§ Mr. Marples
I beg to move, in page 19, line 17, at the end to insert:(4A) Land compulsorily acquired by such an authority as aforesaid otherwise than for the provision of an off-street parking place and not appropriated for a purpose other than that for which it was acquired shall not be used by them for the provision of an off-street parking place thereon for a period exceeding twelve months except with the consent of that Minister of the Crown who, at the time when consent is sought, is the Minister concerned with the function for the purposes of which the land was acquired.Earlier, I moved an Amendment in page 19, line 17, which would allow a local authority which acquired a site for building to use it temporarily as a car park and to spend money on it and to charge members of the public for the parking of their cars. When a local authority buys the land, normally by negotiation, it is only right that it should have power to use it for a car park as long as it wishes to do so.
1531 The present Amendment distinguishes between land which is bought by negotiation and land which is bought by compulsion, for the following reason. When it is bought compulsorily, the land is bought for a specific purpose and it would he wrong for the local authority to use it for another purpose without a time limit or check being imposed. The Amendment places a check upon the local authority. If it buys a site compulsorily for the building of a block of flats but decides instead to build a car park, at the expiration of twelve months it must apply to the appropriate Minister for permission to continue. If there is a valid reason, permission would, no doubt, be given.
The Amendment will prevent the abuse of land which is bought compulsorily for one purpose being used for another purpose. I think that the House will agree that in all the circumstances the Amendment is reasonable.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Hay
I beg to move, in page 19, line 27, to leave out from "shall" to the end of line 28.
This Amendment is consequential on the new Clause introduced earlier by my right hon. Friend enabling a local authority to farm out the right to raise money by car park fees in return for a lump sum payment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Mellish
I beg to move, in page 19, line 38, to leave out from "provided" to the end of line 39.
The Amendment will be familiar to the Government. In Committee, it was another of the Amendments upon which we had a short but fierce debate. All sorts of issues arose, but I do not want to traverse the whole ground again. I had hoped that after giving the matter thought the Minister and his Joint Parliamentary Secretary would be in a rather different mood.
The new Clause introduced earlier by the right hon. Gentleman gives permissive powers to a local authority to use land for certain purposes if it so desires. It is quite proper that a local authority which has spare lots of land should use them as parking places if it so desires. The Amendment seeks to 1532 give local authorities the right, in areas where they have off-street parking places, to trade in oil, lubricants and so on.
Subsection (5) specifies that local authoritiesshall not themselves sell or supply fuel or lubricants".It is monstrous in an Act of Parliament to debar a local authority from selling these items. The Amendment proposes the deletion of these words, because we want the House of Commons to tell local authorities that they may sell these things if they consider it worth while to do so.
In Committee, it was said that local authorities were not capable of undertaking this trade and that private enterprise was much better able to sell these things, and that is true. I find that in London the vast majority of local authorities would not wish to engage in this trade. Therefore, they would not be interested in having permissive power. On the other hand, many authorities might find it convenient to sell fuel or lubricants to those who use the parking places. In his reply in Committee, the Minister said that local authorities can nevertheless arrange for these items to be sold at the parking place or garage but that they must not sell them themselves and that private enterprise must do it. I see no justification for that. There is no logic in laying down a law that denies local authorities the right to engage in local enterprise. If, having engaged in such enterprise, a local authority makes an utter failure of it, the ratepayers would have something to say about it.
Ours is a democratic approach. As I said in Committee, the party opposite has every reason to be proud of the recent local election results, and there are many new Conservative councillors. We do not deny that it was a great victory. We might just as well say to those who have won this victory at the poll, however, that the Government do not trust any of them, whether Conservative or Labour, or dare to enter into trading of this kind and are specifying in law that they shall not sell anything of this nature but must leave it to private enterprise.
In moving the Amendment, we hope that we shall find the Minister in a better spirit. There has been a great deal of charm in our debates this evening; we have been getting on well. I advise the Minister to ask his hon.
1533 Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to reply. He is doing very well, and he might give us a logical reason why public enterprise should be denied the right to sell. I beg the party opposite to believe that this is a non-party point. We are putting it forward in the belief that local authorities should be allowed to sell where they want to, and should not be stopped by law.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I support the Amendment. Some of us have for long been trying to get sanction for the building of petrol stations on many of our trunk roads. I expect that the same conditions apply in both England and Scotland. There is a reluctance to encourage the growth of filling stations on the main roads, and I can understand that, but I sometimes get upset when I find that, although an applicant has been refused permission to build a filling station, a bewer has been allowed to put up a public house. But I do not want to go too far into that element. I simply say that I would rather have a station that fills an engine with useful fuel than one which fills a human being with what I call "madman's gravy".
Many municipal car parks are not used to the extent they would be if there were a filling station close at hand. In many cases, if a filling station were situated near a car park it would be commercially profitable only in a certain season, and private enterprise will not construct filling stations in such positions. Around the coast of Scotland one sees many cases of municipal car parks not used to their fullest extent because there are no fueling facilities nearby. Cars are parked all over the place. I remember my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) telling me that on one Sunday in Largs the owners of 20 cars were prosecuted for parking on a road not far from a filling station, while the municipal car park was empty. If there had been a filling station near that car park, with free air and service, the cars would have gone there.
A municipal authority is charged with the duty of providing parking space. Therefore, I cannot see why it should not be allowed to provide facilities for maintenance, repairs and servicing. I 1534 agree that it would be a bad thing to compel local authorities to do it, but I cannot see why they should not be permitted to do it. It is nonsense to argue that a local authority, which administers and disposes of some very intricate and difficult matters in the administration of its area, large or small, is incompetent to have control of a car park plus a filling station with maintenance and servicing facilities.
Many of our local authorities have great experience in the servicing, fuelling and repair of vehicles. If I had to put my car in for repair I would rather take it to a municipal garage in Clydebank than to some of the motor garage repair and service stations that I know in Dunbartonshire. I do not say that is always the case, but many local authorities run heavy transport services and have the necessary personnel, equipment and organisation to provide better servicing than some of the smaller garages. I agree that the mechanics working for the main private organisations are first-class. They have training courses at factories, and do first-class work. But I resent the argument that local authorities are incompetent to do this sort of thing.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must ask the hon. Member to relate his observations to the Amendment, which has nothing to do with providing buildings, facilities and apparatus. It deals with the question whether local authorities should supply and sell fuels and lubricants.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is the trouble. That is what is out of order. The question is whether or not local authorities should be allowed to sell or supply fuel and lubricants, and that is the only point with which we are concerned.
§ Mr. Bence
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I see no reason why a local authority which has the duty of providing parking places should not be allowed to supply fuel and lubricants in order to lessen the burden on the rates and help it to recover the cost of the establishment of a car park. I cannot understand anyone objecting to a local authority providing 1535 facilities to sell motorists cups of tea, or any sort of fuel, or to sell refreshments to motorists and provide all sorts of facilities.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
Does the hon. Member appreciate that he is answering his own argument? He started by asking why local authorities should not sell petrol and has gone on to suggest that they might sell other things. He may have heard my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary give a whole list of precedents of what has happened in other cases, and if he did he will appreciate why we do not encourage municipal authorities to indulge in trading. It goes from one thing to another.
§ Mr. Bence
I would oppose any proposal that local authorities should sell whisky to people in charge of motor cars. I even object to publicans doing it. I look forward to the day when a man driving a car will have no right to take alcohol.
The bigger local authorities would not bother with this proposal, but many small authorities would find it a great asset to be able to provide these facilities. I would also be an asset to the motorist, and would do no injury to the private trader.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
After the technical tranquillities of the last hour from the two Front Benches, we now seem to have descended into the political arena. I shall not attempt to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) in case I find myself in trouble.
When the Clause was debated in Committee the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) described those of us who tried to assist the passage of the Bill by our silence as "parking meters ticking away with the hoods on." What he failed to point out was that whereas parking meters never speak, hear or see, when we are not speaking at any rate we see and hear. In the 1536 debate on this Clause we have seen and heard an attempt at back-door Socialist municipalisation. There might be possibilities in a partnership between the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East and the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) as municipal garage proprietors. I have no doubt that there would be plenty of volunteers from the benches behind them for the job of petrol pump attendant, only too ready to fill us up with gas now and again.
§ Mr. Lewis
But I find it strange that we should be told that this Bill is the medium by which municipal enterprise should be encouraged, in view of what is happening in Birmingham. There the council is Socialist-controlled, and yet it has recently expressed itself as delighted with the good business deals it has been doing by letting out to private contract various enterprises associated with its new road programme. The council does not run the enterprise itself; it lets it out to private traders. It has secured the rent and thus ensured that it has a profit, without any possibility of a loss.
The trouble is that when municipalities—and sometimes Governments—begin indulging in competitive enterprise they often make losses, for which the rate payers have to pay. Those who listened to our debates on the Finance Bill yesterday were interested in an Amendment proposed by right hon. and hon. Members opposite. It provided for some form of rebate to be given to municipal enterprises on Profits Tax. In other words, that a municipal enterprise should not be treated in the same way as a private enterprise, but that it should be given concessions on Profits Tax.
We on this side of the House are concerned that if we allow municipalities to run the kind of enterprise suggested by the hon. Gentleman they will not only probably run at a loss but, if they make a profit, in some subsequent Finance Bill, if hon. Gentlemen opposite ever become the Government of the day, they will be given concessions against the profits they are making. We believe that it is wrong to provide through the Bill the opportunity for a municipal corporation to trade in any way.
1537 It was suggested that the background of municipal trading was one showing profits. In fact, the reverse is the case. We can see it in London. If one looks at the record of the London County Council in this regard, it had to close its restaurants because they were losing so much money and the council decided that the ratepayer in London could no longer bear the burden.
I agree that the Festival Hall could probably be described as a cultural activity. Nevertheless, it takes money from the public who pay to see the performances that are given there. In 1957–58 there was a loss of £44,000. In 1958–59 there was a loss of £46,000. In 1959–60—
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not sure that I follow the hon. Member. Does the Festival Hall supply fuel oil or lubricants?
§ Mr. Lewis
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I understand that as well as the entertainment which one gets at the Festival Hall one can get full of lubricants, but not the kind of lubricants that we are discussing.
We believe that the Bill is a good one, but it would not be so good if we allowed to be written into it the opportunity for municipal corporations throughout the country to engage in selling fuel oil and lubricants to the general public.
§ Mr. Benn
I prefer the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) when he is out of order. He is more amusing, and, in a curious way, more relevant than when he is in order, but we must not grumble, and, after all, Mr. Speaker is doing his duty in bringing the hon. Gentleman back to fuel and lubricants.
In this argument it seems to us that the doctrinaire view comes from the other side of the House. We are not saying that local authorities should be compelled to sell fuel oil and lubricants, and many of them will not want to do so if they can get a good deal from letting it to somebody else. The hon. Gentleman admitted in his argument that there were many Socialist-controlled local authorities which have entered into very profitable agreements with private enterprise, and we do not object to that. The point is that a local authority ought to be allowed to do it, and we are asking 1538 only for permissive powers. We are not attempting to lay down what should be done by any local authority, and if it becomes a matter of local controversy it will be settled by the ratepayers voting in the council election.
The case is simple. It has been stated, and I only want to sum up the points that have been made. First, the fact that they can sell lubricants may encourage local authorities to build more off-street car parks than they otherwise would. In Committee I gave the example of the London Passenger Transport Board. It was put under this limitation twenty-nine years ago and, as a result of being put under that limitation, there are no off-street car parks near London stations today.
The second thing is that, having got a local authority off-street car park, it is an advantage to have fuel and lubricants sold there, even if private enterprise does not want to go there. There might be some reason why it is not of any interest to a private garage to move and lease facilities at a council off-street car park, and in those circumstances it would be the plain duty of the local authority, having put up an off-street garage to please the Minister, to provide the normal facilities that motorists need.
