willis

Off-street parking.

Mr. Ross

That is feasible, but I was pointing out that one cannot estimate how long it will take to see the sights and glories of Edinburgh, and the glories of Edinburgh can be viewed, as my hon. Friend well knows, from places within very easy reach of the actual parking sites which are to be suggested for designation.

While I do not think any husband will object to having to tell his wife, "We have only an hour to get out of Princes Street," it may well be that many shopkeepers and certainly many of the would-be customers from overseas will be hampered, and we should look very carefully at the question of provision near the shopping centre as a condition of any further procedure in respect of off-street parking.

From the points of view of the tourist, the visitor, the shopkeeper and the popularity of Edinburgh with motorists, it is absolutely essential that this should be done, and I am sorry that the Joint Under-Secretary did not make it clear that he was concerned too about the wellbeing of the city in respect of that. I only want to ask the hon. Gentleman if I am right in assuming that, before anything more is done, we shall need a designation by the Edinburgh Corporation, that that will have to come back to this House and that we shall have an opportunity to discuss further just what exactly is to be done on a more detailed basis.

12.20 a.m.

Mr. G. Wilson

I do not wish to delay the House, but as an English Member whose father was born in Edinburgh I should hate to think that the people of Edinburgh were suffering under the Road Traffic Act. The parking meter provisions of that Act were expressly designed not only to reduce the time for which parking took place in particular streets, but also to provide money for off-street parking so that there would be more and not less space.

The experience in all parts of the world has been that whenever parking meters have been introduced there has been apprehension that they would produce all sorts of difficulties. But in both Europe and America the public has found after a period of trial that the parking meter is a very popular device which assists and does not obstruct. That is the common experience in many countries, and I am sure that that will be the experience in Scotland too. I hope that these parking meters will produce the money with which to provide parking space for the car of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross).

12.22 a.m.

Mr. N. Macpherson

If I may, I should like to reply to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). I tried to make it clear when I spoke on the first occasion that the House can have a further opportunity to discuss the actual details when Edinburgh finally makes an application for a scheme. That scheme can come before the House in the form of an Order which the House will be able to pray against.

Before applying for such an Order—and I would just give the hon. Gentleman the safeguards in this, because I think it is more appropriate that I should say what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has to consider when the time comes rather than what he has already considered—the Corporation must consult the chief constable. The Corporation is also required to publish in the Edinburgh Gazette and one other newspaper an advertisement stating the general effect of the proposed Order, the places where copies of it may be seen and the time within which objections may be lodged with the Secretary of State.

The local authority is also required to take such other steps as appear to be reasonably practicable to bring the matter to the attention of persons likely to be specially affected, and the Secretary of State has power to ensure that this is done to his satisfaction and also to extend the time for lodging objections. After that, the Secretary of State considers the application together with any objections to it, and he may hold a public inquiry if he considers such a procedure desirable.

The Secretary of State may then make an Order, either in the terms proposed or subject to such modification as he thinks fit, and the Order has to be laid before the House. There is no doubt that there will be the fullest consideration of the question.

As I said in opening the debate, it would be more appropriate to discuss these matters when we come to debate the actual Order for the parking places rather than at the present time.

I think, as I said before, it is generally agreed that something has to be done. I would only add in response to the invitation of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock that our Chief Road Engineer agrees that the congestion, at least in the St. Andrew's Square and Charlotte Square areas, is sufficient to justify the introduction of parking meters and to proceed with the present Order so that the matter can be examined in greater detail when the Corporation's proposals are formally submitted.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Parking Places (Scotland) (No. 1) Order, 1959, dated 4th May, 1959, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th May, be approved.