§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
I beg to move,That this House, mindful of the need to improve traffic flow and ease traffic congestion by the elimination of indiscriminate long-term car parking, calls upon the competent authorities to control street parking in their areas, to promote parking meter schemes, and to facilitate the provision of off-street parking places and garages.
§ Mr. Speaker
It might be convenient if I were now to indicate that the Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne), at the end to add:and, further, calls upon them to bear in mind the needs of industry when considering the imposition of an unloading time ban and stresses the need for adequate parking space for heavy goods vehicles.is not selected.
§ Mr. Goodhew
May I, first, express my gratitude to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, for the opportunity to initiate this debate this morning. The subject may not seem to be of earth-shattering importance in a world of spaceships and cosmonauts, of insurrections and rebellions, but, nevertheless, it is a subject which I think affects very vitally the economic health of our commercial centres. It is a subject which cuts across party lines, and, therefore, I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will this morning be able to support the broad principles which I have outlined in my Motion even though they feel unable to agree with everything I may say. I hope, nevertheless, that there will be no one in the Chamber who disagrees with my suggestion that traffic flow can be improved and congestion eased by the elimination of indiscriminate long-term parking.
We have seen remarkable increases in the number of vehicles, both private and commercial, during the past few 764 decades. Indeed, the increase in private vehicles, in particular, during the past ten years can only be described as spectacular. No one, I am sure, would deny that this result of a newly widespread prosperity is to be warmly welcomed for the many advantages it has brought to so many people. The worker in the industrial area can take his family out into the fresh air and sunshine to enjoy the seaside or the countryside at weekends. More and more people are able to drive off with their families on holiday to explore various parts of the British Isles and, indeed, the Continent, whereas, in years gone by, their horizons have been confined to a much narrower choice, due mainly to the difficulties and the cost involved in moving families about by public transport.
This we warmly welcome. It brings a new spirit of independence and adventure into the lives of these people, to say nothing of the advantages that may accrue to their health. But this new widespread ownership of cars brings its problems as well. Once people have enjoyed the convenience of the motor car they quite naturally make the best use of it that they can on every possible occasion and are loath to walk even short distances. The motor car encourages this type of laziness. I must confess that I am probably among the laziest of motorists in the country. I live only three or four minutes from the House, yet I seldom come here on foot. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Indeed, if I only need to walk a quarter of a mile to do some shopping, I take my car, and so do hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other motorists.
Everyone wants to park his car as near as possible to the shops when going shopping, as near as possible to his office or other place of work during the working day, and as near as possible to the beach if he goes to the coast for a day's outing. Thus it is that we find our streets, even in some small towns, congested by parked cars. This prevents those who wish to do so from moving along the streets at a reasonable pace, and traffic jams result. Congestion is not the only difficulty resulting from the lack of control over street parking. The long-term parker tends to monopolise the available space, to the detriment of the would-be short-term parker. We know only too well that there are people 765 who take their car to work every day. They arrive early in the morning and park the car as near as they can to their office or shop, or wherever it is they work. Having done so, they leave it there all day until the time comes for them to depart for home.
As a result, much, if not all, of the kerbside accommodation is taken up by about ten o'clock in the morning, and people who wish to come to shop or to do business in the area find that they have to park some distance away, very often half a mile or so, and walk to their destination. This results not only in great inconvenience to would-be short-term parkers, but reacts unfavourably on trade and business in the area. That was the position in Mayfair until the introduction of parking meters.
It has long been accepted that some sort of control on street parking is necessary. We have tried various methods, including unilateral parking, in which parking is permitted on one side of the street only, perhaps on alternate days. In some places parking has been limited, strictly speaking, for one or two hours, but there has been little check on that and there is no real method of checking. There are streets in which waiting is not allowed at all.
These are a few of the methods which have been tried in the past, and none of them has achieved the same success as the use of parking meters. By this type of scheme, parking in any one street can be limited to a number of cars which would permit a free movement of traffic in the street and allow spaces to be left for vehicles to load and unload. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) will have something to say about the problem of loading and unloading if he manages to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, later in the debate.
Leaving a space for loading and unloading avoids one of the biggest snags in congested areas, namely, the double parking of cars. Anyone who had reason to drive through Mayfair or attempt to park there during the past few years, will agree with me about the success of the meter scheme. Formerly, squares like Hanover Square were congested with vehicles, and anyone attempting to drive through the Square had virtually to pick his way very carefully and slowly along the narrow 766 channel which was left. Cars were left there all day by people working in the area and the whole neighbourhood including many surrounding streets suffered because of the slow movement of the traffic. Now that there are parking meters in the square, a much larger amount of traffic is able to flow freely through it.
Not only is there a much easier movement of traffic, but the short-term parker has, at last, some chance of finding a space in which to park his car for an hour or two somewhere near his destination. Meters have been such an outstanding success in the areas where they have been tried that it surprises me that more local authorities have not followed the lead given by Westminster. The Borough of St. Marylebone was quick to follow, and now there are meters in some parts of the Boroughs of Holborn and St. Pancras. I understand that shortly they are to be used in the City of London and in Shoreditch. I congratulate the authorities of all these Metropolitan boroughs on their initiative. Surely there must be other streets in such places as Chelsea, Kensington and, it may be, Padding-ton—
§ Mr. Goodhew
—to name only a few of the other Metropolitan boroughs, where meters would ease the flow of traffic and assist in gaining access to premises.
Outside London, progress has been even slower. I believe that meters are operated in Bristol and that next month there will be some in Manchester. But there must be many provincial towns and cities, and seaside towns, not necessarily of a great size, where, in certain streets, there is a complete lack of control over parking. I have only to think of my own constituency, the ancient city of St. Albans, with its narrow streets, which are often congested, to realise that this problem is not confined to large industrial and commercial centres.
I understand that local prejudices exist in my area. Many traders and others believe that the provision of meters would prevent customers from visiting their shops. But quite the reverse is the case. These same fears were expressed 767 in Westminster before the parking meter scheme was introduced, but experience has shown that the meters have eliminated the long-term, selfish parker who wished to occupy part of the road all day. This has enabled a much larger number of cars to be brought into the area because each parking space serves a number of oars throughout the day, and more people are able to do business or to trade in the area.
This means that many more people are able to visit shops in the West End than was possible in the past. Indeed, all commercial interests have benefited considerably. So I hope that the authorities of St. Albans and other cities and towns will have another look at their parking problems to see whether they can tackle them now. Parking congestion in these places may not yet have reached the same intensity as in London, but surely now is the time to take remedial action, before the streets become choked by traffic.
It may be that the existing regulations covering meters are not sufficiently flexible for the differing needs of various areas. I understand that under Section 86 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, local authorities are only able to designate a standard period for which there is a standard charge, and a half-standard period for which there is a half-standard charge. This sounds rather complicated, but it means that in a place like Westminster there is a standard period of two hours for which the charge is 1s., and a half-standard period of a half-hour for which the charge is 6d. It can be varied as to the period for which the appropriate charge is provided, but it cannot be varied to the extent of saying, "We will have a two-hour limit costing 2s. and charge 6d. per half-hour, so that it will be 6d. for half-an-hour, 1s. for an hour, 1s. 6d. for an hour-and-a-half and 2s. for two hours."
To me, this seems a fallacy in the present law. There must be seaside towns where a five-hour limit would be more appropriate. Motorists coming to the town at lunch-time may want to stay for the afternoon and leave in the evening, and in that case a reasonable charge would be 6d. an hour. The motorist could then pay 6d. for each hour with a maximum charge of 2s. 6d. 768 for a total of five hours. On the other hand, there may be busy shopping areas where a maximum of one hour or an hour-and-a-half would be more appropriate.
In that case, the charge could be 3d. for 20 minutes, 6d. for 40 minutes and 9d. for an hour. One can think of many other permutations and combinations, and it would be a great benefit to local authorities if more flexibility could be introduced in the regulations so that they could tailor a scheme to their own requirements. At present, they can do so only within very narrow limits and I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will consider the possibility of amending the provisions.
Local authorities planning to introduce meters should, at the same time, plan for off-street parking, because meters and garages go together. Both are essential for the continued prosperity of any major urban centre. Meters ease the traffic flow, for motorists coming in and out of the area, and garages provide accommodation for those who wish to stay in the area for longer periods. I do not consider that it is fair to the motorist to introduce meters without also providing accommodation for long-term parking. On the other hand, it is no good doing it the other way round. It is a waste of money to build expensive multi-storey car parks or underground garages and then not to control street parking.
Experience shows that to be only too true. The big modern car park for 1,000 cars, built at the back of Selfridges and operated by the Lex Company, used to be only about a quarter full when the only meter zone was at the north-west corner of Mayfair. Now that the whole of May-fair and part of St. Marylebone north of Oxford Street are meter zones the garage is used to capacity.
A similar position appertains in the City of London. Under Route 11 there is a large underground car park at present practically empty because everyone can park free in the streets. I am certain that when parking meters are introduced into the area that underground garage will be used to capacity.
A survey of traffic conditions is vital if local authorities are to cope with this ever-growing problem of providing 769 various types of parking space for the motorist. I hope that those who are looking into this will look ahead, because it is no good planning for today. There has been an increase from about 2½ million to 5½ ion private cars alone in the last nine or ten years, and this rate of increase will be stepped up all the time. Local authorities must, therefore, look ahead in considering what provisions they may need for the future.
In large cities like London, thought should first be given to the provision of multi-storey car parks on the periphery and somewhere close to railway stations or bus stops from which the motorist can reach his destination in the centre. One can think of many roads into London—Western Avenue, the Great West Road, and the A.1, to mention but a few—which are good, fast roads up to a certain point. But they do not come into the centre of London, and when people reach the end of that fast road they get snarled up in London traffic. It is, therefore, logical to provide garages at the point where the good, fast road ends and where London's traffic begins, which the motorist can use if he wants to come in by car just so far and no further.
The motorist could, in that case, travel in comparative comfort and with reasonable speed along the trunk road. He could park his car and then come by Underground or by bus into the centre. If he could travel by Underground he would probably arrive at his destination much quicker and be less a bag of nerves than he would if he motored there. I am thinking of people travelling along Western Avenue and then having to struggle through Shepherds Bush and Notting Hill Gate before finally getting through to Marble Arch.
That should be the first thought in long-term planning. It would be a great help to motorists, and would, at the same time, relieve congestion in the central area. We should encourage people not to bring their cars into the centre by providing them with a more comfortable alternative. I understand that in America that is common practice. They have a park and ride scheme whereby one brings one's car in just so far on the fast road. At that point there is a big park or garage, and from there special express buses are run into the centre of the city so that the motorist has a convenient form of transport immediately available to him.
770 In the central area of London and in other large cities there will always be a need for long-term parking accommodation for motorists wishing to bring their cars into the centre and who are displaced by parking meters. One or two garages are being built not far from this House, in Audley Square and Savile Row.