I think that we are all concerned with the ratepayers. There will be instances where local authorities would like to get private enterprise in and cannot, and where, because they cannot and are not allowed to supply fuel and lubricants themselves, the off-street garages will not be used as fully as they otherwise would be, and there will be a net loss to the ratepayers as a result.
§ Mr. K. Lewis
The hon. Gentleman must surely agree that a municipal authority would be bound to get private enterprise in if the project it was offering was to be profitable? If it were not profitable, clearly it should not undertake it.
§ Mr. Benn
The ratepayer will not stand the loss because he will benefit not only from receipts from the off-street car park but also from the sale, however small, from the municipal pumps, whereas private enterprise will be interested in a set return. I am sorry, but it is a matter of simple economics that the local authority can obviously operate it at a lower return because it will bring in more passengers and it will benefit from the garage.
The third reason, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) so eloquently said, is that local authorities have tremendous experience of garage work and the servicing of vehicles, and it may be possible to get economy of operation by having an off-street car park built near a garage where fire engines and police cars are serviced.
We then come to the question of whether there ought to be municipal trading. When I heard the arguments against municipal trading I thought of those local authorities, many of them Conservative-controlled, which in holiday resorts provide all kinds of municipal activities to attract tourists—I am thinking of places like Weston-super-Mare and Blackpool. Is there one hon. Gentleman opposite who is not in favour of local authorities, in areas which depend on the tourist trade, spending the ratepayers' money to attract the public? It is in the interests of the ratepayers that they should do so.
Let us consider the seaside authorities, because it is that kind of authority that would be likely to want municipal pumps, and I will tell the House why. It will be a seasonal trade, and seasonal trade may not bring in a sufficient return for private enterprise to be interested in leasing pumps in the car parks, whereas the local authority will find that it benefits because the result will be to attract people to its seaside resort.
When one examines this matter free from passion and with reason uppermost in one's mind, I think you will agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that all the argument lies on this side of the House. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) said that my hon. Friend the 1540 Member for Dunbartonshire, East was answering his own argument. He has to because we do not get answers to our arguments from the other side of the House. It is the only thing that we can do. We have to put both sides and show where the advantage lies. We are asking for the right of local authorities, whatever their colour, be they Labour, Liberal, Conservative, Municipal Reform, Ratepayers, or whatever guise they appear in on the ballot paper, to exercise their discretion free from the dictation of Whitehall, or indeed Parliament, in a matter as basically simple as this.
We have not the numbers which hon. Gentlemen opposite have to marshal into the Lobby against the Clause as it now stands, but I think we may reasonably claim that the argument lies on our side of the House.
§ Mr. Hay
This is an interesting argument and, as hon. Members have said, it is somewhat removed from the obscure technicalities which have darkened our paths on so many other Amendments and Clauses. It is a good old House of Commons issue—let us face it—whether local authorities should be given the power to sell petrol and oil at car parks which they provide.
I approach the matter not in a doctrinaire spirit, but from two points of view. I ask myself two questions: first, is it necessary; secondly, is it right. What are we trying to do in this Clause? Our object is to stimulate the provision of off-street car parking and off-street garages. Local authorities are given power to provide off-street car parks and provide those parks in buildings or parts of buildings, and we go on to say that those authorities can let out to someone else those parts of those buildings which are garages or car parks. They are not obliged to act as the car park owner if they do not wish to do so, and they can let it out.
We say that if they decide that the best way of going on is to let out the off-street car parking part of the building to someone else, perhaps to a private company or some other person or body, then they should have the opportunity of making provision in the building for the storage of air and water, for radiators and tyres and so on, and also for the storage of petrol and oil, but we say that they are not themselves to sell petrol and oil.
1541 What we are trying to do is to stimulate off-street car parking. Everyone knows that to run a garage or a car park on its own is not a highly profitable undertaking, at any rate not at the moment. As and when we get parking meter schemes throughout the centres of cities and towns, it will become a highly profitable business. At the moment, we have somehow to prime the pump and make sure that people go into the off-street car parking business.
It will be a far better proposition and far more consonant with our overall objective if we enable local authorities to let out a car park which they have provided in a building, but not enable them to plunge into the garage business itself. Let us face the fact that if we give them the power to sell oil and petrol, everyone knows what will happen in a short time. Within a few years, we will have Private Bills asking, in addition to the power to sell oil and petrol, power to do repairs, and from that it would be only a comparatively short step to selling vehicles and accessories. Let us be frank about it. That is what would happen. We have seen it happen so often before and it is something which is quite unnecessary for the purpose of achieving our objective. Our objective is to obtain off-street car parking and, frankly, we do not care a bit who provides it, so long as it is provided. That is the answer to the question of whether the power is necessary.
The second question is whether it is right. Here we get on to a point of principle which honestly divides both sides of the House. It is the view of hon. Members opposite that it is perfectly legitimate and justifiable for local authorities of any political complexion to have the right to carry on trading activities. That has been their philosophy for a number of years. On the other hand, hon. Members on this side of the House take a rather different view. Our view is that local authorities are primarily administrative bodies which are not intended, and were never intended in the whole of their history, to be bodies which engage in trade.
I realise that, as the years have gone by, certain things have happened and certain modifications have been made to the pure milk of that doctrine, but, 1542 basically, it must still be our standpoint that local authorities are a branch of administration, a branch of government. They are not intended to engage in trade.
In addition to all that, I point out that if one accepts the Amendment and does not admit that local authorities should confine themselves to administration, if one believes that they should be trading bodies, one is driven inevitably to a situation in which although, if they make a profit, that goes to the benefit of the rates, if they make a loss, the ratepayers have to underwrite that loss—and some of those ratepayers who have to underwrite that loss by higher rates are the very people who are in the same trade.
In other words, if a local authority is given power to sell fuel and lubricants at an off-street garage which it provides, if it makes a loss, those who will have to pay the increased rates to meet that loss will include other garage proprietors in the rest of the town who themselves are being completed against by the local authority.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
Is the hon. Gentleman's argument very sound? Could he not just as well argue that the childless man is not interested in the education rate? I hope for the sake of brevity that he will throw away his brief, because I could make a much better case against municipal trading than he is making. He is rejecting the Amendment for the wrong reasons.
§ Mr. Hay
As will be seen, I am not speaking from a brief. I am speaking on a subject to which I have given considerable study for the last few years. I am certain that it is wrong as a matter of principle that local authorities should engage in trade and, if they make a loss, should expect their losses to be paid for by the very ratepayers against whom they are competing.
That is our principle on this Amendment. It is a principle which divides the House as a whole and I hope that if we have to vote on the matter—and we are willing to do so if necessary—it will be realised that we are voting on a matter of principle. However, I hope that such a vote will not in the slightest disturb the harmonious and good relations which have prevailed 1543 between us on all the other aspects of the Bill.
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Gentleman began by asking, "Is it necessary?". Having disposed of that, he came to the question whether it was right, so he did not put the principle very high. He must recognise that the principle works both ways. If a private garage makes a profit as the result of getting a lease from a local authority, the ratepayers are providing a profit for the garage just as they may be underwriting a loss by the local authority. If there is profitability in the land, the private garage using it makes a profit which rightly belongs to the ratepayers.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Hay
I beg to move, in page 20, line 9, at the end to insert:(8) The provisions of this section shall not affect the provisions of any local Act as to the provision of parking places.The House will remember that the Clause extends the power of local authorities to provide for off-street car parks and in particular provides for the type of composite development which we have just been discussing. However, it is subject to the consent of the Minister of Transport and also to a five-year time limit. It also extends the powers of local authorities to let car parks and provide for the provision of the apparatus and so on for others to operate.
In certain Local Acts, the City of London, the County Borough of East Ham, Leeds, and the London County Council already have certain powers of what we can call composite development and those powers are exercisable under private Acts without any time limit and without being subject to Ministerial control.
We think that as there are only four of these local authorities, two of them being somewhat special—the City of London and the London County Council—these existing powers under private legislation ought not to be affected by the new provisions which we are including in Clause 12 over the whole range of local authorities. While we think that it is desirable to put some restrictions on the powers to be granted by general legislation to local authorities, we do not think that it would be right to restrict the existing powers which Parliament has 1544 already agreed to confer on certain local authorities. With that explanation, I hope that the House will agree to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Hay
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I need hardly tell the House that I have reached this moment with some pleasure but with some sadness as well—pleasure that at last we have managed to get through what at one time seemed a formidable undertaking, and sadness at parting, temporarily at least, from quite an old friend. If I may mention to the House a personal matter, this is the first Bill with which I have had anything to do as a Minister. I have found it most interesting, as well as extremely useful, to have had an opportunity of seeing how legislation is passed from the Government's point of view.
The origin of the Bill, as was said on Second Reading, was the debates that we had at the end of last year when it became apparent that, following the General Election, Parliament as a whole wished to see an attack made upon the traffic problem and, in particular, an attack made upon the problem in London. My right hon. Friend then took the opinion of the House as to whether or not we might introduce for a temporary period, a short period, some special powers which would enable him to take charge of the traffic problem and use experimental methods to try to solve it. That was a view that commended itself to the House. My right hon. Friend then had to approach his colleagues, and he was able to obtain permission to introduce this Bill into what was already a rather heavy legislative programme.
I should like, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, to thank the other Ministers in the Government who have helped in so many ways to bring this Measure forward. Perhaps I might make reference to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who incorporated in the Bill Clauses 1 and 2, the provisions relating to traffic wardens and the ticket system, and who has throughout given us the utmost help in obtaining the necessary powers that we shall need. I should also like to thank my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for 1545 the Home Department for the help that he was able to give us all in Committee.
The Bill as it now stands has been, I think, considerably improved by a number of Amendments made. I do not propose, as is often the custom on Third Reading, to rehearse all those Amendments. The proceedings in Committee and certainly on Report are so fresh in all our minds that we do not need to be reminded of them.
I should like to pay a very sincere tribute to hon. Members opposite for the way in which they approached the Bill. It would have been perfectly easy and quite legitimate Parliamentary political tactics to have been obstructive and difficult, often without appearing to be so. We are all familiar with that technique. But they approached the matter in a thoroughly statesmanlike and public-spirited way and, as a result, we were able to obtain the Committee stage within the time limit that we had originally proposed for ourselves, and with the utmost good will on both sides. I feel that this was largely obtained as a result of the very valuable suggestion made on the first day that the Bill was discussed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), that we should agree on a voluntary time-table. I think that this may be one of the earliest examples of this being done, but it is certainly a good augury for the future legislation in this House on matters that are not the subject of great dissension by the political parties.
There is no doubt that this traffic problem has no party virtue. It is not strictly a political problem. It is a technical problem which requires for its solution a basis of legislation, and that it what we have been trying to obtain. I apologise to the House because the Bill throughout has been somewhat difficult to discuss and handle. I was astonished at the complexity of the provisions that we were obliged to bring forward to hon. Members. I had in earlier days some experience of the Rent Restriction Acts and I thought them the absolute nadir of complexity, but that was nothing to what I discovered existing in the road traffic law. We were able to obtain the consolidation Bill to act as a guide through the mass of legislation passed in former years, and I think that it has been a great help to us to have that beside us. It certainly helped in the drafting of the 1546 Bill because it meant that reference could be made to the Road Traffic Act, 1960, instead of to a whole number of individual Acts going back many years. Complex as the Bill is at present and as I fear it will be even after it has completed its journey through Parliament, it is nothing to what it could have been if the consolidation legislation had not been passed.