The Government have shown their anxiety to tackle this problem of traffic in London by forging ahead with plans for a 1,000 car underground car park in Hyde Park. We dealt with the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill only a day or two ago. I hope that the problem will not be tackled in too higgledy piggledy a fashion. It is essential to have an overall plan. For instance, it is far better to have four garages each taking 250 cars spread over an area than to have one garage taking 1,000 cars. That is obvious, because the majority of people who use these long-term car parks in the central area are people who work there and arrive between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and leave between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. If we have a large number of cars either converging on one point or disgorging at that point into the general stream of traffic at peak hours, there will be trouble. The positioning of these garages must be carefully planned.
The provision of off-street parking places and garages is a matter for the local authority concerned. The Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act, 1960, improved the position considerably by enabling local authorities to provide off-street parking places in buildings which were used for other purposes as well. This means that where sites are very expensive, as they are in the centre of London and other large cities, a building may be erected with offices and showrooms in so many rooms on the ground floor and flats or offices as appropriate on other floors in addition to the parking accommodation. Thus it is that the revenue produced by this form of accommodation can be used to reduce the charges made to motorists who wish to park.
I regard that as an important advance which should facilitate the provision of off-street parking facilities in city centres. Nevertheless, suitable sites are exceedingly expensive to purchase, and they are 771 often not easy to find. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister, having started with this site under Hyde Park Corner, will consider the possibility of assisting in places like London to find suitable sites which can be used for that purpose.
There is one other way in which the Government could and should help local authorities in the provision of multi-storey car parks and underground garages. At present, local authorities are compelled to use the profits they make out of parking meters to provide off-street parking places. This is a good thing. It is an encouragement to them to build off-street parking places as well as putting meters on the streets, but before they can do so they are subject to Income Tax on the profits on those meters. This is absurd. Not only does it make the provision of off-street parking places more difficult for the local authority, but, as far as I know, it is contrary to ordinary Income Tax practice.
If I ran a commercial company which had one short-term parking area on which I made a profit, and I also had a multi-storey car park for long-term parking on which I made a loss, I would be able to offset the loss on the long-term car park against the profit on the short-term one, and I would pay tax on the profit resulting from the two transactions, if there was a profit at all.
I cannot see why local authorities should be taxed on one aspect of their car parking activities. Nor, for that matter, can I see why local authorities should be taxed on any of their activities, but I know that you will rule me out of order, Mr. Speaker, if I pursue that point further.
I hope that the Government will look at the question of meter profits and their taxation and make provision, perhaps even in the forthcoming Finance Bill, to free local authorities from this impost. It is unreasonable, and a disincentive to the provision of off-street parking places.
Another method of easing traffic flow into and out of cities is the clearway. Hon. Members will know that this system is to be applied in the area between Knightsbridge and Chiswick flyover. The idea is that at peak hours when much traffic is coming in and out there should be no stationary vehicles 772 on the carriageway. The carriageway should be absolutely clear of them and a maximum width left for moving traffic. This is something which could be used to great advantage. It is to be applied only at peak hours, not throughout the day, but it would be well for local authorities to look at that method.
I emphasise that roads were built in the first place for vehicles to travel upon. It is no use widening roads and then, as so often happens, having done that, so to narrow them by allowing people to park on either side and to leave their cars there all day that the roads are cluttered up with traffic. I believe that the Government can help in the ways I have mentioned. There is the question of more flexibility in the meter regulations, assistance perhaps in London, in particularly expensive and difficult areas, and the removal of taxation of meter revenue, but, when all is said and done, the final responsibility must fall on the local authority.
It is the local authorities which know—or, if they do not know, which can find out—how many cars pass through their towns or cities, how many park there, how many are parked for short periods and how many for long periods. They can make a survey to discover the extent of their problem and then find a way of overcoming it. Only they can discover where and when they may need to control street parking. It may be only a question of doing so in the peak hours, or they may need to have control on Saturdays or market days or, in the case of seaside resorts, only at weekends. It is they who will see rateable values diminish if they allow their town centres to stagnate merely because the traffic becomes so impossible to control that people do not come in to shop and do business.
There are various services from which they can obtain expert advice, organisations like the British Road Federation, which has made a great study of the problem and done much useful research, and technical publications like Traffic Engineering and Control, edited by the former Member for Enfield, East, Mr. Ernest Davies; and there is access to much expert opinion. There is always my right hon. Friend and his Department who, I am sure, are always ready 773 and happy to give advice on these very important matters. I hope that all local authorities with a traffic problem will consider whether control of parking can help them. If some are encouraged by today's debate to do so our time in this House this morning will not have been wasted.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
The House, and I think the public, will be grateful to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) for taking advantage of this opportunity to draw attention to the parking problem in so many of our large towns, but he himself is a typical example of the problem. He mentioned—I hope I am not doing him an injustice—that he lives quite near to this House yet invariably uses his car for the purpose of getting here.
Far too many people use their cars unnecessarily in that way. It is because good citizens like the hon. Member make excessive use of their cars that, at least in the centre of London, we are faced with a problem of growing difficulty. All these devices, whether in the form of parking meters or off-street garages, are merely nibbling at the problem. They all represent half-hearted measures for keeping cars out of the centres of London and other large towns. It is of course quite impossible, because of the expense, to alter the centres of large towns like London and some provincial cities for the purpose of coping with the growing amount of motor traffic. Therefore, the authorities devise ways and means of trying to keep cars out of their centres.
I have mentioned this before, but I have no hesitation in mentioning it again. One of these days the Minister of Transport will have to make up his mind whether or not to allow any more cars to come into the centre of London. I remember that when I first put forward that suggestion there was a tremendous display of indignation, not only on the Government Front Bench but in other quarters. Nevertheless, I am still of the opinion that one of these days it may be necessary, however unpopular—and it may not be as unpopular as the Government think—to stop private cars coming into London unless their drivers have a very good reason which is satisfactory to the controlling traffic authority.
774 It has been established that traffic requirements in Central London could easily be satisfied by London Transport. We would then get a much more economical use of bus services. The bus services would be able to run much more promptly and get more quickly from one place to another if in parts of Central London cars were not allowed to take up room on the roadway merely for the purpose of, for instance, bringing one passenger from the City of London to Kensington. You Mr. Speaker, possibly see from your own windows here in the Palace of Westminster during the rush hours in the morning and evening vast numbers of private cars, some very large, taking people from and to their places of work. Often there is only one person in a car which is taking up almost as much room on the roadway as a bus which could carry a large number of people.
We must make the best and most economical use of the very valuable road space at our disposal in Central London, which, as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will agree, cannot be indefinitely extended. More road facilities are not there and cannot be provided except at ruinous expense. Another point is that the easier we make it for cars to come into Central London the more will come in. Then we shall never be able to catch up with the problem. The hon. Member for St. Albans has drawn attention to the Hyde Park underground garage scheme. The only effect of that will be that 1,000 cars will come into that part of the West End which otherwise would not be able to come there because there would not be accommodation for them. There will be 1,000 cars coming in whose owners would otherwise be dissuaded from coming.
As the hon. Member suggested, we would not envy the job of anyone trying to control traffic at Marble Arch in the rush hours in the morning and evening when those 1,000 cars are trying to get in and out of that garage. By providing these additional facilities, the authorities are piling up the difficulties and are worse off than when they started.
The hon. Member for St. Albans suggested that the parking meter system should be extended. I agree that meters 775 may serve some useful purpose in keeping cars out of the Central London area. There is no other object in the system. The local authorities are not being asked to install them for revenue purposes. The primary object is to keep cars out.
§ Mr. Goodhew
Surely that is narrowing the point somewhat? Is not the object to make the best use of the parking space available by seeing that one person does not hog it all day, thus allowing more people to come in and out and do their business?
§ Mr. Lipton
I do not want people to come in and out in cars. I am not so enamoured of parking meters as is the hon. Gentleman. He suggests that meters might be installed in Brixton, but the trouble there is that there is not room enough for pedestrians to walk. I suggest that he comes himself tomorrow and sees the position. We do not want any more people or cars. We do not want anything but to be left alone in peace and quiet.
The next point was not referred to by the hon. Member in his interesting speech. In a place like Brixton, which is a residential area—and this applies also to other residential areas in the inner London boroughs—we have been faced for some time with the problem of the all-night parking of heavy commercial vehicles. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) will probably have something to say about it, because it affects his part of the Borough of Lambeth as much as mine.
Huge 10, 15 and 20 ton lorries park in what have hitherto been quiet residential thoroughfares, which have no businesses or factories in them. These great monstrosities park there at 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening. They do not even belong to Lambeth, or have anything to do with the neighbourhood, but come from the Midlands and elsewhere. They park outside dwelling-houses all night. The drivers want to make early starts next morning, the diesels begin warming up at about 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and there is banging, revving-up, and shouting, with the result that the unfortunate people who live in the neighbourhood are wakened up and are unable to get to sleep again.
776 I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall has taken this matter up. I myself have taken it up with the local authority, but it has no powers to deal with the problem. Lambeth Borough Council confessed that it was helpless. I have taken it up with the police, but they also are helpless. All they can do, if a man is making too much noise, is to ask him if he will be so kind as to reduce the noise, but they have no powers to do anything about it.
§ Mr. Lipton
That is not quite so easy. These drivers are not obstructing anybody in these side streets.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
I understand that to park a vehicle anywhere can be an obstruction within the meaning of the law.
§ Mr. Lipton
These drivers are not obstructing anybody. The only people who are obstructed—in a very unusual sense of the word—are those obstructed from getting a proper night's sleep. That is not the same kind of obstruction that hon. Members here have been trying to bring to our notice.
§ Mr. Lipton
In that case, the policeman has to report the matter and take proceedings. In the meantime, the people living in the street do not get their proper night's sleep. It may well be that, if expensive lawyers are briefed, and the already overwhelmed magistrates' courts in London are further overwhelmed by a large number of summonses of this kind, some solution might eventually be found, but that is no way out of the matter. Our citizens are entitled to speedier relief than that.
I have raised this question before in the House. The Minister said that he would take up the matter with Lambeth Borough Council. To save him time, I sent him the reply which I had already had from the council. He then said that he would take it up with the police. I said that I had already done so. The Minister tells us that this is a problem, 777 and that he will enter into consultation with all the 28 Metropolitan Boroughs and, possibly, the London County Council as well, and perhaps with some authorities outside the L.C.C. area, but goodness knows when we shall see any practical improvement in a deplorable situation.
I hope that the Government will go into the matter speedily. The powers of local authorities to deal with this problem are much less than they should be. The Government know that a borough like Lambeth will find it very difficult and expensive to provide a sufficient amount of off-street parking in an already congested area where land is expensive and where, if a site becomes available, it is more urgently required for housing than for anything else. I hope that, as a result of this debate, we shall succeed in persuading the Government that much more drastic action is required than has hitherto been considered.
I do not want to take up the time of the House with other aspects of the problem which, no doubt, other hon. Members will refer to. But traders have a responsibility in this matter too, and can organise the reception of goods to fit in with the general needs of the public. In Bracknell, Berkshire, there has been considerable discussion for some time about whether parking should be allowed on both sides of the High Street. One of the main reasons why parking on both sides is desired is that local traders consider that their commercial interests will be adversely affected if parking is permitted on one side of the street only.
That has started quite an argument between the rural district council, the Berkshire County Council and local trading organisations, and all the time within a few yards of the High Street there are ample car parking facilities which people will not use because, according to the hon. Member for St. Albans, they do not want to walk round the corner. They want to step out of the car into the grocer's shop and step back again when they have done their shopping.
If it is necessary for the Government to take additional powers, I am certain that public opinion will be solidly behind them. We cannot possibly tolerate a 778 state of affairs in which people cannot move about during the daytime and are deprived of their sleep at night.
§ 11.51 a.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)
I wish to refer, first of all, to what the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) said about the all-night parking problem. It is an intolerable burden for people who are awakened by lorries which start up early in the morning and give them no chance of getting further sleep. I have this problem in my own constituency, particularly with lorries using the Great West Road. They park after driving all night, rev up and wake everybody there. The police seem to be rather reluctant to act. As the hon. Member said, one makes representations to the local authorities and the police, without getting anywhere at all. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will pursue inquiries in this direction, because the problem is causing a tremendous amount of trouble to large numbers of people in the greater London area.
I join in the congratulations tendered to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) for the attractive way in which he has moved this important Motion. It is a great pity that there are not more hon. Members here to join in the debate. This is an all-embracing subject which affects a very large number of hon. Members who represent constituencies in London and the Greater London area. I represent a Greater London area constituency, and I should like to deal with aspects of the parking problem in London itself. The majority of the people of working age who live in my constituency work in the centre of London and commute daily. Until two or three years ago those who owned cars went by road, but today a much smaller number do so. I prophesy that within a matter of a year or so hardly any of them will go by car, even though we shall then have the Clearway running from the Chiswick Flyover.
I drive up every morning to the City, and so I can, all too acutely, observe the problems developing. I believe that within a year or so we shall have driven the private motorist almost entirely out of the centre of London, and the only people who will be able to come in by 779 car will be those who are rich enough to pay the extortionate demands of some garages for all-day parking, or those who are fortunate enough to be hon. Members and who have facilities for parking their cars in New Palace Yard.
Within the last two months the Minister of Transport has gone on record, according to the Evening News, as saying that all the Central London area must ultimately be one large Pink zone with permanent car parks for which the motorist must pay. It adds that he has issued a "get tough with the roadside parker" order to the local councils. The cry of "the motorist must pay" is ominous and is frequently heard. Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer issued this warning in his Budget speech only the other day.
We are always penalising the motorist in different directions. The motorist forms a very large percentage of the population, and these days more and more people are becoming owners of motor vehicles. Although we can logically put forward the cry that the motorist must pay, we must also provide him with the permanent car parks to which the Minister has referred, but there is at the moment a great lack of car parks of any type.
The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have, over the last 18 months or more, made out an excellent case against the all-day parker, the person who comes up to London at 9 o'clock and leaves his car in Central London and then drives off at 5 o'clock. This motorist has been a major cause in creating congestion and confusion in London over the past decade. Yet that type of car owner is finally almost eliminated, as I anticipate he will be, one wonders what extra strains will be imposed on the London transport system, which is already over-taxed. That owner will be driven very reluctantly into the arms of London Transport. One wonders how the bus system in Central London will be able to cope at various times.
One often hears asked the hypothetical question: what would happen if all parents who privately educate their children suddenly stopped and abrogated their responsibility and sent their children to State schools? There is an interesting analogy in that, if applied to the private motorist and London Transport.
780 Besides the all-day parker, who is rapidly becoming a phenomenon of the past, there is a significant minority of London area motorists on whose behalf I should like to make a plea. These are motorists who have a genuine need to come into the centre of London. The hon. Member for Brixton said that he would like to see all motorists, except those with special need, banned from the centre of London. It would be very dictatorial to institute a system whereby those showing special need were issued with passes to the centre of London. I would not advocate that, but we must get some form of priority for those people who genuinely need to go there. There are many of them.
I understand that by this summer there will be about 8,000 parking meters in the whole of the London area. Street parking will obviously be banned near them, but even when the whole 8,000 meters are in operation they will provide parking space for only a fraction of the numbers needing it and, even then, the meters only allow for parking up to two hours.
Those who have offices in the City area know that the many bomb-site car parks of yesterday have almost disappeared, and have been replaced by giant blocks of offices. Although I have not investigated it closely, from general observation those office blocks appear to have parking space only for senior executives, managing directors and the like, and have made no provision for the cars used by other members of the staff. The few local garages are small and, in any case, are choc-a-bloc with customers of long standing.
To put meters into operation before providing off-street parking amounts to an unreasonable and intolerable interference with the business man who has to use a car in the centre of London. There are plans to put up extra garages, and today we have heard reference to the Hyde Park scheme. I understand that further schemes are in hand to provide garages in Central London and, to quote a report that appeared in the Evening Standard on 13th March, 1961:Off street car parks in the City of London for a total of 5,800 cars are now 'in the pipeline', it was announced from Guildhall today.Among the sites earmarked are Barbican…Blackfriars…New Bridge Street…Liverpool Street Station…Houndsditch…Minories…West Smithfield…781 Those garages will take a very long time to build and, even then, they will not be large enough to cope with the problem. It is true that 5,000 vehicles sounds a large number, but when one analyses the number of vehicles that commute backwards and forwards between the centre of London and the suburbs, I am sure that it will be agreed that those new garages will not be able to accommodate even half of them.
As far as I can gather, no attempt has been made to find out what the genuine need is of the motorist who has to go into Central London. There are several types of motorist who, of necessity, have to go there. Night workers in various industries go in late during the day and work during the night, and because the London Transport System grinds to a halt at midnight they have to use their cars, as they have no other way of getting home.
Another class comprises commercial travellers and representatives and executives with varying commitments who have to travel between different offices, not only in the City, but in the West End, and in North and South London. Many of them have to bring their cars to the City in the morning because they have to keep appointments during the day. Public transport is largely useless to them because it wastes too much time and it is almost impossible to use it at rush hours. Nevertheless, it is doubtful whether a man like that will now be able to use his car at all—unless he is fortunate enough to be able to employ a chauffeur to drive the car around during the waiting periods—because other people, with much less need than he, have taken up the available parking spaces.
At the moment, the private motorist is being pushed about in the centre of London, risking continual prosecution yet, like the rest of us, he is only trying to do his job as best he can. No effort is made to sort him out from the motorists who still commute to Central London merely because at one stage ten years ago it was a highly convenient and very easy way of travelling.
In themselves, parking meters are a good idea—although I do not share the complete enthusiasm for them of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans—but, so far, they have resulted in the lumping 782 together of the genuine business motorist and the ordinary commuter without a special cause, which is rather unjust.
I suggest that before those conducting the large-scale London traffic survey which the London County Council is to undertake make their report and plan new road developments as a result, the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary should arrange for a sample survey to ascertain what genuine parking needs exist in the centre of London. One step might be to double the meter charges to 1s. for one hour and 2s. for two hours. That might tend to discourage the driver without genuine necessity and, on the other hand, help the person who has to go round keeping business appointments, who could enter the charge as a genuine expense incurred in the transaction of his business. It would also help to speed up the time when money would be available to London councils for building garages which, by law, I understand they are bound to do.
The one-way traffic scheme for the Tottenham Court Road area is due to begin on Monday and we shall all watch with interest what happens. It seems likely that this will be a most successful venture and will be followed by bigger schemes of the same sort in Central London.
I hope that the Minister's attitude towards the unloading of commercial vehicles in the Central London area will get much tougher. I expect that my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) will disagree with me there. We all know that commercial vehicles have to unload if commerce and industry are to prosper, but I believe that when one compares the attitude of the police to the ordinary motorist with their attitude towards those who unload at peak times—causing tremendous traffic jams and, often enough, accidents—it is not nearly ruthless enough.
One way of helping hard-pressed business motorists might be to have parking meters of much longer duration—meters, perhaps, for which the charge was 2s. 6d. or 5s. for parking for five or six hours—in the Greater London area, on the immediate outskirts, and to retain the present two-hour meters in the centre of London. I think that that would do a great deal to solve this difficulty. It is a pressing problem, and one that is referred 783 to consistently by the various motoring correspondents of the national newspapers.
The distinguished motoring correspondent of the Evening Standard, Mr. Robert Walling, dealt with the problem last week, and asked this question:Until new garages are put up by means of meter receipts, what about officially designating many minor streets around the central area for parking free—say, within a threepenny bus ride of the centre?It is much more than time, in a modern London, that the motorist's 'Where can I park?' should be promptly answered by a P.C.That is quite a reasonable comment, and I would ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to consider it.
On this side of the House, at least, we all agree that my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary are doing an extraordinarily energetic job and that they face most difficult problems. We give them every support in their efforts—but I would ask them to give just a little more consideration to the private motorist.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
This is a vast and complicated problem, and I have no intention of attempting to cover the whole range of this important debate, which was so ably introduced by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew). I should, however, like to follow the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) in drawing to the Minister's attention the dangers of the all-night parking of commercial vehicles. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will take note of the exceptional circumstances that three hon. Members in succession have drawn attention, in similar terms, to the same problem, and will realise that it really is necessary for the Ministry to give further consideration to it, and to propose a solution.
By means of a Question in the House, a few days ago, I referred to the danger of all-night parking in the street—which is slightly different from, although part of the same problem referred to by my hon. Friend. The Minister replied that where the parking of commercial vehicles in the night was proved to be 784 a danger there was a legal case and the owner of the vehicle could be prosecuted, but, in my experience, too often the danger is proved only when an accident—very often a fatal one—occurs. It is not good enough for these commercial vehicles to be parked all night and no action taken against those responsible either for obstruction or for causing a danger, until an accident has occurred.
Whatever the law may be, that is the practice, and I am quite sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will know from their own experience that this is a very real problem in suburban areas, and particularly in the outer areas of the conurbations and great cities. It is quite unreasonable that the owners of these commercial vehicles should not be required to provide overnight garage or parking space to accommodate them.
It is just as unreasonable to have these enormous vehicles parked overnight—a danger and a nuisance to local residents—as it would be for bus drivers to park their vehicles outside their own homes when they had finished their work for the night. London Transport, and transport companies generally, are obliged to park their buses in garages overnight, and the drivers have to get home as best they can—sometimes by special bus, or on foot or by other means.
It is no excuse for the parking of commercial vehicles in residential roads overnight to say that the drivers do it as a matter of convenience, because the same thing could be claimed for bus drivers. I have some sympathy with drivers of commercial vehicles parking the vehicles outside their own homes overnight in order to make a quick getaway in the morning, but if it is otherwise difficult for them to get to and from their place of employment, I am sure that it would be possible, at no great expense, for the firms concerned to provide the men with motor scooters or miniscooters. This is something that the Minister must tackle, in the interests of road safety and of the amenities and comfort of a very large number of our citizens.