There is, however, a price to be paid for this. The price is that since the Consolidation Act does not come into force until 1st September next and since the Bill relates to the Consolidation Act, inevitably the Bill cannot come into force until 1st September. Perhaps in some ways this may be a blessing in disguise. It is fairly clear that another place will be unable to complete its consideration of the Bill until the end of July, so perhaps the fact that we shall not be able to start legally with our new powers under the Bill until 1st September will not be such a great handicap after all. The Bill itself in its basic outline remains as it was when introduced into the House on Second Reading. Two of the principal provisions are the first two Clauses relating to traffic wardens and the system of standard penalties. The more I see of this traffic problem, particularly in London, the more I am certain that unless and until we are able to get proper enforcement of parking and traffic laws in our cities and towns we shall never be able to make an impression upon the problem.
Within recent weeks we have seen the second Westminster Parking Meter Order enforced. We have seen parking meters now spreading out through out the whole of Mayfair. We have seen as the days have gone by that motorists who were first prepared to observe the rules and park only at meters and unload only at the unloading bays provided are more and more neglecting these rules. Now chaos and confusion is almost as great in that area as it was before the parking meters were introduced. This is a problem of enforcement, and I am absolutely certain that when we get the traffic wardens on the streets and doing their job we shall at least be within sight of clearing away many of the vehicles which cause congestion. I am 1547 certain that the House will welcome the introduction of traffic wardens and will do all that it can, if the need arises, to assist their task in the legislative field in the years to come.
As for the rest of the Bill, it is intended to give my right hon. Friend additional powers to carry out the sort of traffic action which is needed if we are to make any impression on the problem. I have told hon. Members already during the Committee stage discussions that we have set up the London Traffic Management Unit under Dr. Charles-worth, who was formerly with the Road Research Laboratory. The unit is almost at full strength and starting to get to work in preparation for the day when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. I hope that we shall be able to make a speedy impression on the traffic problem in London.
The whole object is to take the central area of London and endeavour to deal with the problem there. As I have said before, if we can manage to lick the traffic problem in the central area of London, I do not think we need worry. If we can beat it there we can beat it anywhere in the United Kingdom, because nowhere in other parts of the country is the problem so acute and severe as in the central area of London. That is our purpose. We have a whole armoury of quite formidable powers and the intention of the Bill is to close certain gaps and to provide some additional weapons for the Minister's armoury. We believe that, as it stands, the Bill will give the sort of power we need to carry out this experiment.
In commending the Bill to the House and asking hon. Members to give it a Third Reading and to send it on its way to another place before Whitsun—as we had hoped would happen—I must say this final word. I hope the House will accept that we shall do the best we can to deal with this traffic problem with the aid of the powers which are now to be provided, but if as we proceed with the experiment we find that further powers are needed, which may well be the case—one cannot tell at this stage—I hope that the House will be prepared to give us this help.
My right hon. Friend said during the Committee stage discussions that the 1548 whole difficulty with the traffic problem was that one never knew the answer until something had been tried. When we try some remedy it may well be that we get the answer right the first time. Or it may well be that the remedy prescribed does not achieve the desired effect, and then we have to think again and produce something else.
We believe that the powers given in the Bill, and the way in which we intend to use them, will enable us to carry out the sort of experiment which is needed to solve the traffic problem in Central London. But if we find that in some respects there are gaps or that some of the powers which we have need to be modified or changed, we shall have to come back to the House. I feel sure that if that happens, provided that we can give a convincing account of what has gone wrong, we shall receive from hon. Members the same sympathy and general support which they have so kindly given to us during the preceding stages of the Bill.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Mellish
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport may take a lot of personal credit for the success of the Committee stage discussion on the Bill and for the fact that it was so cordially received. We on this side of the House co-operated during the Committee stage discussions, and I should like to put on record that by the way in which he attended to his duties and the courtesy with which he treated hon. Members on this side of the House and tried to give us as much knowledge as he possessed the Joint Parliamentary Secretary earned our appreciation.
It would seem almost as if we propose to spend all our time slapping each other on the back, but I should like to add a word of thanks to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. The hon. and learned Gentleman had a difficult task during the opening stages of the discussions on this Bill when he took over Clauses 1 and 2. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department may be assured that he could not have done the job better than did the Joint Under-Secretary, and that is high praise. Both Clauses proved difficult to deal with, but the Joint Under-Secretary may be satisfied with his performance.
1549 That is not to say that hon. Members on this side of the House consider this a master Bill which will solve a great number of problems. When my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and I were appointed—I think that is the word—as members of the Opposition to deal with the questions of transport, we found that we had a great deal to learn, and we still have a lot more to learn. One of the difficulties about being in Opposition is that one has to do everything one's self. I am extremely fortunate in having alongside me an absolute genius at finding the right answers without the help of the Civil Service. My hon. Friend knows where to go to find the right answers and, during the Committee stage discussions, he expressed them in a manner which was appreciated. I owe a great debt to my hon. Friend for the way in which he "manoeuvred us" —the way in which he managed hon. Members on the Opposition side of the Committee.
Having said all those nice things, I wish now to express a personal point of view regarding this Bill. Clauses 1 and 2 are the most important parts of the Measure. They introduce something which we have never had in this country before—a country which is conservative with a small "c"—[Laughter.]—in the context in which I am using that word it would be spelt with a small "c". British people do not take easily to change unless they are convinced that it is necessary, and in such matters as this, where there is a possibility that personal liberty will be infringed, it is important that not only during the Committee stage discussions but even now we should express our doubts.
We are to have a new corps of men, a corps of traffic wardens who will be given powers to apply fixed penalties. The Home Secretary has asked us again and again to indicate that this does not mean that offending motorists will have to pay fines without any right to go to court and appeal against the payment of them. But nevertheless, it will remain in the minds of many people that this is a fine they are liable to pay. They start on the basis that they are guilty. It may well also be the impression in the first instance that the people administering these penalties are not fully trained and 1550 may not be qualified to perform their task. Therefore, we have the right to question the provisions contained in Clauses 1 and 2 and express our doubts about them.
Listening to what was said by the Minister of Transport during the Second Reading debate, one might have believed that somewhere, behind some door in some part of Britain, was a vast corps of traffic policemen or wardens waiting to descend on the lanes and streets of our country. The Press made a great deal of the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made and the impression was created that we were to have a brand-new corps of traffic wardens almost immediately. Of course, it is nothing like that at all. It will be a considerable time before we can hope to have the sort of people envisaged by the Minister.
If such men are to be found, as contended during the Second Reading debate and during the Committee stage discussions, why should not we devote our energies to training them as police men? The finest way of controlling traffic is by the use of policemen, and I consider that one mobile policeman is worth ten such wardens as are envisaged in this Bill. If we devoted more of our attention and energy to the recruitment of policemen as such, I consider that the ultimate result would be more satisfactory.
When we get the Regulations which are essential if the provisions contained in this Bill are to be operated, I hope the Minister will recognise and appreciate that some of us will be watching them carefully. We shall not tolerate the formation of a second-rate police force. We shall not permit the imposition on the people of this country of men who, in our view, will be trying to do a policeman's job but who will be an inferior type of person. We shall oppose anything like that and we give notice of our intention now. I believe that our view is shared by many hon. Members opposite. If we are to have a corps of traffic wardens they must be thoroughly capable men, thoroughly trained and have a sense of responsibility right from the time they start their work. It is no use talking glibly about all these people when there just is not such a corps.
1551 I believe that the Minister will wind up this debate, so I will address him on the subject of the fixed penalty. When he replies, I hope that he will rid the policemen of the fear that one of the things that will be lost between the motorist and the police is their co-operation. They fear that what is called the cautionary system will not operate as extensively as it does today.
I tried, but failed, to get reliable figures of the number of cautions that motorists receive in a year from the police, but the present approach of the policeman to the man who is obstructing the street and is unable to avoid it is really excellent. Many men who are doing a legitimate job of delivering goods cannot, for the moment, avoid obstructing the street. The policemen know that, and will tolerate them gently and give them a kindly warning. The reputation of the police amongst motorists, and certainly amongst lorry drivers, has never been higher.
We must not destroy that by introducing some system that may well be used by some wardens and some policemen—I do not say all—which means just sticking a ticket on the motorist's or lorry driver's window and saying, "That's £2, brother. If you don't like it, go to court and argue it out". None of us want that attitude, and the policemen are worried lest the introduction of this system should diminish the cautionary system.
As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, the other Clauses deal, in the main, with London's traffic problem. As we know, the Minister of Transport is now taking powers for the next five years to get things done more speedily in the Metropolis. One of the arguments in favour of the Minister taking these powers, and I support his having them, is that we have at present a Royal Commission considering local government in Greater London. It is fair to say that it will take nearly five years to implement the Commission's Report, when it is issued, and during that time arguments about their relative powers may arise between the Metropolitan boroughs and the London County Council. A Minister having the powers set out in the Bill may be able to do a lot of good there.
1552 There is one assurance that I should like to have repeated on Third Reading. Both the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend mentioned the London Traffic Management Unit. In Committee, we on this side sought to appoint an advisory committee to help the Minister in the exercise of his new powers. Does he see the Traffic Management Unit as the body with which he will co-operate in the exercise of those powers? If so, it will form a link between the borough councils, is the county council and himself.
I do not think enough has been said in this House about the good work done by local authorities in London and elsewhere for traffic flow and road safety. There has been much criticism about the odd latrine in the middle of the road and the fact that when asked to move it by the Ministry the council concerned argued and squabbled for months. It is true that there are such examples, but we tend to forget the great amount of traffic work that has been done and is still being done by local authorities. Road safety is something that local authorities do better than anyone else if they get inspiration from the Minister.
I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to lose the good will existing in London between his Department and the Metropolitan boroughs. That good will has been built up over many years. I have criticised the Ministry in the past, but I must say quite frankly that I know of no Ministry that works harder with, I believe, insufficient staff—technical staff, in particular. One thing that the Minister has to do is to reorganise his own Department and provide it with the personnel and the aid that it needs.
The Ministry has far too many things to attend to—shipping, transport of every kind, road safety, road improvements are far too much. They are certainly more than enough for one Minister to handle, even the present Minister. I do not want to get into trouble with him tonight, because we want to keep things on a nice even keel, but I do not think that even this Minister can be expected alone to take on the enormous powers that the Bill gives him.
I wish the Bill well. We have doubts about it, as every Opposition has a right to have about any Government Bill. We have not opposed its Second Reading, 1553 its Committee stage or its Third Reading, because we want to convey to the Government and to the country that when the Government in power shows us that at least their intentions in regard to traffic matters and road improvements are designed to help our people we are always prepared to help.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)
Before we say farewell to the Bill as it goes on to another place, I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend and his hon. Friends on their successful handling of this Measure through its various stages. I would also add my word of thanks to hon. Members opposite for making its passage so expeditious and, indeed, felicitous.
We have discussed a good many of the traffic engineering aspects of the Bill, and I myself devoted my own remarks to it. I am quite certain that my right hon. Friend will now have the opportunity he wants to apply traffic engineering methods to London. I believe that those methods can give a safer, smoother traffic flow in this great city, troubled as it now is with traffic difficulties. Both my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) have referred to the enforcement function, which is the complement to the traffic engineers' work. However good the traffic engineering schemes are, they cannot succeed unless enforcement is effective. There is a real problem here with which my right hon. Friend, his hon. Friend, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will have to cope as these traffic engineering schemes develop.
As the hon. Member for Bermondsey rightly said, the traditional system of enforcement by the police is what is known as token enforcement—as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) well knows. That means that not all offenders are prosecuted but only some. Some are reproved verbally on the spot, some may be cautioned, while others are prosecuted. That is the traditional system, and it is one that is really basic to the friendly relationship that exists between police and public. It is part of the unique quality of the policeman of this country as a figure to be trusted, as opposed to the police in any other country where he is a figure to be feared.