I want to come to another point which is a very great problem in suburban districts, and that is the day-long parking of cars in the streets. The hon. Member for St. Albans said that he 785 thought it would be excellent if, at the end of the open road stretches into London, multi-storey car parks were provided. He did not say by whom they should be provided, but I agree, nevertheless, that this would be an excellent idea. It is obvious that if local authorities all round the central area, where motorists normally leave their cars adjacent to tube stations, bus terminals, and so on, could provide multi-storey and underground car parks in sufficient numbers, this would greatly ease the problem of the day-long street parking which is such a nuisance in residential areas.
I live a few yards from such an Underground station where a number of motorists drive in from surrounding areas and park their cars in the road. I have no particular complaint myself, because the car which normally parks outside my front gate is a very elegant Rolls Royce, which certainly adds tone to the premises, although I am afraid that it may give some of my constituents who pass by the wrong idea about the Parliamentary salary.
However, when my small son of 9 goes to school he has to go out into the road past all these parked vehicles before he can look right, left and right again and cross the road as he has been taught by the road safety code. Old people and residents generally find it extremely difficult to see round this serried row of parked vehicles all down the road as far as the tube station, before they can cross the road in safety. Delivery vans have the same difficulty. They have to wait in the middle of the road so that milk and bread can be delivered, dustbins emptied, and so on. In addition, these parked cars make it very difficult for the motorists who live in the road to get their cars in and out of their garages.
This is a common problem which has been raised many times in the House, and, obviously, the provision of parking meters is not the solution. The solution is to have multi-storey car parks close to the Underground stations where the motorists can park their cars out of the way, to the convenience and comfort of all concerned.
One point that I should like to stress is that there is a responsibility which neither the Minister nor the London Transport Executive has discharged. 786 This road to which I am referring, adjacent to a tube station, and others like it, where so many cars are parked, is close to a site which the London Transport Executive owned only a few years ago for a car park. A few years ago the London Transport Executive sold it to a private developer for shops and flats.
Exactly the same thing happened at Cockfosters, which, as hon. Members will know, is on the edge of the green belt. Many cars come in from surrounding areas to Cockfosters tube station, where they are parked and the owners go into London on the Underground. London Transport sold part of its car park there to private developers. The same thing happened at Finchley and at Turnpike Lane tube stations. These are three separate examples of London Transport having owned land adjoining tube stations for car parks and, instead of holding it and developing it for multi-storey or open car parks, has sold it to be built upon.
I raised this point before with the Minister of Transport and asked him to watch the position but, so far as I know, nothing whatever has been done and it may very well happen in other parts of the Metropolitan area. Somebody has got to find the land on which to build car parks. As the hon. Member for St. Albans said, the local authorities are the obvious people to do it, but they hesitate to do so because of the initial capital expense. The cost of the land is increasing all the time. I believe they would do it if they had some assistance from the Ministry.
The second point that I want to make is that the Ministry should consider—I know this is rather wishful thinking—helping the local authorities with a grant towards the capital cost of acquiring car parks.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay) indicated dissent.
§ Mrs. Butler
The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, so, obviously, that is out.
The other point is that many of these local authorities in areas where such car parks should be provided are undertaking redevelopment schemes, and an essential part of those redevelopment 787 schemes should be the provision of adequate parking facilities. Here I think that the Ministry could help by making available loans for the purchase of the land for car parks, either interest-free for a period or at a suspended rate of interest, as it were, for a period until the car parks are established and are making a profit.
This suggestion has been made in connection with other developments. It is the initial capital cost that is the problem, and I ask the Minister to discuss with the Treasury the possibility of something on these lines. If the Minister had some financial stake in the provision of these car parks he would be even more zealous in ensuring that the cars came off the road into the car parks in order that the scheme should begin to show a profit and the local authorities should begin to pay interest on the loans advanced from the Treasury. I make this suggestion very seriously, because the Minister, as well as the local authorities, has a responsibility in this matter.
I believe that the general tone of this debate has been rather less in favour of parking meters, which can be useful in some shopping districts in the central areas and in some other places, and rather more in favour of getting cars off the streets into properly provided car parks. It is unreasonable for the Minister to leave the whole responsibility to local authorities, and if he will not help them with a grant he should help them in this way. If he did that, I believe that it would greatly assist in the solution of the problem and would give the Minister an added incentive to insist on cars coming off the roads and going into the car parks.
This is primarily a suburban problem, but it has a big effect on the central problem. It is not much use concentrating all our efforts on the centre of London to reduce congestion and cope with parking there unless, as the hon. Member for St. Albans said, we look at the peripheral problem and see what we can do to make it easier for motorists to leave their cars on the outer rim and to come into the centre by bus or by Underground so as not to add to central traffic congestion.
I can assure the Minister that the problems which I have mentioned, and 788 which may seem small in comparison with his overall responsibilities, are worrying a large number of people, not only in my constitency but in the constituencies of almost every hon. Member. They look to the right hon. Gentleman to do something to alleviate them and help the local authorities who are now faced with the main responsibility.
§ 12.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
May I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) on his good luck in the Ballot, on his wisdom in the choice of his subject and on his stimulating way of putting the subject to the House. He is a near-London Member. All other hon. Members are London Members. I fear that at times we are all apt to think of this as a London problem and to draw examples from London, but in all the big cities in the country there is this problem of parking. Even more so in the smaller and medium-sized towns, the market towns, and so on, it is becoming a very difficult problem.
I want to address my remarks from the point of view of the victims rather than from the point of view of the motorist as a motorist. One set of victims are the residents. Indeed, we have had powerful pleading on their behalf from every hon. Member who has spoken. Residents are suffering extreme damage to their amenities by the practice of parking in residential areas.
The excuse for this destruction of residential amenities is that the motorist must have somewhere to put his car. We have elaborate planning laws to prevent people from putting things on their own private land. If I bought a prefabricated house and said, "I must put it somewhere", the planning authorities would not listen to that excuse. If I buy a caravan, I am restricted under legislation. It is no excuse for me to say, "I have bought a caravan and, therefore, I must put it somewhere." Yet if I buy a car there is scarcely any restriction placed on my leaving it, not on my private land, but on public land on the highway.
It seems to me that there is lack of a balanced view in this matter. In many residential areas the residents are refused, by the pressure of parked cars, the right to park their own cars in front 789 of their own houses. Residents who own their own cars and who want to go shopping in their village in them cannot do so. I use the word "village" advisedly. For example, in the villages of Highgate and Hampstead, both of which, I understand, are being turned into clearways, people will not be able to go shopping in their own cars.
The real problem in the destruction of residential amenities stems from the point which the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) and other hon. Members mentioned, namely, the all-night parking of commercial vehicles. It has become so serious that I feel that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and the Government should take heed of it. There is no reason why commercial concerns should have all-night parking accommodation at the expense of the residents and of the ratepayers. Nor is there any reason why we should ask local authorities to provide off-street parking for commercial vehicles. Surely the commercial undertakings should provide their own garages.
As my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans said, one's own motor car is a great convenience and has considerable amenity value. Someone else's motor car parked in front of one's own house is a great inconvenience and has no amenity value. In fact, it destroys the amenities of the district.
The second victim of the parking problem is the pedestrian. The hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) referred to the dangers to pedestrians in endeavouring to cross the road when they emerge from behind or in front of parked vehicles. This concerns vehicles which are parked on the road. The danger to which I want to draw attention concerns the vehicles which are parked on the pavements. This is becoming a most dangerous practice. It usually occurs in narrow streets, where cars should not be parked at all. It is no excuse for those who park on the pavements in narrow streets to say that they do so to allow the traffic to pass. If they have to park on the pavements, they should not park there at all. It is dangerous, because it forces the pedestrian into the road in order to pass the vehicle.
790 I have innumerable photographs of vehicles parked on the pavement, but the one that I have brought into the Chamber with me shows a vehicle parked on a pavement not very far from this House. It takes up the whole pavement and leaves no space between the railing and the car for anyone to pass. It is covered with a ballooned fabric—the street "garage". A lady with a perambulator, in trying to pass it, has been forced into the road. This is only one of many photographs in my possession of cars parked on pavements, forcing the pedestrians into the road.
§ Mr. Lipton
When I brought the cases that I mentioned to the attention of the Home Secretary, I was told that it was a matter for the police and that it was not really illegal to put a oar on the pavement. This is a most extraordinary doctrine.
§ Mr. Page
I am coming to that point, because I have noticed the Questions which the hon. Gentleman has asked.
Parking on the pavements is greatly to the detriment of local authorities in keeping their pavements and kerbs in good condition. It causes damage. I wish to quote a case which has come to my notice of lorry drivers who have chosen to park their lorries on the grating of a house in the E. 1 district of London. The owner of the house has to work in the basement. The parked lorries block out all daylight and he has had to instal artificial lighting. They have broken the gratings and it has cost the owner £24 to mend them. When he protests to the drivers, he only gets abuse. When he raises the matter with the police, they tell him that nothing can be done.
The hon. Member for Brixton asked my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department a Question concerning parking on pavements. I was very surprised at the reply of my hon. and learned Friend. The hon. Memberasked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent action has been taken to reduce car-parking on pavements in Westminster.The Answer was:As the hon. Member was informed on 16th February, special attention is paid by the police, within the limits of available manpower, to the practice of parking cars on the footway. Since 24th February this year, in the Rochester Row Sub-Division, which includes 791 the area to which the hon. Member's earlier Question referred, 31 drivers have been reported for obstruction of the footway and dealt with by way of protest or written caution; 44 vehicles have been removed; and 265 oral warnings have been given for obstruction.I am sure that the hon. Member for Brixton will excuse me if I do not read his supplementary question, but I should like to read the reply to it:In our democracy, Ministers of the Crown are as much subject to the law as anyone else. It is, of course, a question for the police to decide whether or not there is obstruction of the pavement. Placing a car on the pavement is not in itself an offence, any more than is sitting on the pavement; but it is a question for the police to decide and not one upon which my right hon. Friend can make a decision."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th April, 1961; Vol. 638, c.1370–1.]I think that my hon. and learned Friend had forgotten the Highways Act, 1835. The important part of Section 72 of that Act has not been repealed by any subsequent provision. It states:…if any Person shall wilfully ride upon any Footpath or Causeway by the side of any Road made or set apart for the Use or Accommodation of Foot Passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any"—and then it refers to a number of animals—or Carriage of any Description, or any Truck or Sledge upon any such Footpath or Causeway;…every Person so offending in any of the Cases aforesaid shall for each and every such Offence forfeit and pay any Sum not exceeding Forty Shillings, over and above the Damages occasioned thereby.That provision has not been repealed. It is still effective. If it is suggested that a car which is parked on the footway has not been driven there, I should have thought that the fact that it is on the footway is at least prima facie evidence that it has been driven there and not dropped from the sky and that the person who parked it there can be prosecuted.
§ Mr. Page
My hon. Friend says that it could have been pushed there, but I think he will realise that in law even pushing a car is driving it.
There is, perhaps, a distinction between the footpath and the footway which was drawn by the Highways Act, 1959, but that does not apply to the Section of the 1835 Act, which could still be used by the police to prevent parking on pavements.