1554 That is something that goes far beyond road traffic law, important though that is. It affects the whole balance of freedom and order in our life, and it is something that we naturally want to retain. Further, as the hon. Member for Bermondsey said, it is something that the police themselves very much value. There is, however, a difficulty. If traffic engineering, which aims at more precise movement of traffic through the streets, with more exact regulations, is to succeed, token enforcement is not good enough. What is needed is 100 per cent. enforcement. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the picture in Mayfair today, where the parking meters have been introduced. Progressively, as he says, we see more and more breaches of the "No Waiting" regulations.
My hon. Friend hopes that the traffic wardens will be able to deal with this, and I believe that the wardens will make a very big contribution. I do not have the doubts of the hon. Member for Bermondsey about traffic wardens. I believe that it will be possible to recruit a class of men, rather older than the average policeman, but nevertheless fit enough to do day duties far less onerous than the regular policeman's duties, and able to carry out this very responsible work of dealing with the simple nonmoving offences.
That, however, will not get us out of the difficulty I have in mind. What we really want with traffic engineering, whether it is the "No Waiting" regulations, or the speed limits, is 100 per cent. enforcement, but, as I say, the police tradition is one of token enforcement. Weight is given to my feeling on this, because I recently attended a conference in the north of the country of senior police officers. When I talked to them I found that they were very anxious about the new burdens and responsibilities that were to fall on them. They rightly valued their good relationship with the motorists, and realised that they cannot function effectively unless that relationship is preserved. To put it another way, the motorist often feels that he is a persecuted person, sometimes with and sometimes without good reason, but the back-lash of the motorist's sense of persecution naturally falls on the police.
1555 The problem which will confront my right hon. Friends the Minister of Transport and the Home Secretary will obviously be serious. I cannot suggest a simple answer to it. I do not believe that there is one. I believe that the first way to try to meet this problem is to have adequate preparation for any new regulations for traffic schemes which may be introduced, whether it is a one-way street system, a "No Waiting" system, or regulations against loading and unloading. Whatever it may be, the public must be better informed and prepared before it comes into being. I thought that the example we had today with regard to the speed limit was not very good. The Press hand-out after the debate had started in the House was not nearly soon enough. It is most necessary that information should be sent out weeks beforehand so that the public may be informed and may understand the benefits.
Speed limits are not imposed against the interest of the motorist. They are imposed to protect the motorist. They will restrain only the minority. If there is enough preparation, education and propaganda explaining the benefits of the new regulations and why they are worth while in the interest of the public, the motorist and the pedestrian, we have a fair chance of getting co-operation from the motorist and the pedestrian and thereby lightening the load falling on the police of enforcing the regulations.
The presence of the mobile policeman and of the traffic warden on the pavement as a second means of lightening the load of the policeman in enforcement is obviously of great value. The mobile policeman, either on a motor bicycle or in a motor car, undoubtedly has an electrifying effect on everyone else on the road. We all look out for him. In the same way, the traffic warden standing on the pavement undoubtedly will be a valuable restraint to a motorist thinking of leaving his car where he should not. This would mean many more traffic wardens than the 100 or so mentioned in Committee.
These are merely suggestions towards solving this very difficult problem. I know that my right hon. Friend has thought deeply about these matters. I hope that when he replies he will be able to assure the House that he and 1556 the Home Secretary have in mind the problem of how we are to preserve the great and unique tradition of the British policeman and at the same time get 100 per cent. obedience of the traffic regulations which we must have if the schemes my right hon. Friend has in mind are to succeed.
I sincerely hope that the Bill will succeed. I am sure that no one will operate it more ingeniously or with greater energy than my right hon. Friend. It has my best wishes that it will come successfully into operation.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Bence
I should like to say a few words about the penalties and the ticket system. I should like to recount a regular experience of mine. I drive a car which was registered in the West Country, but I live in Glasgow. When I am driving in Glasgow in my car with a West Country registration number, infringements are treated by the Glasgow police, with their natural courtesy, as ignorance on my part. I am not likely under the present system to be prosecuted in Glasgow, because, as I say, in the belief that I do not know the City, the courtesy of the Glasgow policemen is such that they are a little tolerant.
When I go twice a year to the West Country and ride about in a very large city, if a policeman sees that my car has a local registration number I do not get off so lightly. He thinks that I am a native and should know better, when in fact I do not know anything about the city. When I break a small rule I get into trouble. Under the system in the Bill, I am not likely to be prosecuted in Glasgow, but I am likely to be caught in the West Country.
I am very worried about this. If in another part of the country one is liable to these fixed penalties for an offence which one feels one has not committed, it may be necessary for a person to travel a long way to appear in court. Many motorists could not afford it. Many working people who have motor cars could not afford to lose a day's work to travel 60 or 70 or even 100 miles to appear in court to defend themselves, even though they think that they are innocent. I hope that we will be assured that the ticket system, which I know is practised in other countries, will not 1557 undermine the relationship that exists between the motorist and the vast majority of our policemen.
I was booked once by a policeman. All day I had been collecting clothes for the World Refugee Year. The car was packed with clothes. I parked outside the headquarters of a certain organisation. Unfortunately, my two front wheels were two inches over the steps. A policeman spotted this. He came up to me and asked whether I had my licence. I showed it to him. He saw all the clothes. I was not prosecuted, but if it had been a traffic warden I might have been prosecuted for doing a gratuitous charitable job because my two front wheels were two inches over the steps. That position, to me, is absolutely ridiculous.
The other point I wish to raise is a matter on which I feel most strongly. The Joint Parliamentary-Secretary told us that it was a matter of great principle that a local authority is not allowed to sell or market things, and that it is an administrative body and not a trading organisation. Yet under Clause 14 it can still sell cars that have been abandoned. It can become a scrap merchant.
§ Mr. Bence
Yes. Perhaps it could find one and go round looking for abandoned cars. Maybe in my own town we shall have the local authority going around collecting old scrap. What is the use of the hon. Gentleman telling us that it is a great Conservative Party principle that local authorities should not be trading organisations? What is proposed here is trading. The marine store dealer goes round for old iron. Now a local authority can go round looking for abandoned old iron in the form of cars. Will it be able to strip these cars? If it finds on a car two good tyres will it be able to sell those tyres independently? Will it be able to take the engine or the gearbox out and sell those? Will it be able to run a second-hand store to which people running old cars can go for spares?
1558 This is also setting up a local authority as a car-breaking concern where motorists can buy all sorts of spares. A young lad I know has an old Austin Seven in which the crankshaft broke. If this Bill had been in force and the local authority had been able to sell abandoned cars, he might have been able to obtain a crankshaft for his Austin Seven. This is trading. A local authority will not collect these cars only to bury them. It will have power to sell them. The Clause does not say that it must sell those cars whole; it can break them up and sell them in parts. The car itself may be scrapped, but there may be some very valuable components still usable. That is quite possible, indeed probable, at the rate at which cars are smashed up on the roads today.
I was amazed to see that local authorities could set up in the scrap dealing business, provided that it was in abandoned cars, but I have no doubt that once they get going and pick up these cars they will soon ask for powers to buy second-hand cars.
I come now to the appointment of traffic wardens. I agree that in Scotland we have very heavy unemployment and it might be possible there to recruit traffic wardens. But where in the name of fortune are we to get traffic wardens in the south of England at a decent remuneration? I understand that there are more vacancies in commerce and industry in this part of the country than there are people to fill them, so where will these wardens come from?
§ Mr. Bence
Maybe. But if they do, where will we house them when we get them here? I do not know where we are going to get them.
I want this Measure to be a success. I want to see less crowding of roads and streets, but I do not think that this Bill will achieve that. We shall have parking meters, "No Waiting" signs, "Stop" signs, signs to park and signs not to park, Belisha beacons and the confusion of lights at night time. It is amazing, with the great number of lights at night, that many of us do not go across traffic lights. Driving along Argyle Street, Glasgow, is most difficult, there is such a great number of lights, reds and greens 1559 and blues. The more signs there are in busy streets, the more difficult we make it for the motorists and the more confusing.
I am not certain that this system of off-street parking and traffic wardens will be the solution to the problem of crowding. I agree with the Joint Parliamentarly Secretary that probably this is a modest beginning and that we may have to think again. I think that it will not be long before we shall have to think again and provide parking facilities on a very large scale. I hope that those parking facilities will be of such a nature and such a cost that they will stop some of these people who come driving into the cities every day from the suburbs and outlying parts.
I am thinking particularly of the person who drives all alone in his car. He comes out of his house in the morning, somewhere in the Green Belt. I suppose it is for social status reasons, but he steps into his car all by himself, buzzes along to the City to his business, and then parks his car in the City. To me, it seems ridiculous.
I have a friend who lives at Finchley. He has a car, but he always comes by tube to his work in London. He told me that by tube it takes him between 35 and 40 minutes to go from his home to his office, which is off Park Lane. When the tube strike was on he used his car, and it took him 55 minutes to do the journey.
It is nonsense—is it not?—to have all these cars streaming into our cities, Glasgow, Birmingham, London, with only one person in each of them, blocking up the roads, creating all this need for extra parking facilities, and making it more and more difficult for municipal transport systems to function economically. The time has come when we shall have to do something to stop the crowding of our cities with cars with one only person in each of them, the crowding of our cities with cars by people who use them only for social, positional and status reasons or because of the environment from which they come.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)
This is really a remarkable Bill. My concern is not so much with the legislation itself as with its imple- 1560 mentation now that the Bill is well on its way to becoming law. It is a technical Bill which will come into operation in September of this year. It is a Bill which will affect local authorities, individuals in those local authorities, the police throughout the country and the general public.
I speak on this occasion as the representative of a constituency outside of London and as one who during all the debates on this Bill, in the House and in Standing Committee, has considered it from the point of view of people who live in industrial areas and are concerned with the problems of industrial areas. The local authority of my area has been, as the local authorities of other areas have been, a little anxious about the Bill, wondering how it will affect it. Members of the public, too, have been anxious, wondering how it will affect them.
That is my first reason for wanting to say a few words on Third Reading. My second reason—as my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) has said—is that in Standing Committee I was one of those back benchers who were like parking meters with hoods on. This is the first opportunity I have had of taking off my hood and of expressing appreciation to the Minister and to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for providing me with a remarkable education, for this is the first Bill that I have seen pass through the House.
My main concern is with the problem of public relations and of advising the public how the Bill affects them. In spite of the publicity in the Press, many people up and down the country are concerned about this, and I therefore hope that the Minister will touch upon it when he winds up the debate. What do the public want? They want something to facilitate the movement of traffic in our cities. It is a move in the right direction, particularly as far as London is concerned, that we have established the principle of traffic engineering.
The other thing about which the public are concerned, probably due to the congested state of our cities, whether London or provincial, is the problem of parking and the frustration which is caused by it. It is so easy for people to resent the law, and for them to go a stage further and resent the 1561 people who passed the relative legislation.
We have had mention of Clauses 1 and 2. Clause 1 deals with the ticket system, which is new and which affects those concerned with our courts. This is the main concern, which should not be related in the minds of the public to the creation of traffic wardens, which is dealt with in an entirely separate Clause. I hope that the Minister will re-emphasise this, because as I go around the country I still find a certain amount of confusion about it. The creation of traffic wardens is another move in the right direction. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) asked where we would get them from. The A.A. and the R.A.C. have managed to recruit their traffic patrol staffs, and I have heard that another, country, New Zealand, has adopted the traffic control system and has been able to recruit the necessary people.
We discussed this recruitment problem in Standing Committee, and perhaps through retirement from the Services or other forces people will come in. I am sure that younger people who would like to enter this traffic warden service will be very welcome, and I think that there is an encouraging career for people who do not come up to the required standard for the police forces but who would like to enter the traffic warden system. Fears are also expressed whether we are likely to get the right calibre of people. Let us give the system a trial. Everybody will be acting as watchdogs to see that we do get the right calibre of people as traffic wardens, who will certainly relieve the police and our local authorities.
There are two other Clauses which are of vital interest to the public—Clauses 5 and 12. One deals with designation, and the other with the creation of multi-storey car parks. To my mind, this provides both an opportunity and a challenge to the local authorities, and particularly to some of the people in such cities as that with which I am associated—Sheffield. The Minister told us on Second Reading that he is taking power to put the whole business of parking in the hands of the local authorities.
Many people within the local authorities themselves are resentful of the powers of Whitehall. This is the opportunity for them to solve their own 1562 problem and I suggest that it is a challenge to them. Indeed, I think that members of local authorities will collaborate with all the parties concerned in that direction. People do not want to be told where not to park, but where they can park, and traffic wardens will bring them aid in that respect. We have agreed that there is also to be more painting of signs by which the public will be further helped.
My own view is that the Bill will help to achieve these things—movement of traffic by not allowing parking on certain roads, limited parking for short periods of time by bringing parking meters into operation, which will help in our cities, and, finally, something for which everyone is asking, encouragement of off-street parking. I think that the encouragement of off-street parking is the most important of the lot. We must remember that we are moving into a new phase in which the motorist will pay to bring his car into a city, unless the shopkeepers are likely to help him to pay or the local authority does so. One thing is certain. After our debates in the House this year, the taxpayer must not be called upon to pay for that privilege. It devolves upon either the motorists, the local authority or the traders, who would, perhaps, like to attract the motorist into the cities, to pay for the privilege.
There are commercial interests in our cities, as there are in American cities, which would like to encourage motorists to come into the cities. This is very much the case in the United States. When I was there a few years ago I saw that "down-town" stores were empty because of the congestion and inability to park cars. This trend could appear in this country. One small township in America overcame the difficulty by store owners getting together to solve the parking problem. It does not matter who does it, but the fact is that we must pay for having cars in our cities. It may be that commercial interests should contribute by providing their own garages, which is certainly what happens in the case of the new stores which are going up in many provincial cities.
The Bill is a move in the right direction. We shall have an improved flow of traffic. The motorist is getting used to the idea that if he is to get into a city smoothly he must take his car somewhere and tuck it away and that he has 1563 to pay for that. If he is prepared to pay through a parking meter he will not mind paying for parking in a multi-storey garage or a municipal car park. I take this opportunity of supporting the Bill which I am sure will be of great value as a start in the right direction towards solving these problems.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I am sorry that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport is not in his place. I do not complain about it, because he has been very vigilant in his attendance on the House, but I would have liked to have thanked him personally for the very kind references he made to me. But in my defence to my constituents I must say that they are not to assume that because I was thanked by one of the Joint Parliamentary Secretaries to the Home Department for having redrafted the First Schedule of the Betting and Gaming Bill and I was thanked today by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for having made a suggestion which I have no doubt was in many people's minds but which I managed to get out first, I have become a supporter of the Government. I have no intention of being that.
I warn my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) to be very careful, because they were told that they had approached this matter in a statesmanlike manner. When that is said from the other side of the House, let them beware. Woe unto you when all men, especially Members opposite, speak well of you.
I regard the first two Clauses of the Bill with very considerable misgiving. I join in the criticism which was so ably made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey, who has so many relatives in the police force that if there is anything wrong with that force he can always put us on to it. When my hon. Friend says what he said this afternoon, I know that we are listening to the views of practical members of the force who are confronting a quite new set-up.
It is one of the marvels of this country, when one thinks of the power over men's reputations that we put into a policeman's hands and that over 100 years we have recruited police- 1564 men one day and put them on the streets the next, that very rarely has any great difficulty arisen in these personal relationships.
We all know that there are always unkind people who, when their friends get into trouble with the police, say that if they had not been doing something the police would not have taken any notice of them. To have avoided that kind of thing being said wholesale throughout the country speaks highly of the good sense and good humour of both the police force and the citizen with whom they come in contact.
I recollect that when the Surrey Constabulary celebrated its centenary it put on show one of the early discipline books. On the first page it was recorded how two constables were brought before the chief constable on a disciplinary charge because they had arrested the Deputy-Assistant Q.M.G. at Aldershot for being a deserter. That was four years before the Crimean War broke out. The force did not realise that one never looked for a deserter in the Q.M.G.'s department. One of the two constables was dismissed the force. The other, who, in addition to arresting the D.A.Q.M.G., was alleged to have used obscene language, was ordered to move from one side of the county to the other at his own expense and remain in the force.
That was so isolated an incident as to be worthy of note. We have to be quite certain, now that we train policemen before we put them on the roads, that we adequately train traffic wardens before we put them in charge of such duties as they are to discharge in aid of the police. I welcome especially the fact that they are to be in aid of the police force and that, as far as Answers have to be given for them in this House, they will be given by the Secretary of State and not by the Minister of Transport.
I hope that the relationship between the police force and the traffic wardens will be cordial but that it will be recognised that they act in aid of the police and that the duty of dealing with problems created by breaches of laws and regulations is still a matter for the police and can ultimately be brought before the courts, where the appropriate decision will be made. I view with some misgiving the power to require fixed 1565 penalties. I welcome the fact that if a citizen feels that he has been wrongly accused by a traffic warden he can get his case considered by the court for the area in which the alleged offence was committed.
Some people—I have met them in various phases of my life—prefer, if they can, to pay up rather than attend a court. I hope that if a person who receives a warning from a traffic warden decides to go to court rather than pay the £2, or whatever the sum may be, the court will take notice of it and see that he does not of necessity pay more if he goes to court than if he accepts the indication that he has become liable to pay this sum.
I sometimes hear it said—and I am sure from long experience as a serving justice of the peace that it is quite unjustified—that a person who pleads guilty will get a smaller penalty than a person who pleads not guilty and defends himself but in the end is found guilty by the magistrate. If that became the practice, it would be a great blot on our administration of justice.
The hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) was helpful to us in Committee in bringing to our deliberations the experience he had gained as Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. The hon. Member said that what we must get is 100 per cent. enforcement. That is the ideal at which we should aim. I am, however, far too conversant with the frailties and subtleties of human nature to believe that we will ever get it. I am certain that until we get a much augmented police force, we shall not get the amount of enforcement with regard to moving vehicles on the road that we ought to expect.
I hope that because of acceptance, for the time being at least, of traffic wardens, although they are dealt with in a part of the Bill which has no time limit attached, the Home Secretary and those associated with him throughout the country in raising police forces will not diminish their efforts in the slightest because of this body which is being created to act in aid of the police. I hope that the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis will not persist in his decision to recruit no women in the first 100 traffic wardens. I am sure that there is 1566 plenty of scope for women in this branch of public service, even if it is only in dealing with women.
§ Mr. Mellish
With one proviso—that if women act as traffic wardens they will be paid the rate for the job. Otherwise, more women will be employed than men because they can be employed more cheaply.
§ Mr. Ede
I have spent nearly all my life trying to get the rate for the job for myself and for women, but one thing I still feel aggrieved about is the fact that women police are not paid the same rate for the job as are men, because it is said that they might not be called upon to do the same jobs as men. When I think of a woman making a rugby tackle on a man who is trying to escape, bringing him down and handing him over to a cinema commissionaire while she telephones for the police van to remove the culprit to the proper place, I cannot believe that there are many jobs done by policemen that women cannot do. When they have acted as decoys in trying to rid certain areas of pests that have been molesting the womenfolk of the neighbourhood they have run as great a danger as any man in the force.
I recommended one such woman for the King's Police Medal, and some of the men objected on the ground that no women had previously been given the K.P.M. My retort was that it was perhaps because no one had previously deserved it. There should be no distinction between the sexes in these matters.
The Minister can rest assured that he will have the good will of all hon. Members and of every good citizen if he will pursue the course which the Bill enables him to pursue, within the law. I was very disappointed when, with regard to what happened at Christmas, he said that he had bluffed the people. I ask him to believe that people did not stop to inquire whether he had a statutory right to do the things he proposed; they were anxious to see the appalling casualties cut down. They were willing to support anyone who had a practical suggestion for doing so. If a few people ultimately discovered that he could not bring them to court for some of the things they did, nevertheless he ought to have been gratified by the fact that the overwhelming majority of motorists, as well as ordinary 1567 citizens, thought that he was proceeding on sound lines and were willing to help him with his experiments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey referred to the Minister as "even this Minister". But I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has not merely the good will of the people but their expectation that he will not be deterred from doing the right thing, within his power, even if it is unprecedented. They expect that his will be a colourful term of office at the Ministry and I can assure him, from the conversations that I have had with many people of all shades of opinion, that the country is anxious that he should take the opportunity afforded to him by the Bill of seeing that road traffic can flow easier and more safely.
I have heard the new phrase, "road traffic engineering". I am not quite sure what it means, but I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman will carry the later Clauses of the Bill through with the determination of which we know he is capable, explaining well beforehand exactly what he intends to do and why, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Guildford he need have no fear. He will get a tremendous response from motorists and from ordinary citizens, who think that the holocaust on the roads is now so serious that it ought to be brought to an end.
I view the Bill with some misgivings, in connection with certain points that I have indicated, but I hope that the Minister will be able to convince the country that the experiment that he is going to try in London will be so successful as to warrant other parts of the country asking for it. It has at least this to be said for it: London is probably the most difficult place in which to conduct an experiment. That, in itself, is an act of tremendous courage, and I hope it may be rewarded.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
As we might expect, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) with his wisdom has done a little to dispel the bipartisan atmosphere that threatened to be the death knell of party politics if it had continued to prevail. Before saying goodbye to the Bill I should like to add my congratulations to our own Front Bench, and to say that I have enjoyed the pleasantries of the Front Bench opposite.
1568 This is an important Bill. Not only has it introduced punishment without prosecution, traffic wardens, and also the possibility of the disc parking system, but, in my view—and I think the right hon. Member for South Shields might be shocked to hear this—this kind of Bill may be the prelude in England to the establishment in England of traffic courts for settling our traffic disputes in future. That may well be the result.
I do not think that we ought to congratulate ourselves too warmly tonight that we have solved every problem in London. We certainly will not have solved the problem of congestion by the Bill alone. I motored up Berkeley Square the other day, a thing I had not done for some months. It was after the parking meter system came into operation, and I was able to find a niche for my car because the traffic has been made mobile by the parking meter system. There was room to park a car, but the thing that struck me about Berkeley Square was that there were only half the number of cars in that Square that used to be there previously, because the parking meters and marked spaces provide for a smaller number of cars to stand there.
When I looked round to see where the cars had gone, I found that they were parked in mews, inside alleys and inside streets. When the traffic wardens get active, as no doubt they will in the autumn, those cars will be swept away, and I ask myself where they will go.
One asks, where are these multi-storey garages and underground garages that one would expect to find? What has happened to the Westminster City Council's plan for a multi-storey garage in South Audley Street? We will suddenly find that we are short of garage space in the centre of London once these traffic wardens become active. I think, therefore, that we may be forced into the position that we shall have to give local authorities, or private enterprise, a shot in the arm to build a few multi-storey garages in the centre of big towns. We may have demands that the central fund should in some way support these garages, or that we should de-rate them, or something like that. because it is obvious from the figures supplied to me that we cannot expect either private enterprise or local authorities to put up 1569 big parking garages purely out of the funds that they can expect to get from car owners.