792 Even if the police do not use that Section, they could use the Section governing obstruction. In the case of a car which is parked on the carriageway, one has always found that there is little defence in saying that it did not obstruct any person. If it is on the highway, it is an obstruction. If these cars are parked on the footway, they are an obstruction and action should be taken against those who indulge in this dangerous practice and who thereby force pedestrians into the carriageway.
Once upon a time, we were able to relegate parked cars to bombed sites plus, perhaps, a few areas of roads specified as parking places—not in front of residences. Now, every residential road seems to be a car park. The Royal Parks are being turned into car parks, the green verges of the suburban roads are car parks and, unless we make a stand somewhere, I can see the pavements of our roads becoming car parks, too. We shall be told that to get clearways for the traffic and to facilitate the free flow of traffic we must have not only single parking, but double-bank parking and that, therefore, we must park not only on the carriageway, but on the pavement as well. I can see that argument being used unless we take a stand, here and now, against parking on pavements.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will correct some of his hon. Friends' errors in the law when he replies to the debate.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
We are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) and I should like to pay tribute to him for what he did when serving on the Westminster City Council. I am sure that many of the things now being done by that city in this field are due in no small measure to my hon. Friend.
At the end of the war, with much of London bombed, we had a unique opportunity to rebuild it with adequate parking facilities. I admit that, possibly, we could not have foreseen the great rise in prosperity and the large number of cars that were to follow. It is the proportion of garage space as specified by the London County Council in the number of garages per site which is to a large extent responsible for the lack of garage 793 facilities in London. I should like my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether, through his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, local authorities could not be forced to increase the provision of garage facilities, both in office and in residential areas. This would do a great deal to improve the off-street parking facilities.
In the area in which I live, a large block of offices has been put up during the last live years without a single garage. A block of flats, Lowndes Close, has been put up next to me with what I consider to be very inadequate parking facilities. To crown it all, one of the largest hotels in London, the Carlton Towers, has parking facilities which are quite inadequate, not only for the residents, but also for the visitors. I am sure that we should do something to insist that when buildings are reconstructed, they should have a much higher proportion of parking space.
The question of cost arises. I should like to know from my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary whether, in cases where the cost is prohibitive, to secure a reasonable proportion of garage facilities the Ministry could not provide assistance. By granting, say, a proportion of the cost, increased parking facilities could be provided at less cost by those who otherwise have to bear the cost of the entire building.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans mentioned that the control of parking must be combined with off-street multi-storey garages, and I am convinced that is the case. I am not at all sure that there is not a case for increasing the charges at the parking meters to force people who wish to park for long periods to use the multi-storey garages instead.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) spoke of residents. I cannot agree with what has been said by many hon. Members, on both sides, concerning London. Genuine residents there are at a great disadvantage. In many areas, there are practically no private garages to be obtained. I live a few hundred yards from Knightsbridge and it is almost impossible to obtain garage accommodation at any price.
Some of the existing garage facilities in the small mews are being taken up by large firms who buy the leases. I heard 794 the other day of a firm paying £12,000 for a twenty-year lease of a garage simply to get garage accommodation. The Government are not entirely blameless. Kingston House is still occupied on a long-term contract partly by Government vehicles, which means that many of the genuine residents in these flats have to go a mile or so away to park their cars.
The hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) spoke of the parking of lorries outside private property. We all appreciate the great annoyance which this practice causes, but, as has been pointed out, the police have powers to move these vehicles. If I may correct the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), a vehicle may pass and repass along a street, but the moment it becomes stationary it gives rise to an obstruction and the police are well able to prosecute. That is my understanding of the law. I admit that in some cases the police may be reluctant to prosecute, but if they do prosecute, I am sure that they have a case and can achieve a conviction.
The police in the City and other congested areas have tremendous drives from time to time to clear the streets of cars. I am told by friends who park in the City that what one does is to watch when a street is raided. One then knows that for the next three weeks, it will be safe to use that street for parking. Possibly, my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary could suggest to his right hon. Friend the Minister that, with the aid of the Home Secretary, the police might be induced to have a larger drive than usual and to clear all the streets on the same day. There are, of course, priority claims, but I do not think that a priority system could work. Doctors, for example, have to pull up outside houses. In their case, I can only say that within reason the police are extremely helpful to anybody who is genuinely visiting a patient.
The hon. Member for Brixton suggested that private cars might need to be kept out of London. That is a point which is well worth considering, but the difficulties of having a special licence, for example, of a different colour, would be almost insurmountable. How and where would people who want to come into town for the day get their pass to enable them to do so? There are innumerable difficulties, even though the suggestion might be an effective way 795 of stopping people from coming into London. Here again, however, the problem of the genuine resident arises.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans suggested the provision of parking spaces at the periphery where people could leave their cars and continue their journey by public transport. I noticed the other day a site which, I am sure, could be used for the purpose. Just beyond the Cromwell Road extension is a large area at present used as a railway yard. If it were built up, it could be used as a large multi-storey garage from which people could travel by public transport to the centre of London. An incentive to use such places would be provided if their charges for all-day parking were lower than in the centre of London. People would probably prefer to park their vehicles at a railway station or at a bus terminus and come into London by public transport.
The question of whether London's public transport could cope with the additional passenger traffic has been raised. One of the obstacles which holds up London's buses is the private vehicles which are parked at the side of the road, as well as the flow of private vehicles. If that were removed we should be able to have more public transport in the centre of London and replace the small car. Very often people come by car from the outskirts of London with only one or two persons in the car. This is a complete waste of space on the road.
I am sure that there will have to be an overall plan. The Government will have to consider every possible aspect together. Many schemes have been tried abroad. There is a road built out from the Seine, which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has probably seen and driven on, and possibly, spaces like that in this country could be used for parking. There is no reason, with modern methods of construction, why parts of these areas should not be used.
Many of my constituents are now forced to use the forecourts and gardens of their houses—I think very wisely—for parking their cars. Although, technically, planning permission of all kinds is required, the local authority, again very wisely, I think, turns a blind eye to the regulations because it finds that this is the only way to keep the streets clear and vehicles off the road.
796 I would appeal for lower-priced car parks on the perimeter, and also where private firms find that it is too expensive to provide a large amount of garage accommodation. The Minister of Transport should, if possible, provide financial assistance for this. At the same time, it is absolutely essential that the proportion of accommodation for parking, as laid down by the London County Council both for offices and domestic users, should be increased. That would be the cheapest and most effective way of increasing off-street parking, because a person requiring to park would be able to go right to his destination.
Finally, I would put in a plea for the genuine residents, because in London, as we all know, however much we are prepared to pay, in many areas it is quite impossible to find a garage at a reasonable price, and although there may be meters it is quite impossible to park. I hope that my hon. Friend will take these points into consideration.
§ 12.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Browne (Torrington)
I am probably the only Member who has spoken in this debate who does not live in a large town. I want to discuss an aspect of this problem which has been posed by nearly every hon. Member who has spoken—how we are to deal with the problem of commerce and industry, and therefore the ingress and outgoing of heavy vehicles in industrial centres.
I must declare an interest in that I am myself a road haulier. I cannot speak from first-hand knowledge at the moment, because I have not driven a heavy commercial vehicle in London or any other city for three and a half years, but I understand from my drivers that conditions have got a great deal worse since then.
It seems to me, irrespective of whether or not the transport system in this country is nationalised, this problem would be with us today. The increase in the number of C-licence vehicles has been colossal. The space available for garaging these vehicles is quite insufficient with the industrial growth of this country and the vast increase of goods coming in and out of an area like London. It is obvious that if Londoners are to be fed and industries are to get raw materials in and finished products out, or vice versa, commercial vehicles have 797 to go in and out. We must, therefore, deal with the problem as it is today.
The hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) has asked innumerable Questions about this. He said on the 19th April:…conditions arising from this all-night parking of heavy commercial vehicles have become quite intolerable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th April, 1961; Vol. 638, c.1105.]I am perfectly certain that he is right. This is the first of three problems which I want to discuss.
There can be no excuse at all for a commercial concern, which has a base in a large city and which has garage facilities, not ensuring that its vehicles are kept overnight in those premises; but this, of course, is a two-way traffic If a large concern is running vehicles regularly between A and B, it is almost certain that it will have parking facilities of its own at both ends if only because it has to keep within the defined statutory driving hours for its drivers and provide a place for them to sleep and eat in. But there is a certain amount of casual traffic at certain times of the year sending seasonal foodstuffs into, say, the London area. These firms sending goods into London have to find somewhere for their vehicles to park. At the moment there is nowhere for these vehicles to park. The only alternative for these firms is to leave their vehicles outside London and for them to come into London only at certain times of the day.
As a general rule, all commercial hauliers run their vehicles at night over long distances and that is to the benefit of motorists as a whole. It is done on the trunk roads by B.R.S. and others. The alternative is to find some form of off-street parking. The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) said that she saw no reason at all why local authorities should try to provide this and pay for it. I can see no reason at all why commercial operators of vehicles, whether on C licence, or, like myself, hauling for hire, should not be prepared to pay a fair fee for a night in an off-street parking site.
I am sure that we would be prepared to do so, because we depend on the public for orders and its co-operation. We often have trouble over pilfering if we leave our lorries in the street, and we should like nothing better than to have a place 798 where we could get hold of a driver on the telephone, where he could get a night's sleep in order to keep to the statutory hours and know that his vehicle was properly looked after. We should be prepared to pay a reasonable fee for a night's lodging as it were, in a car park, if the car park were there. Today it is not. I suggest that there is a fair case for asking local authorities in these areas, together with help from the Ministry of Transport, to provide these off-street parking places for commercial vehicles. The lifeblood of large centres depends on commerce, and these lorries have to go in and out.
My second point concerns what I would call the waiting ranks—places where vehicles can wait to load and unload. Partly due to the practice of commercial firms, it is often impossible to load and unload, except within what I would call the working day. At a wharf or warehouse loading and unloading is usually done from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Then the men knock off. That leaves a very small part of the day in which to do a turn round. From the point of view of the haulier who wants to run his business commercially, he has to get his vehicle fairly near to the front of the rank early on. In large commercial centres, I have had lorries standing from two in the morning until eight at night waiting to load. That is one of the reasons why heavy commercial vehicles come into London in the middle of the night. If we could persuade commercial concerns, clearing houses and the like, to work staggered hours during which vehicles could load or unload at all hours, we should not have this problem.
One thing which happens, and which has happened many times to me, is that one's lorries are towed away by the police while the drivers have only just gone indoors for a moment to ask a firm where they can load or unload. I would suggest to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that it would not be at all a bad thing if provision were made in, say, the Tooley Street area and other areas or London—I am thinking particularly of London—for waiting ranks rather like taxi-cab ranks where parking would be permissible for commercial vehicles only going about their lawful business.