I saw a proposal the other day for putting one up in the centre of London. The rent and rates would amount to £70,000 or £80,000 a year, which would mean that the promoter of the enterprise would have to charge the people who wished to park there at the rate of I5s. a day. Obviously motorists will not pay that amount to park their cars, and therefore I think that the Bill will get us into a further problem, which will arise in the winter, about what is to be done with the cars displaced by the parking meters and by the traffic wardens.
My right hon. Friend may have thought of it already, but one of the results of the Bill will be a big demand for underground and overground garages, a demand which somehow we shall have to meet in the future.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Miss Herbison
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has already referred to the matter with which I wish to deal, and I understand from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee that he dealt with the matter in Committee. Those who pressed for the employment of women as traffic wardens had a very dusty answer in Committee when the Joint Under-Secretary said:I should stress, as I said before, that the Commissioner has decided not to appoint women only at the start. He will keep an open mind on the matter and no doubt will pay regard to what has been said in this Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 12th May, 1960; c. 243.]One would have expected that attitude in 1860 but not in 1960, particularly since women are doing a first-rate job as policewomen, with duties far more onerous and dangerous than any traffic warden will ever have to face. The differentiation between men and women for jobs as traffic wardens has no justification, and I hope that right from the beginning the Commissioner will take women as well as men into this job.
I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) spoke of the importance of paying the rate for the job, a principle which I completely support. When I was a teacher I always objected to being cheap labour in the teaching profession 1570 and, since I objected on my own behalf, I object on behalf of all women whatever work they do.
What representations have been made to the Home Secretary—perhaps the Minister of Transport will be able to tell us—about the employment of women as traffic wardens? My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) wondered whether we should get enough men for the job. If these jobs were being provided in Scotland tomorrow, we would have men tumbling over themselves for the job, but in the London area there will be great difficulty about getting them. That is not the main reason why I want women to be appointed. I want them to be appointed because I want them to have the same chance in whatever job they do. Even at this late stage I hope that serious consideration will be given to the matter and as much influence as possible brought to bear on the Commissioner to ensure that right from the start women will be considered for these jobs, just as men are.
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) raised an important subject when he spoke of providing parking places for cars. He said that the cost ought not to be borne by the taxpayer, but he seemed to be content that the cost should fall on the ratepayer. He said that this was an opportunity and a challenge to local authorities. Local authorities already have great challenges, but do not have the money to meet them. If any help is to be given in the provision of parking places, the burden should fall on the taxpayer rather than the ratepayer. If the matter is reconsidered, I hope that that will be taken into account.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
I see no justification for garage facilities being provided out of the public purse. However, I am mainly concerned with Clauses 1 and 2.
The Bill is concerned with the interests of motorists, and those interests have to be borne in mind in this and subsequent legislation which the Bill seems to foreshadow. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) fore saw traffic courts. I have misgivings about offences hitherto dealt with in 1571 magistrates' courts being dealt with administratively. I register my protest against that precedent. I think that it is bad in principle. It represents a division in the judicial functioning of this country that is bad in precedent, affords a privileged position for a section of the community and, in fact, condones to some extent the offences with which we are dealing.
One other point which I do not think has been dealt with is that our courts are open and there is considerable publicity about what happens in them. I cannot find any provision in the Bill for publication of proceedings under this new form of procedure. If justice is to be done, we must take that into account and provide that in these arrangements there shall be publication of what has happened so that the public may be able to see how this secondary form of justice, if I may so call it, is working.
I am equally unhappy about the warden principle. It is a two-tier form of police force, and I do not like it as such. I believe that there is room for much more enforcement and that we should face the essential fact that what is needed is the strengthening of the police force.
The hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) spoke about the need for 100 per cent. enforcement in the future. It is no good looking for something in the sky. We cannot decide by a sort of New Year's resolution to do something next year that we ought to be doing now.
With the exception of Clauses 1 and 2, the provisions contained in this Bill represent a step in the right direction, but it would be unfair to allow the Minister to believe that the creation of a new form of offence for which a penalty is to be imposed in a form to suit administrative machinery and the creation of a two-tier police system commends itself generally to the House. I think both ideas are bad, and I shall watch closely how they operate. The Minister having designated areas where these provisions will operate, I hope the House will be given a full and adequate report on the subject.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
The introduction of this Bill 1572 has been made necessary because we have allowed traffic congestion to increase to such an extent that eventually the Government realised something had to be done. I am worried because it is proposed to employ another body of people to carry out duties which are normally performed by the police. I hope that the Government will realise that these traffic wardens which it is proposed to create are to be employed as a body supplementary to the police force. If we allow our police to be reduced in number we shall lose whatever benefit may accrue from the Bill. The Minister must realise that, in addition to the employment of properly trained wardens, it is necessary to increase the police establishment.
The bitter feelings which sometimes exist between the police and members of the public are created to a great extent by parking offences. I recall an incident when a car was parked in front of the house of a neighbour of mine. The vehicle was placed right at the end of a cul-de-sac which was about thirty yards long. A policeman interviewed the owner of the vehicle late at night and eventually the owner received a summons. I consider that a typical case where a warning would have been sufficient.
I hope that the traffic wardens will carry out their task efficiently and that where cars may and may not be parked will be clearly indicated. Frequently motorists park their cars in places which they consider suitable, but eventually they realise that they are committing an offence. It is necessary that so far as possible motorists should be prevented from parking their cars on the roads in our cities and towns. It will therefore be necessary to provide multi-storey garages. The Government have refused to consider a proposition that local authorities which may own multi-storey garages should be allowed to sell petrol.
If the Minister remains adamant on that issue, the money needed for the building of these multi-storey garages must be provided by means of Government grant or by means of a very low interest loan. The Government must realise that unless the motorists use those garages there is no point in building them, and if the charges are too high the motorists will not use the facilities 1573 made available to them. Such cities as Birmingham and Leicester wish to build multi-storey garages, and I hope that the Minister will encourage them by making a grant.
Cars must be taken off the road as quickly as possible, so that the roads can be freed. Many of our towns and cities have roads wide enough to take four or five lines of traffic but the width is so reduced by parked cars as often to leave room for not much more than single-line traffic. To provide parking places, ground must be purchased. In some cases, the necessary land is of high value and, again, if the charge for open-air parking is excessive the motorist will not use the space. Therefore, when an authority has to purchase land at a high price for this purpose, the Minister should consider either lending the money at very low interest rates or making a grant.
The Government should reconsider their views about local authorities selling petrol. It is essential that the authorities should have some kind of income to enable them to take the responsibility for building multi-storey garages. I am quite certain that the sale of petrol would make it possible for the charge to the motorist to be such as to make him quite willing to take advantage of the facilities provided. I hope that the Government will reconsider this point, as both sides of the House realise that unless something is done, and done quickly, about this traffic problem, we shall lose more and more money as a result of traffic delay.
It is estimated that at present we are losing money in this way at the rate of £300 million a year. Therefore, not only is it essential that the Government should allow local authorities to sell petrol but they must spend more and more money on the roads. It is no use providing the various things that have been suggested unless our roads are wider and better. The Government should double the present figure of £70 million, because we are spending far less than are many countries on the Continent. If that is done, our desire to create a good traffic system at home can be achieved.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
I feel that I owe you an apology, Mr. Speaker, because whenever you come to the Chair I seem to be on my feet. I must apologise for speaking 1574 again, but it is definitely the last appearance, unless their Lordships make so many Amendments that we require a week or two to consider them before we rise for the Summer Recess.
This Bill has created a certain core of comradeship between both sides of the House. Indeed, there have been occasions when the disagreements have been between members of the same party rather than across the Floor. The hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), that subversionist of long standing, has been in conflict with his own Front Bench, and I would be a brave man if I thought that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) approved of all the things I have from time to time said.
It has all been agreeable. I feel that together we have gone through an adult education series of lectures on the problems of urban congestion. I have enjoyed it, and I am grateful to the various hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and of the House who have contributed to our discussions. At the same time, we ought to recognise that this is the beginning and not the end. If the Minister of Transport thinks that he is in orbit, he must remember that he is still on the launching pad and that we do not even know whether the fuel will work or whether the guidance system is as good as he thinks.
This is the beginning of the problem of finding some solution to urban congestion. I will not go through the Bill in any great detail, because all the points have really been covered. The two Home Office Clauses have caused considerable interest and anxiety. I do not share the anxiety of some hon. Members about ticket functions. We must see how they work. There is an almost unanimous view among policemen, which has spread to both sides of the House that nothing must be done to interfere with the happiness or the rôle of the police.
I must confess that when, in my earlier research in preparation for this debate on the Whitsun traffic problem, I came across this figure of only 100 police cars operating in London, as I am assured is the case, I realised what appalling under-policing there is in the field of road police control in the Metropolis. I hope that that figure is wrong—I can 1575 hardly believe it—but it certainly indicates far greater weaknesses in police strength in the field of traffic control than have ever been shown of other parts of the police force being under strength. I would strongly urge the Minister to consult the Home Secretary from time to time to be certain that there are enough policemen on the road.
With regard to the first two Clauses, I feel that we have reached only half a solution. They are the only two permanent Clauses in the Bill. Almost everything else is temporary, but I still do not feel that this is a solution to the problem. The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that we shall be compelled towards traffic courts, not to make it easier for the motorist, but to get expert judgment brought to bear on motoring problems. In time they will be brought in by the Minister or the Home Secretary. On the other hand, after being through the Committee on the Bill, I do not feel that traffic wardens can ever be a substitute for the police when it comes to controlling cars. What I want to see—and I think that this is the general view of the House—is far greater strengthening of the police.
All the other Clauses, which relate entirely to the Ministry of Transport, deal with two things, control and finance. We are today putting a great load on the Minister's shoulders. As I look at him and try to read his mind and think of his rôle in the months head, I cannot make up my mind whether he is Atlas taking the strain of the world or Samson bringing the palace tumbling down on the backs of the heathens, but, whether he is weight carrier or final wrecker, he is responsible.
Again I feel increasingly that this is only halfway to a solution of the problem. The Minister said last December that he must have more power to coordinate the work of local authorities in traffic control. He is given that power in the Bill. In my judgment, that is right, but during the debate today on the problem of traffic at Whitsun he spoke about difficulties of local authorities over a wider field. Speaking, if I may, to the Minister as an outside adviser, the more and more I think of this the more I feel that we will not solve 1576 even the simplest traffic problems unless there is more centralisation of control. The idea that a road has anything specially to do with the local authority through which it passes is a remnant of the horse and buggy age. Transport has nothing to do necessarily with the area through which the road passes. Traffic can only make sense on a national level. Although no one wants bullying, dictatorship or domination to make our roads operate effectively, there must be centralised control.
I feel this even more strongly when I consider the economic aspect of transport. Earlier today I gave a foretaste of what I proposed to mention later, namely, how much we are spending on roads. I plead with right hon. and hon. Members opposite to put entirely from their minds any idea that this is any longer an argument about what the Labour Party did, what the Conservative Party did, or what the Disraeli Government did. I am not concerned with that. I am concerned only to find out whether we as a nation are putting enough money into the roads, and, if not, why not, and, if we are not, where the areas of greatest weakness are.
The Minister is responsible only for the national trunk system. When he discusses figures—I am delighted to see that the figure is over £100 million this year—he is speaking only of his area of responsibility. A great deal of expenditure on the roads still falls on local authorities. Even when the Bill is enacted, it will still fall upon them. Where a weakness is found in road expenditure, it is in areas for which local authorities are responsible. I do not blame them for this. After all, they are dependent on some sort of grant. They are responsible to ratepayers who do not necessarily get a growing increase of wealth every year, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer does. But, whatever the reason, the fact is that the weakness in road expenditure today lies not so much in the local sector but in the national sector.