799 I think the only other point I would mention is that of unloading bans and the clearways. I should like to thank my hon. Friend for the variation he has made in the hours during which there will be a total ban on the new clearway going out of London, that is the Brompton Road—Cromwell Road extension, but there again we come up against this problem of hours of working and the fact, for instance, that a greengrocer has to get his vegetables, and milk has to be delivered. During certain hours nobody is allowed on the clearways. It is a nicely balanced problem whether a clearway will allow the life of a city to go on at its full capacity or whether it is better to allow the private motorist—which is what it really amounts to—to come in and go out, for we shall have a lot of commercial vehicles driving round and round during those hours. That is the third problem.
In conclusion, I would say that there are two specific problems which have got to be dealt with, and those I have mentioned, of parking facilities for vehicles overnight and also the parking ranks for vehicles waiting to load or unload. No haulier has any desire to make it difficult for any resident in a city to sleep, but till proper facilities are provided on the outskirts of the towns or in the towns for rest and recreation and parking this problem will be with us. I only hope that my hon. Friend with the local authorities—and my right hon. Friend did say just the other day in answer to a Question that he was consulting the Metropolitan boroughs in London, and he mentioned Bermondsey and Brixton particularly, and many others dealing specifically with London—will tackle this problem, and that we shall not have too much mud slung at road hauliers who really cannot help the trouble. I think that this could be dealt with soon and the problem settled.
§ 12.53 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne), whose views I share, on the attractive speech that he has just made. I start by apologising to the House for not having been here to hear my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), especially as 800 I had already told him that I hoped to be here. The sole reason for the delay was parking.
I had the temerity to think that I could arrive at 9.45 this morning to see the opening of the Royal Academy and would be able to spend a pleasant hour there and get here by 11. I found the arrangements for transport in the West End such that after driving for 25 minutes around the Royal Academy trying to find a place where I could park, I failed. I then, as I had my wife with me, thought that I had better flout the law. I consequently did. I left my car in Jermyn Street, and came back after half an hour at the Royal Academy, and I am now the proud owner of one of those little white tickets. I have also, unfortunately, the misery of missing my hon. Friend's speech.
There is now a rather important new disease which has been noted in Harley Street recently, known as parking paranoia, a form of dementia precox which one gets, and there are three particular types of sufferers. As to the first, I myself am a bad example of suffering from this particular form of motor madness. There have been six occasions recently upon which I had to go to the West End and take my car. This was not one of them. I wish to goodness that I had taken a taxi this morning. It would have been much cheaper. On the other five occasions, five out of six, I was unable to find a place to park. They were occasions when I had to go exclusively on business and when it was urgent to go there.
There is a second class of people who suffer from that form of paranoia, the people who are unfortunate enough to pay high rents to live in Mayfair and the surrounding districts, and they, of course, receive a stream of tickets. A well-known sculptor, a friend of mine, the other day wrote in to the authorities and sent £50 saying, "Will you please keep this as payment in advance for my next 20 tickets?" They wrote back quite seriously and said that they were sorry, but did not feel that they had any power to do that.
The reason for that was that those people live in Charles Street. They lived there long before parking meters were introduced. They always lived there, and they have always parked their 801 car, perfectly properly, in front of their own front door at night and during the day, and they continue to do so, but really the rental is getting unduly high now. Therefore, I think that I must suggest today what we should do now.
There is a third class. About last Christmas I was minded to go and do a little shopping. I thought to myself, "Well, I will go to do my shopping in one or two shops in and about Bond Street, for I have had a rather good year." I thought, having had a good professional year, that my wife, and, indeed, my child, might be entitled to receive a particularly good present. Therefore, I thought, I would go to the West End. I considered the matter very carefully and I came to the conclusion that it would be very much better value if I went to Knightsbridge instead, because if I went to the West End on two or three occasions and left my car that would cost me in fines an extra £6; and the more I thought of the matter, the more I thought it would be better value to shop out of the West End.
Seriously, there is no doubt that a very large number of people go to shop in Chelsea and Kensington rather than the West End because they know that when they go there they will probably find a place to park, although I realise that very soon now that will no longer be the case, and if they take my tip they will go to shop a little farther west, and I am quite sure that the shopkeepers in Fulham will find that they will do very much better trading in the near future.
Having made those remarks, which have a serious background, I would say that it seems to me that the problem falls into three quite different aspects, and the first is that we must do something now.
I am one of those who is very largely to blame for this, for I was, in fact, the pioneer in this House of parking meters. When I came into the House in March, 1953, I proudly produced one of Mr. Venner's parking meters and took it upstairs to a Committee and showed how it worked, and, with Lord Molson, as he' now is, considered the question of the introduction of parking meters, but I do at least pray this in mitigation of my serious offence to those who suffer from motor madness, that I was particular in saying at that time 802 that when parking meters were introduced into the West End of London the area should be blanketed, by which I meant that as many parking meters as possible should be installed.
Take one example, St. James's Square. At present at least another 45 to 50 could be installed. That undoubtedly ought to happen, and it ought to happen tomorrow. There is any amount of room for parking far more cars perfectly properly in a number of places. St. James's Square is one very good example. There, and around the corners, there is room for at least another 40 cars to be parked, and we could still get the traffic moving fairly easily.
Why has that not occurred? The answer is that the authorities have failed to meet the problem of the position of those who live in the square and those who inhabit offices there. They hold a lot of spare places in front of those doorways to enable them to go in and out. We have also to meet the needs of tradesmen; there are the persons who have their offices there; and we have also to keep in mind the residents in the streets where there are parking meters, streets which are, nevertheless, residential streets.
The problem of the moment, that is to say, the question of emergency measures today, is, to a large extent, almost entirely a problem of the West End and of the City of London, the inner ring. What can be done to solve this problem? I suggest, as a start, the introduction of a blue parking disc which, later, could be incorporated in the Road Fund licence. On that disc will be the index number of the vehicle and the owner's address. For those who live in meter parking areas—for example Charles Street, Hayes Mews and similar districts—their address will appear on their blue parking discs and they will be entitled to park in the street in which they reside. It would be an intolerable state of affairs if people who live in a street could not park outside or near to their homes.
For those engaged in trade, loading bays will, of course, have to be provided in all the main streets, especially in such areas as Mayfair and Bond Street, to enable lorries to discharge and load. I suggest that in those cases exactly the same principle should apply, and that a 803 firm's own vehicles, with its registered address on its blue parking discs, would be entitled to use the bays outside its own premises. Some firms, such as auctioneers, are very badly hit by parking difficulties. Vehicles owned by some of the well-known members of the auctioneering profession—Christie's and Sotheby's, for example—go to and from their premises and make an important contribution to Britain's export industry. Such firms have to collect and take away their belongings at frequent intervals during the day and, of course, it is not possible for them to do that in the middle of the night. Therefore, parking bays must be provided for that traffic. If shops are provided with permits to set down and pick up goods in loading bays at their own premises, that may help to solve a troublesome problem affecting trade and industry.
Then there is the professional traveller who uses a car. The difficulty we have to face here is that one cannot draw a distinction between a pleasure motorist and a professional traveller or, to pick out the worst type of offender—the motorist who parks his car all day at a parking meter and, at regular intervals, sends out the boy who makes the tea to put more and more money into the meter. I cannot think of a scheme of distinguishing between these various types of motorist, although some ingenious fellow will be able to think of a plan. The professional traveller has got to use his car in London.
The only action we can take is, first, to immediately increase the number of parking meters in the congested areas of London. I am prepared to spend time going around the West End with the powers-that-be to find in which areas the number of parking meters can be increased. In my view, 30 to 40 per cent. more parking meters could be established in this blanket zone. That is an important contribution that could be made tomorrow.
The next part of the problem might be solved quickly. When we last discussed the Road Traffic Bill and parking meters an important question arose; that the meters should pay for the underground car parks, and vice versa. I hope that the Minister will say how much money parking meters have already pro- 804 vided. I also hope that we shall be given an assurance that the funds gained from parking meters will be treated as belonging to the parking meters, because many people are under the impression that when they pay their fines—just as I shall have to pay £2 for leaving my car where I did this morning—the money will find its way to the Ministry of Transport to help cure the parking problem. It is also to be hoped that the fines for parking offences will go to the Ministry of Transport to help deal with this problem.
Two important problems need immediate attention. First, are we securing the number of underground car parks we require, and, secondly—and this is a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington—are we building industrial and commercial travellers' motels? Industrial motels are essential near the great markets, such as Covent Garden, so that lorries are provided with sufficient parking facilities and where the men may have accommodation, and cheap showers. While on this subject, perhaps we could consider whether commercial travellers could be provided with similar motels.
Most of the points affecting off-street car parking have already been fully covered and I do not want to go over that ground again. But I hope that the Minister of Transport is making certain that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is incorporating sufficient off-street parking space into each local plan. In studying this matter, we must look to the future and regard the problem as a national problem. We must ensure that the horrors of this form of paranoia in London will not be suffered throughout the country.
I hope that in any local plan a strong line will be taken by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, with the aid of the Minister of Transport, and that he will not hesitate to call back for further study any local authority plan which does not ensure adequate measures to deal with parking. I feel certain that in London, because of the worry caused to people who want to go normally about their business, every effort will be made to find a system whereby those living in parking zones will be provided for, and that those engaged in trade in the West End will have first priority. 805 Fortunately, this is not a safety problem, but we must try to solve it with the maximum of ingenuity.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
Today's debate has served as a warning to the Government of what is likely to happen when the Road Traffic Bill comes before the House. When we last discussed a similar Bill all these issues arose, and I have no doubt that when we discuss the subject again, they will all be raised again, along with many others. The last Road Traffic Bill was in Committee in 1956 for six months, despite the fact that everyone was anxious to see it become law as quickly as possible. There was no obstruction to the Bill's passage. If the Government believe that they can get the new Bill through its Committee and Report stages in a couple of months—perhaps between Whitsun and the end of the Session—their calculation is wrong.
It is obvious that all the road and parking problems which have been raised today, along with many others affecting a large proportion of the population—and with the added problems created by the increased number of vehicles on the roads—are exceptionally difficult to solve. People have strong views on this matter and there are many suggested solutions, all of which, no doubt, will be fully discussed when the Bill reaches its Committee stage.
Meanwhile, today's debate can be considered as a preliminary round to our future discussions of the Road Traffic Bill. I am grateful to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) for giving us this opportunity to discuss road congestion, parking problems and all the other associated difficulties.
I do not want to speak for long on this occasion because the ground has been traversed so effectively by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Moreover, Friday mornings are not occasions when those who sit on the Front Bench should take time which belongs to those on the back benches. I should like to comment not so much on the main problem of congestion and off-street parking but on some of the tangent aspects of the problem.
I should like to remind the House, and particularly the hon. Member for the 806 Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), that when he first came forward with the proposal that we should introduce into this country parking meters which had already been introduced in other countries he was met, and the Government and the Committee were met, with the strong opposition of the two big motor organisations, the A.A. and the R.A.C. who said that we should not accept such a proposition until adequate off-street parking had been established, which meant postponing it for, 10, 15 or 20 years. These organisations have a habit of coming forward and putting ideas to the Government and the House which may appear all right to them but which are wholly unacceptable to the public and are contrary to common sense. We must therefore look cautiously at any recommendations that they may put forward concerning the new Bill.
I should like to say something about the problem which, to my surprise and pleasure, has been raised by so many hon. Members today. It is the problem of the night parking of lorries in residential streets. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) has said, it affects his constituency considerably in several streets. It also affects mine, as it does a number of streets in areas on the perimeter of London and in fact anywhere in Central London and no doubt in many other cities as well.
A situation has been reached where, as other hon. Members have already said, something must be done. It is utterly intolerable in areas such as the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton and mine. In our streets every house usually has three families in it. The noise of these lorries starting up in the morning is considerable. Hundreds of people have their nights disturbed in consequence. This is not only an intolerable nuisance but it is damaging the health and the education of children living in these circumstances.
The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne), who is himself engaged in road haulage, has said that those who are engaged in this industry are as anxious as anyone to remedy this evil. That may be so but only the Government can take a lead and do something about it We all realise the difficulties I should be glad to hear that the Road 807 Haulage Association has taken a welcome step away from its usual major interest in political matters and has considered what it can do as representing the haulage industry to provide for the arrangement by local authorities or the Government of facilities for the parking of lorries at night. If it has not taken any such step, it should do so.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet spoke about the establishment of industrial motels. It is a good name and perhaps should be followed up and put into operation, but if we are told, as we have been told by the Government, that nothing can be done about this, because there are no adequate off-street parking arrangements at the moment and that we must wait for them, and unless adequate and speedy steps are taken to provide them, it means that this intolerable nuisance must continue for years. We cannot have it, and I give warning that there will be an irresistible revolt from Members of Parliament representing these areas and the public unless something is done about it.
I am reasonably hopeful about this, and for one reason. I am not a sadist, but I must hope that one of these days the lorries will park in a street in my constituency in which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport lives. It is one of those quiet streets where there is not much traffic.
§ Mr. Strauss
I know that I am fortunate in this matter. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has suffered personally, but if it will bring nearer the day when action will be taken by the Minister of Transport I am quite happy that it has happened in the hon. Gentleman's pleasant and hitherto quiet little street.
I want to ask the hon. Gentleman a question on a matter on which I have had correspondence with him in the past. This is the problem of parking outside the entrances of schools. It has been alleged by traffic wardens and others that this is exceedingly dangerous, as it often is, when children rush out of school and across the road without looking properly, with the result 808 that accidents occur. So far, the Government's attitude has been that they have consulted the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee which has recommended that other action should be taken first—that the road should be marked "School Entrance" as a warning to passing traffic.
About a year ago, the Government said that they intended to institute experiments in this direction and to see whether they were successful before taking steps to prevent parking by school entrances. A long time has elapsed and I should like the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to tell us what are his conclusions. I gather that the difficulty so far has been that to have "No Parking" signs for this purpose, that is, for the prevention of accidents, has not hitherto been done. It has been done for other reasons, such as the flow of traffic, but there seems to be an overwhelming case for taking some such steps.
Another point which has already been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton and the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) is parking on the pavements. This is a practice which is particularly popular in some narrow streets, many of them in this vicinity. As we all know, because it was published in the newspapers a week or two ago, one of the offenders is the Minister of Education himself. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to offend against the law and I am sure that he wants to set a good example, but there have been many occasions on which his car has been taken away and there seems to be some doubt whether it is legal or not to put one's car on the pavement. Will the Joint Parliamentary Secretary go into this matter again with the Home Office?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The position is that if one puts the car on the pavement so that it causes an unreasonable obstruction to a passer-by it is an offence. If the motorist parks a car and there is abundant room for everybody to pass it is not an offence. Is not that about what the right hon. Gentleman's view should be—that there should not be a complete stoppage on putting cars on the pavement but that it ought to be done in a reasonable and proper manner if it is to be done at all?
§ Mr. Strauss
That would put the Minister of Education or anyone else who wants to park on the pavement in an impossible position. People would not know whether or not they were doing something against the law. They might park a car in a street where there were no pedestrians at that moment, but an hour later children might be pouring out of school and going down that street. The residents in any narrow street where this is likely to happen should be told definitely whether or not it is permissible to park on the pavement.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Would the right hon. Gentleman say that it was ever permissible to park on a pavement? It is not permissible for a woman with a pram to park her pram in the road. Why should it be permissible for a motorist to park his car on the pavement?
§ Mr. Strauss
When I asked whether it was permissible, I really meant to ask whether it was legal or not. Even if it is legal for anyone to park a car on the pavement anywhere, I think that the Ministry of Transport or the Home Office should consider taking definite steps to make it illegal.
§ Mr. Goodhew
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a difference between a car parked right up on the pavement and left there all day, and in some cases even for days, and the case which has been mentioned of the chauffeur who is waiting to take my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education to his duties and who just puts one side of the car up on the pavement in order to allow other cars through while he is waiting? In that case, surely a woman pushing a perambulator could easily get through without having to go into the roadway.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
We have had the legal opinion of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies)—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I did not express a legal opinion; I was just answering a point made in the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member boasted earlier of a good professional year last year. If he starts giving free legal advice like this his Income Tax may go down next year.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary get us an opinion from the Law Officers of 810 the Crown before he replies? Could he, perhaps, get it from the legal branch of his own Department, because my view, after many years of dealing with cases on this subject, is the same as that of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I should have thought that under the Town Police Clauses Acts it was quite clear that it is an offence to park a car on the pavement.
§ Mr. Strauss
I think that what is quite clear—although there seems to be some doubt about it both from the legal aspect and from the policy point of view—is that we should consider whether such parking should be permitted under any circumstances or whether there should be exceptions. I am sure that there should be no exceptions made for Ministers of the Crown or for allowing one wheel of the car to be on the pavement and not two wheels. This plainly is a matter which should be gone into by the Ministry of Transport together with the Home Office. A statement should be made at an early date which would enable those interested in the matter, if they were dissatisfied, to pursue the matter further.
There is only one other question which I want to ask the Minister. The problem has been raised by one or two hon. Members, and it is a very real one. It is the difficulties which confront a resident in an area where parking meters are permitted, or in an area where no meters are permitted, concerning what to do with his own car. It is a very real problem, and one which is going to extend over a large part not only of London but of most of our cities. It is a problem which affects every section of the population, because nowadays working people, in growing numbers, are becoming owners of cars, and we cannot ignore the problem.
I do not know what the solution is. In an area such as Central London where no parking is desirable except at parking meters, we cannot allow exceptions to be made which may ruin the whole scheme by allowing residents who live in the area to park their cars in the road. It might destroy the whole purpose of the parking scheme in the area.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
Surely the number of actual residents in such areas is very 9mall indeed. I honestly agree with my 811 hon. Friend who suggested that we should have the blue disc, because the number of people who live in the very congested areas of Central London is very small.
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. If we take Grosvenor Square, for example, there are big blocks of residential flats, and in many parts of Mayfair also where parking schemes are essential the residents are very numerous indeed. If they were allowed to park their cars in the road the whole purpose of the scheme would be destroyed. I do not know what the answer to this problem is, except to build underground garages in such areas.
I should like the hon. Gentleman to give his opinion on one method which is adopted by some people, and, I am told, by the hon. Member for St. Albans, to try to preserve a parking space in front of their own houses for their own use. I am informed—if this is not so I am sure that the hon. Member for St. Albans will tell me—that when the hon. Gentleman goes away in his car he adopts the ingenious device of asking someone in his household to put a camp stool, or something of that sort, in front of the house in the hope that it will prevent anyone else from taking the space, so that the space will be available to him when he comes back in his car.
That is a very ingenious device and very nice for the person concerned. But supposing that everyone did that, we should have the streets in many parts—
§ Mr. Goodhew
Perhaps I should tell the right hon. Gentleman that the camp stool has been replaced by a little notice reading, "No Parking Please." I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that great difficulty is created for someone who comes to live in an area close to the House of Commons in order to get to and from it easily and who finds at ten o'clock in the morning that someone who could have parked just round the corner has put his car in front of the house and left it there all day. I can do nothing about it if no one takes notice of my request, but if it results in getting other motorists to take notice I shall be very grateful.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am not denying that the problem exists. All I am saying is that, if the hon. Gentleman's solution is a correct one, we are likely to see all over London camp stools or notices placed on the roads—not notices painted on the side of the house but on the road—the purpose of which would be to obstruct other people from parking their cars, may be even for a very short time. The hon. Gentleman's device is very ingenious, but is he legally correct in putting an obstruction in the road?
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not know, but, if he is, then we may be perfectly certain that we shall see the device spread all over London and many of our other towns and cities. We should know exactly where we are in the matter; but I will not pursue the subject further.
I have spoken for longer than I intended, but there have been many interruptions. These are side issues of a problem which is terribly important and which concerns an enormous section of our population, not only everyone who has a car but everyone who wants to go to the centre of the town in which he lives either for shopping or social purposes, to see a doctor, or whatever it may be. The problem is growing. The paradox is that the more cars that become available for people to enjoy, the less enjoyment they get out of them and the less they are able to use them for business or pleasure.
I hope that the Minister will be able to touch on some of the questions put to him—I do not think that he will be able to deal with all of them, because if he attempted to do so we should be discussing the matter until four o'clock—but, naturally, I hope that he will answer the questions which I have asked him. Perhaps he will tell us what plans the Minister has in contemplation at the moment for dealing with the major problems of congestion and car parking in towns throughout the country.
§ 1.29 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)
When he began his speech, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) pointed out that this debate was perhaps a foretaste of the activity that 813 the House can expect if and when the Road Traffic Bill, at present in another place, reaches us. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that on previous occasions hon. Members have shown a great deal of interest in road traffic matters. This is something which has not escaped the notice of my right hon. Friend the Minister and myself during the last year or so. Indeed, until the noble Lord, Lord Stansgate, was elevated to another place we had regular debates on traffic and parking. We have not had one since then.
May I answer one point raised by the right hon. Gentleman? He asked about parking outside schools, and perhaps I can deal with that matter before I turn to the general issues raised in the debate. The position is that in June, 1960, we started an experiment and this is now ended. The results are being evaluated. They show partial success. A further experiment covering five schools has been started with larger markings on the carriageway. The markings have "school entrance" in a box similar to those used for taxi Tanks and bus stops. This was done in accordance with the advice of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. No doubt my right hon. Friend will, in due course, report the results of the experiment to Parliament.
I welcome the opportunity afforded by the debate to give something of a progress report on our campaign to secure more orderly parking. I wish to thank my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) for raising this subject, and to congratulate him on his admirable speech. It was short—I only hope that I can be as short in endeavouring to deal with all the points which have been raised—it was clear and concise, and it set the stage admirably for the debate which followed. I am also most grateful to hon Members on both sides of the House for the interest which they have shown in this matter.
There are three particular aspects of this parking situation upon which I should like to touch. First, I wish to say something about the problems we face; secondly, something about the powers and how we are using them; and, thirdly, something about the progress we are making. There is a close connection between traffic congestion and car parking. The fact is that everyone who drives 814 wishes to move quickly and smoothly, but sooner or later, everyone who drives wishes to stop and to park. When a motorist is driving, he curses parked cars, but when he wants to park he wishes to do so in any place he chooses, and when he chooses, and for as long as he likes, and he does not want to pay for that privilege.