This is why I got the Library of the House of Commons to draw up a chart of figures for me, some of which I want to confide to the House. If one analyses the figures from 1946 to 1958, which are the only figures available, to try to get 1577 a slant on the matter, some of the results are surprising. Expenditure on roads rose from £60 million in 1946 to £165 million in 1958. That is not merely Government expenditure but local authority expenditure as well. The number of vehicle licences has risen from 3 million to 8 million. The gross national product, or the national income, which is relevant, because we want to know what proportion of our national income is spent on the roads, shows a rise from £8 million to £20 million approximately.
To take the relationship between the three—this is the figure that I tried to give earlier—what percentage of the national income are we spending per million vehicles? Here we come across these remarkable figures. In 1946 we were spending .22 per cent. of our national income per 1 million vehicles. Today we are spending only .1 per cent. In those years Government expenditure on roads has risen dramatically. Local expenditure on road maintenance and improvement has fallen far behind the national need.
I will not continue with these figures. I shall put them in an envelope and send them to the Minister, because I think they will help him to diagnose the weakness in our road expenditure. I mention them only to indicate that this country, for economic reasons, will require greater centralisation of road building and planning than it has had in the past. That is a problem which makes me feel that there is a great deal to do in this field.
I pass now to another question: will the Bill do the job that it sets out to do? This is a growing problem and a predictable one. No official figures are published about the number of cars in the next few years, but with the help of the Library of the House and the projection of existing figures, I understand that in 1965 there could be as many as 13 million cars on the road. One reaches that figure through this progressive projection of 8 per cent. annually. The motor car manufacturers, to whom I was referred by the Library, were not in a position to give exact figures.
Any estimate that we make today will be overtaken by events. We know that from past experience. Does the Bill 1578 give the Minister power to tackle this problem? It tries, together with other powers, to go about it in two ways. The first way is by new roads—and we are not concerned tonight with the new road building programme, but with the aspect of road improvements. The second way is by raising the productivity of existing roads. That is what traffic engineering is about. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields said that he did not know what traffic engineering was about. It is using one's existing roads in such a way as to get a greater benefit out of them.
This is something which has been neglected in the past. When tackled efficiently—as no doubt it will be under Mr. Charlesworth and others in our cities—it will yield immediate benefit—indeed without great expenditure. Painting the white lines and getting the clearways will begin to make our roads do their job to their capacity, but the productivity of our roads, even at maximum, is still nothing like enough to deal with the oncoming flood of vehicles. I estimate that by traffic engineering methods we could increase the productivity of London roads by 30 per cent. I have no right to make that estimate, but I think it is roughly what one could reasonably hope to do, bearing the bottlenecks in mind. If we spent more on motorways we could perhaps increase it by 50 per cent.
These increases in productivity are not nearly enough, however. Some time ago—I believe it was in December—the Minister told the House that of every 100 persons coming into London 3 came by private car and 97 by public transport. He said that in Los Angeles it was the opposite way round. He added that London could never get within sight of the majority of people coming in by private car. In fact, saturation point has been reached and, even when we have achieved maximum productivity and have all the new roads, we can never cope. I believe the solution of this problem based on the productivity of the roads is doomed to failure.
I turn from that to the other solution to the problem, which is the productivity of the vehicle. If we could get better use of vehicles we might get even more benefit out of existing road space. That is why late the other night, when only the 1579 Joint Parliamentary Secretary was here, I confided to the Committee my statistic for the measurement of urban congestion. I will not go over it all again, except to tell the House the formula, because I have devoted more attention to it and I have one or two more figures.
If we want to measure the productivity of the vehicle we have to take four factors into consideration: how big is the vehicle; how long is it on the road; how many passengers does it carry; and how far does it carry them? These are the four elements in the productivity of a vehicle.
From this we get the statistic I gave, which is the square foot use of road space per passenger mile carried. It sounds rather extravagant, but we in the modern generation are used to such terms as net ton passenger miles and net cubic feet of space occupied. If we apply that figure to different types of vehicle we get a most startling result. I will not give exact measurements, but I estimate that a private limousine with a chauffeur is 300 times as wasteful of road space as a bus and is 200 times as wasteful of road space as a taxi, that is to say, if we clutter up the roads with private cars. I estimate that—and it is remarkable—if we take into consideration the fact that a taxi is on the move all day, carrying people about all day, that although it is smaller, it is almost as productive a vehicle as the bus. We think of the bus as more productive because it is bigger and holds more people, but the surprising thing is that in fact there is not much difference between them.
Therefore, I do not think we are ever going to break through urban congestion till we start to make, not only new roads —we are hoping for them—and not only better productivity of roads, but better productivity of vehicles. I move out now from my market economist's rôle, for I am not an economist, and I say that this, put quite simply, means that public transport in some form or another is the only answer. When I say public transport I do not just mean buses. In fact, I mean any vehicle which is only engaged for its prime purpose. Car hire is public transport and a hired car a public transport vehicle for this purpose.
1580 The question is, can the Minister under this Bill make any contribution to solving the problem of productivity of vehicles? I suspect that he can. My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) is always getting up in this House and saying we must ban private cars from the centre of London. I think he is quite right, but I think that to do it by dictatorship of that kind is quite impossible, and I fully support the Minister in rejecting it. The question is, how is he effectively to stop London from being throttled by private cars under the limited powers in this Bill, which is not really concerned with that at all? I think the answer to that is in the manipulation of the economics of urban motoring. I am sorry to introduce another phrase of that sort, for I very much hate those phrases, though I do not think there is any other way of describing it.
The Minister under this Bill has got power to do two things which will help solve this problem. This power to put up parking meters everywhere, and the power to force people into off-street garages, are very modest powers, but the Bill is changing the whole pattern of costs of a car in a city. One of my hon. Friends talked about the necessity for subsidising car parks. I do not think it is possible to subsidise cars in London and attract them into London by making urban motoring much cheaper than it really is. I am afraid we have to do it quite the other way. We have to try to relate the cost of one's urban motoring to the true cost of urban motoring, and it is not just a question of the cost of roads, of the supply and demand position on the roads.
My estimate of the position is this: with the Bill which will allow the Minister to get parking meters all over London and to put up car parks all over London, will he have enough power to make an impact on the problem? I have come to the conclusion that he will, because I have come to the conclusion that this Bill is ensuring that I, for instance, ought to sell my car.
I put this part of my argument in a personal way, because I do not think I can convince anybody that I am right unless I put it in personal terms. I am a very average motorist. I have a five-year-old car which I bought three years 1581 ago. I am not connected with a business firm, and, therefore, do not have anyone financing my car. I have to pay for the expenses of it myself, though some of them can, of course, be set off against my Parliamentary work. I am a perfectly average motorist, and I use my car for coming to and going from work. I use it in the evenings when going out with my wife, and when taking my children away on holidays, as I shall be doing this weekend.
What are the costs of my using this car today? Licensing, insurance, depreciation come to £80 a year. Repairs, mine being an old car, run between £60 and £80 a year.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ Mr. Benn
I am sorry to have gone beyond 10 o'clock, but I think it was inevitable. I hope that the Minister will be pleased with what I am going to say. After all, he must want people to give their own experiences, and I am going to be the answer to his problem.
My present expenditure on my own car is about £220 a year, as near as I can estimate it, but, of course, I am a very lucky man. I do not garage my car; I leave it out all night. If I garaged it, it would cost a lot of money, and although my car is gradually decaying, it is not decaying at the rate which it would cost me to garage it, so I leave it out. I am also a very lucky man because I am a Member of Parliament and do not have to pay to garage the car when I come up here. Supposing the Minister extends his parking meters to Notting Hill Gate, which I know he will, and suppose I was not a Member of Parliament but had to pay off-street car park charge every day I am at work, I estimate that it would cost me not less than £385 a year. Being a sensible man, with a wife and children to consider, I have to consider whether I am getting full value for that £385 a year, and I have come to the conclusion that I am not. I have sent for all the details of the care-hire 1582 services which are available, and I want to carry this a stage further.
What could I do if I sold my car and spent the £385 on hiring vehicles when I need them? The first thing to consider is that the House sits for thirty-three weeks in the year and five days a week. At a cost of £99 I can have a taxi to come here every day, instead of using the underground or driving my own car. I take my children away for a month in the summer, and I can hire a car exactly like my own, except that it would be brand new, for £77, plus £25 for petrol, and would be able to go away for a month and go where I like. That comes to £199, and I still have another £190 left.
Supposing we wanted to go to the Royal Garden Party. I could hire a chauffeur-driven Daimler for £9 a day and go to the garden party in it, where people would see me and say, "He is a bit of a lad", and would see the chauffeur touching his hat every time we were getting in and out. There would be those loudspeakers at the end of the garden party giving the names of the important people who were there. I always thought that a Royal Garden Party was a very high level until I heard the loudspeaker proclaim "The Sanitary Inspector of Chipping Sodbury", and saw a large man get into a large car. I would get into the big Daimler and drive off.
I am going into this business of hiring vehicles because a man can do this for far less expense than he would have by owning a car of his own. I should still have £150 left either to save or spend on having taxis everywhere I go.
This is really the product of the power which lies in the Minister's hands as a result of this Bill. I can only tell the Minister that this Bill may give him, if he uses it creatively, the power to tackle the problem, but it means the disappearance—perhaps not the disappearance, but the strict limitation—of the private motorist in all big cities. If I were head of London Transport, I should take this as the most exciting challenge that ever faced me. People must not think of public transport only in terms of buses.
Why do people come in by car instead of by bus? Not because it is cheaper; it is much more expensive. It is because the car is a personal thing which takes one exactly where one wants to be, and people want a higher level and a better 1583 quality of transport. If I were the Chairman of the London Transport Executive, I would buy 500 Mini-Minors or Austin Sevens, paint them red, and start a London Transport taxi service at cut rates, on standard routes and at prices which people could afford to pay, because they would be getting a better form of transport than they were accustomed to.
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) raised another question which is closely related to this—how to tie this up with rail travel.
I fully agree with the hon. Member that we must have car-hire services, taxi services, and garage services at railway stations because, if we want people to use the public services in London, we must provide them with the points of connection which will enable them to come in by train and go on by taxi or, if they live in London, drive to the station and go out by train. This undoubtedly opens a new field if one thinks of it in terms of productivity of vehicles.
I am sorry to have put forward all this at a late stage in the Bill but I think that this is a most interesting subject and I am grateful for having been given this opportunity to think about it. I am grateful also to the Minister for all that I have learned from him. But this is the beginning and not the end of the problem. In the Bill we are giving the Minister great powers, though I think not enough. He will be coming back for more and I can give him the absolute assurance that if he wants powers he will always find the Opposition ready and anxious to help him to do the job.
The right hon. Gentleman will find in future that our criticism of him, as it has been today, will be only if we think that he is not doing enough and only if we think that he is not tackling the job with vigour and imagination. The right hon. Gentleman has in some respects, from the point of view of the comfort and pleasure of his fellow-citizens, the biggest job in the Government, and on Third Reading of this Bill we wish him well in that task.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Marples
We are all greatly indebted to the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) for his unfailing 1584 good humour and courtesy at all stages of the passage of the Bill and for what I called in Committee upstairs his unremitting assiduity in research. The only thing that disappointed me about that was that when I looked at the first HANSARD proof of my speech which I had to correct, I found that HANSARD had spelled it "aciduity".
The hon. Member has given me plenty of advice free of charge. I have listened to it all and I shall analyse it very carefully later, as I have analysed his speech on the Finance Bill. I hope that he will obtain a good price for his car, and I hope that he passes his advanced motoring test before he disposes of it in case he has to drive a hire-car, but if the hon. Member has any doubt, why does he not buy a bicycle? Running that will not cost him anything.
I agree with the hon. Member when he says that the Bill is only a start. There is not the slightest shadow of doubt that this is only the beginning in our efforts to get to grips with this traffic problem. Not for a moment do I underestimate the magnitude of the task, but merely because it is difficult there is no reason for shrinking from it. Somebody must try to solve it. There will be many mistakes. I cannot help that, but I shall try my best to correct them.
The passage of the Bill has shown one thing to me. It is that an agreement freely arrived at between Government and Opposition on a voluntary timetable produces a far better debate from the point of view of both sides of the House at all stages of the Bill. There is no doubt at all about that. It has been quite an eye-opener to me to find what a small amount of time we have wasted on the Bill compared with what happens with an ordinary Bill when people start filibustering and making senseless speeches. I am grateful to the Opposition for this.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said that the Government had obtained the Bill fairly quickly, and I think that we have. This is an object lesson to us. We had a debate on 10th December, when we had the Christmas experiment of the Pink Zone, and I must say to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that there was a full legal basis for the Pink Zone, as he would have appreciated if he had done 1585 me the honour of reading in full one of those speeches of mine of which people quote only a couple of sentences. I said that one of the weaknesses of the Pink Zone was the impossibility of the police enforcing it, because the motorist came back, chanced his arm, and kept whittling the zone away. Once the motorist found that it could not be enforced, we had to rely on his good nature. Quite a number of people, however, took advantage of the situation.
We had that debate in December. Instructions were given to Parliamentary counsel in January, the Bill was presented at the end of March and now, on 1st June, we have reached Report and Third Reading. It does great credit to a democracy that that can happen. Few countries would pass a Bill of this magnitude in the normal manner instead of an enabling Bill to give the Minister a diktat. I agree with the hon. Member for Bermondsey that the country does not want dictatorship of that sort. It wants the co-operation that it has always had betwen central and local government.
I should like to deal with one or two of the points that were made on Clauses 1 and 2. These are Clauses sponsored by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, to whom I am grateful. I am also grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who gave such yeoman service upstairs in Committee, to my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who dealt effectively with the single Scottish Amendment from the other side, and to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary from my own Department, whose first Bill this is. I am sure that he found it much easier than my first Bill, which was the Rent Bill, when we had a guillotine and rows until the early hours night after night. I am grateful for my hon. Friend's patience and skill.
There seems to be a conflict of advice concerning traffic wardens and the ticket system. The hon. Member for Bermondsey wants the policeman to warn extensively, as he does now. My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) wants 100 per cent. enforcement. I cannot agree with both of them. What I can say, however, is that in enforcement a citizen should have the right to go to court and the prosecution 1586 has the duty of proving its case. That is fundamental to the ticket system. It is no good people saying that there will be automatic fines. There will not. Anybody can go to court and defend himself. That is how it should be.
Another question was, why not train more police? Even if we could get more police and train them, I still think that it would be advisable to have the traffic wardens and give them a trial, because the police would be better employed in catching criminals than chasing the motorist if the traffic wardens can do the job well.
I did not know that the hon. Member for Bermondsey had so many policemen in his family. Had I known, I should have been much more careful in dealing with him. When I was at the Post Office, one of the men left and joined the police force. When we had the courtesy campaign, he wrote to me and said that the pay and conditions in the police force, about which we have heard tonight, were not as good as in the Post Office, but that what he liked best of all about the job was that the customer was always wrong. I forget the signature. It might have been "Mellish", but I do not know.
I agree with the hon. Member in saying that we will not tolerate a second-rate police force. Neither would I. It will not, however, be a police force, but a corps of auxiliaries with limited power. They will not have the powers which an ordinary constable possesses, but they will come under the jurisdiction of the police force.
I agree that the establishment of fixed penalties should not interfere with the warning practice of the police. We must, however, remember that the use of the ticket system is also discretionary. A warden is not bound to serve a ticket on the driver of a car that is parked in the wrong place, but only in cases where the offence is clearly seen. For example, the yellow line to indicate an intersection is intended to prevent cars standing near an intersection because a car in such a position causes more damage than a car which is parked 200 yards away. If a man leaves his car at an intersection and obstructs the traffic, it is right and proper that he should get a ticket. He would 1587 deserve one. I hope that the system will be used in that way.
Suppose, for example, that when the plan gets into operation later this year, we designate several roads as throughways to the centre of London from the suburbs so that traffic can come in in the early morning and go out in the evening rush hour. We might make a rule that there is to be no parking on, say, the Edgware Road or Cromwell Road during those hours. There is no point in having such an order unless it is enforced to the maximum, because one car could wreck the whole flow. Such a car should be towed away and the man must pay to get it back again and he should be issued with a ticket.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford and the right hon. Member for South Shields that this experiment in London will fail unless we take the public with us and explain what we are doing and it is seen that it is for the benefit of the majority of motorists. Once the people recognise this, they will accept enforcement.
I am sorry that our intentions concerning the 50 m.p.h. limit were not presented earlier, but the House had the Order some time ago and we had great difficulty in getting the scheme out for Whitsun. In the case of the London traffic, however, we shall have much more time.
My next point concerns the acceptance of tickets and the number of people who will go to court. I have had more figures, although not as many as the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, which show that 70 par cent. of excess charges demanded on the parking meters, which are run by local authority attendants, are paid by return or within a few days, because the offenders know that they have done wrong. Twenty per cent. have paid after a letter has been sent and in about 10 per cent. of the cases, for one reason or another, possibly because the case is not one in which an excess fee should be charged, no action is taken. These are the figures for north-west Mayfair. I expect that there will be similar results when the new arrangement begins, but I hope that in the early stages—I shall pass the views of the House to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary when next I see him 1588 —the police will treat it cautiously. It is an experiment. We do not want it to fail. It is important that it should get off on the right foot.
The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) hoped that the Chief Commissioner would use women traffic wardens. There is power in the Bill to employ women, but the Chief Commissioner does not want to employ them at first because this is an experimental scheme and he wants to establish a drill with men.
§ Miss Herbison
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that that is right? It is a paltry reason. Why should he want to establish a drill with men? If he wants to establish a drill why not do so with both men and women? That is no reason at all; it is only prejudice.
§ Mr. Marples
In this harmonious Bill I must not get into an argument with an hon. Member of the opposite sex, because I know that I should come off worse. I would merely say that it is the Chief Commissioner's view that this is a first experiment. We can only hope that it will be successful.
The Government's policy is that off-street parking must be at an economic price. I hold different views from my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) on this matter. I have worked out statistics relating to what it costs a person to stay in an hotel in the centre of London, or to occupy office space there. Averaged out in Mayfair, it means that the motorist who occupies 70 sq. ft. of space will have to pay pro rata—and I think that he should.
I turn now to the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright). I forgot his constituency but not his majority. I remembered that he had a majority of 28,000. I would tell him that the Government have no intention of giving loans to local authorities at low interest rates in order to subsidise off-street parking. More will have to be paid for off-street parking in the centre of London than in a little village or in the suburbs. The figure will naturally fluctuate, according to the place.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) that we must get good quality people for traffic wardens. That point was also raised by the hon. Member for 1589 Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). We believe that it will be possible to get them, probably from ex-police officers and retired Service men, many of whom leave the Services at the age of 45 and are sometimes very difficult to place in jobs.
§ Mr. Marples
I quite agree. I am sure that they would work very well. I cannot impose my views, or even mention them as freely as hon. Members can. When I say anything it commits the Government and my colleagues. Everybody knows what a cautious nature I have. I must be careful what I say. But once, when I was making a private speech, in order to try to provide a little humour I suggested that if relations were wrong between the police and the public the introduction of women traffic wardens might have a great advantage. They could be given uniforms designed by Norman Hartnell or Christian Dior and have a hair-do once a week. That might do a great deal to promote good relations, although there would be a high wastage rate among traffic wardens. In the Post Office the wastage rate is called the marriage rate, for some reason. I do not know why marriage should be considered wastage. It is generally productive of all sorts of things, but not wastage.
To the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East I would say that we have started on our traffic problem late, but now that I have been in this office for some months I am not certain that that will ultimately prove to be a disadvantage, because I think that we shall learn from the mistakes made by others, not only in regard to the technique of road building but in deciding what we want the roads to do, where they should go, and how they should be deployed.
In Los Angeles the authorities are bitterly worried, although they have the finest road system in the world—a four-level fly-over which takes up 80 acres of ground in the centre of Los Angeles. We cannot afford 80 acres of ground in the centre of London. If we were to tackle our problem in the same way as Los Angeles has tackled its problem, by relying purely on roads, we should have to extend London as far north as Leeds 1590 and as far south as Dieppe, in France. I am becoming more and more convinced that merely to build roads in a senseless fashion will not solve the problem; it will be solved only when we relate the building of roads and the activities of the city to the traffic.
That is why we have made a magnificent catch for our long-term study group, which is going into the problem in order to see how we should build cities and what we should expect from them. One of the first things to decide is how we shall live in our cities. It is a fascinating problem, and if I could talk about it in private with the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East I should be delighted to give him far more information than I can give at this Dispatch Box.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hallam said that if shops did not help in off-street car parking they were likely to lose business, and I agree with him.
At Stevenage New Town, which has a pedestrian precinct and a service area, pedestrians are segregated. One can leave one's car in a big car park, and there is a wonderful shopping centre there. People from all round Stevenage come to shop at Stevenage because they can leave their cars in the car park and their wives can walk freely and without any danger of being knocked down while they are shopping. The curious thing is that in many cases people from the areas around new towns go into the new towns to do their shopping. All these experiments have to be studied, but I assure the House that in this island with 50 million people on it, and the shortage of space, it will be impossible to adopt some of the American customs.
There are one or two more points which I should like to mention. Some of these Clauses will be very useful. Clause 13 deals with the removal and storing of vehicles. I assure the hon. Gentleman with the address in southeast London and when the Bill becomes law on 1st September we shall take effective action straight away in that quarter
Clause 14, which deals with abandoned vehicles, will be very useful.
Then I can sell some distributors to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire. 1591 East, and I sorry that he got into difficulties in the West Country. He got an index number from the West Country and when he went there the police did not treat him very well.
§ Mr. Marples
The hon. Member was treated a little harshly, and he asked what he could do. He might write a note saying, "I am a Scot, forgive me". It has been suggested that he should get a number from the Outer Hebrides and put a "flag of convenience" on his car.
Clause 17 gives default powers to the Minister, and I repeat what I said in Committee upstairs, that I hope the Clause will never be used. That is my fervent hope. I am grateful to the House for giving me that Clause without a Division, and to the local authorities for agreeing to it. It shows the spirit of good will that we have had in this matter, and which must continue in future. If the Clause is used I shall be a very disappointed man, because one of the things this country does not want, and will never tolerate, is a dictator. It may be that in this respect we have to move fast in traffic. That is why we have only five years for some of these measures.
The hour is late, but I say to the right hon. Member for South Shields that I appreciate his speech. It was a very charming and very fair speech from a man who has had many years of distinguished service in this House. I assure him that I appreciated his speech and in my present job I also appreciate the good will that I get from the public generally. I have been fortified and heartened by letters that have come to me, because they have all been written by people interested in the problem who have gone to a great deal of trouble in drawing maps and putting forward suggestions, and hardly any of the letters has been of an abusive character.
It is words such as the right hon. Member for South Shields used that are a great source of strength to a young 1592 Minister like myself, and I appreciate them very much. I know that this is a difficult job. I do not under-estimate it. We are at the start of a great problem. There is an avalanche of cars, and cars are powerful instruments. Like all powerful instruments, they can be used either for good or for evil. The indiscriminate use of a motor car is evil, but the controlled use of a motor car can bring inestimable benefit to almost everyone. It is a tough and rough job but I am grateful to the House for giving me the Bill and for being so kind and generous to me personally, and I am fortified by the good wishes that I have received.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.