No doubt the House will agree that this sort of schizophrenic situation is one for which it is extremely difficult to find a simple remedy. May I start with the basic principles. What are the proper purposes of our streets? As I see it there are two purposes. First, to provide for moving traffic and secondly to allow reasonable access to premises so far as that is consistent with the demands of moving traffic. The problem we face is somehow to find a proper balance between the two. We believe that the correct solution is to be found in comprehensive control over waiting, a control which would be simple to understand and to enforce; that parking should be allowed only where it does not interfere with moving traffic or access to premises; and that waiting, loading and unloading, and so on, should be allowed only where it would not unduly impede moving traffic.
For that reason we adopted as our policy some time ago the control of street parking based on three principles. First, the principle of payment for parking on the street—our chosen instrument here being the parking meter—secondly, better enforcement of the law, and, thirdly, the encouragement of the provision of off-street parking. I should like to say something about each of those three principles.
We were supported by Parliament in adopting the principle of paying for parking on the streets in the Road Traffic Act, 1956, to which reference was made by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall. We are quite certain, and the longer this goes on the more convinced we become, that the economic, the financial, persuasion of having to pay for the privilege of parking is the best weapon we have against the careless, irresponsible long-term parker. In this country curb space is scare, particularly in the big cities, and there is a great demand for short-term parking. We believe that it is the short-term 815 parker and not the long-term parker who uses the streets virtually as a garage for many hours of the day, who should have preference.
For that reason, we have adopted the principle of payment for street parking. We believe, and are becoming more certain that we are right, that once that principle has been adopted and put into operation, a demand begins to build up for the provision of off-street parking; and, sooner or later, it will be profitable for some body—either private enterprise or the local authorities—to meet that demand and to provide facilities for off-street parking. If it be the local authorities which are concerned, we have arranged for the law to provide that the money from the parking meters will go to the authorities and must be applied to the provision of off-street parking.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), in an interesting speech, asked what was the position of the finances relating to parking meters, and to what extent there had been a profit. I have only the limited figures from Westminster, which was the pioneer authority with parking meters. At present, there is an excess of income over expenditure of about £85,000 a year, and when one considers the comparatively small area and number of meters, I think that that is quite significant.
This is what we are doing in London. I believe that we can show we are achieving considerable success. But there is, I think, an obvious lesson to be drawn from our experience so far. It is that meters and the principle of payment for parking on the streets must come first, and that off-street parking should follow. It should not be the other way round, with the provision of off-street parking first and, after that, the provision of meters.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans asked me to say something about the possibility of making the system more flexible so that there could be different periods with different charges than the current ones in Central London. I ought to tell my hon. Friend that we have had this matter under consideration for some time. We believe it desirable that the Minister should be armed with powers to enable local authorities to fix 816 different types of standard periods which would give more flexibility, as the idea of parking meters spreads throughout the country. I understand that in another place an Amendment is being tabled to the Road Traffic Bill to which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall referred, and in those circumstances I am precluded by the rules of order, the traditions of this House and a great many other things, from saying anything further on the subject. But I hope that my hon. Friend will investigate the point further.
May I now say a word about enforcement. The House will remember that in the Act we passed last year, the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act, we improved enforcement by providing for what we have come to call the ticket system together with the institution of traffic wardens. Strictly speaking, both these matters come within the purview of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the House will not expect me to say a lot about them. But I think that hon. Members would like to know that I am told that the Metropolitan Police report that the ticket system and traffic wardens have been an unqualified success. Not only that, but the whole system of parking meters and traffic control in Central London has been an unqualified success. Traffic is now flowing considerably more freely than for some years past and, as the wardens have gained experience, and as motorists have come to accept the wardens, so the opposition to wardens and tickets, which at one time was violent, has waned.
I am told that about one-third of the motorists given tickets failed to pay up, and had to be prosecuted. I think that this is quite a significant figure, because the motoring organisations, to which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall referred, "breathed fire and smoke" a short while ago, and told us that numbers of their members would resist the tickets. In fact, I understand that about two-thirds of the motorists given tickets are paying, and only one-third dispute the matter on some ground or other. A ticket is issued only in respect of what one might call a self-proving offence, like offences at parking meters, and it may be that some of these people will decide to pay after all.
In the central area of London the progress which has been made is substantial. In metered areas the number 817 of parked vehicles has been cut down by about 50 per cent. The Road Research Laboratory carried out some before and after surveys in north-west Mayfair which show that there was a 9 per cent. increase in average speeds and a reduction of about 10 per cent. in the time taken to make visits to addresses in the controlled area. This is very satisfactory in all the circumstances.
There is a very high degree of utilisation of the meters. That is a technical term of art used by the experts. It means that in some places one cannot find a meter for love nor money. For this reason, the House might like to know that we are considering what other action we might take, and what alterations and modifications to the parking meter system might be brought in.
The meters have received the strongest support from traders. It is remarkable how the traders in the commercial community in that area have turned from being violent opponents of meters before they came in to being some of their strongest advocates, and so the public have come to welcome meters as well.
It is rather amusing that where meters are being tried elsewhere the same picture is being seen. I was recently given a cutting from the Bristol Evening World of 21st April. Parking meters have just been introduced in Bristol and the same symptoms of panic, anxiety, and anger are being shown in Bristol as were shown in London when meters were started here. I should like to read from the cutting which tells how a number of motorists have formed an organisation to sack the chairman of the planning committee and to fight meters, but one 64-year-old motorist, Mr. Donnelly, it says, claims that he has found a way to beat parking meters.
His solution is to boycott the scheme. He says:I used to drive to work every day. Now I get up an hour earlier and walk the two miles.He used to park his car in Castle Street, but now there are parking meters there. He continues:This is the only way I have of protesting. I only wish that more drivers would support me.818 Mr. Donnelly says that his only consolation from the introduction of meters is that he now gets up in time for a good hot breakfast. If that is the way some motorists choose to beat the parking meter system, I hope that it will succeed, because our purpose in providing meters on the streets is to ensure that they are used by the genuine short-term parker.
The number of meters now operating may interest the House, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet, who largely pioneered the idea in this country. In London, in the four Boroughs of Westminster, St. Marylebone, St. Pancras, and Holborn, there are about 5,300 meters in operation. Outside London—only in Bristol are the meters actually in operation—there are about 500, but on 1st May 750 meters come into operation in Manchester, and the future picture is promising indeed.
In London, next month Woolwich will start operating a scheme with 360 meters. Recently, my right hon. Friend made designation Orders for the City of London and Shoreditch. In July, the City of London will start operating about 500 meters. In the same month Shoreditch will start with about 300 two-hour meters, and 100 five-hour meters. This will be a new experiment which we shall watch with great interest. Croydon has been given approval in principle to a parking meter scheme for its county borough, which it hopes to start in the autumn, with about 1,200 meters.
The general picture is that by the end of this year there should be about 12,000 meters in operation. This will mean that about 7,000 have come into operation this year. Other important boroughs are considering parking meters. The City has plans for four more schemes over the next two years, each to have between 400 and 600 meters, and within a short time the whole area of the City of London should be covered by parking meters.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Has there been a survey as to what are the reasonable demands of motorists within the City, within Shoreditch, and within Croydon, so that when we are providing parking meters we have some idea of how many are necessary to meet the demand and we do not introduce too few meters 819 which will merely encourage everybody else to commit an offence?
§ Mr. Hay
My hon. Friend touched on that point in his speech. All I can say is that the London Traffic Management Unit which my right hon. Friend set up about a year ago, and which has been doing the technical work involved in surveying parking meter schemes put to us by local authorities, does not approach the matter from quite that point of view. It approaches it from the point of view of the capacity of the streets to carry parked cars. This is the other way round, but I think that that is the sensible way to do it. If one tried to fit the accommodation available into the number of parked cars instead of the other way round, one would get into difficulties.
I strongly support what my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans said about other local authorities, particularly in London. I hope that some of them will show a little more urgency and imagination about parking meter schemes. I will not mention names as that would be invidious, but I believe that the problem of traffic in the London area is getting worse and that, unless local authorities are prepared to meet their responsibilities, they will find themselves in great difficulty in the years ahead.
Outside London, 25 local authorities now have the power to apply to my right hon. Friend for designation Orders, but only two have so far done so. They are Bristol and Manchester, which I have mentioned. Fifteen other local authorities have asked for the power to apply for a designation Order to be extended, and many more are making what I hope are genuine inquiries.
We have been considering how to deal with this situation. I am authorised by my right hon. Friend to inform the House that a further extension Order is being prepared to extend the power of local authorities to apply to him for Orders under Section 85 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, designating parking places on highways where payment is made. The local authorities concerned are the councils of all those county boroughs and county districts in England and Wales who have not already been given powers under the two previous extension Orders.
820 This Order will shortly be presented to Parliament and will require an affirmative Resolution. If it is approved, all the local authorities to which I have referred and the county districts and county boroughs in the country will have the power to apply for a designation Order to be made. We hope that they will all give urgent thought to doing so, particularly seaside and resort towns, like Brighton, to which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans referred.
Brighton Corporation has recently, I understand, approved a scheme for parking meters. It has received a great deal of hostile and ill-informed abuse from people in the area, but I congratulate the corporation on its courage and foresight. I hope that many similar local authorities will do the same. It is no use waiting until there is sufficient off-street car parking available. Our experience shows that the charges for on-street car parking must come first.
May I say a brief word about Income Tax, the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans. The position is that profits on parking meter schemes are considered together with the results of any other trading profits which a local authority may have when assessing the taxation liability of that authority. It is important to remember that a local authority is in a somewhat different position from that of a private enterprise firm. Any loan interest which a local authority incurs over the whole of its undertakings can be offset against its profits.
We understand that about 10 per cent. of the local authorities pay Income Tax and that some of them currently pay quite a substantial amount on their parking meter profits. But their liability to tax will probably disappear when they start to build off-street garages with the profits, because they will wish to borrow the money and they will be able to offset Income Tax liabilities against the loan charges. The House was fully apprised of this by the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury on 7th July, 1959, when an Amendment to the Finance Bill was fully debated. Perhaps my hon. Friend would like to look up that debate.
I come to the question of off-street parking. Our view about this is that parking must be treated essentially as a 821 local problem and, therefore, the responsibility must to a very large extent be taken by the local authorities. We are prepared to help in the provision of off-street parking in any way we can, but we are not prepared to subsidise it. Several hon. Members have suggested that we might give grants or loans on interest-free terms, but it is firm Government policy that this should not be done.
We are prepared, however, to help in a number of other ways. First, as several hon. Members have remarked, there is the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill, which we have now passed through the House. This is an earnest of the Government's intentions of helping in any way they can in the provision of sites where they can be suitably provided. Secondly, we are prepared to recommend loan sanction to any local authority which has a genuine workable scheme for provision of an off-street garage.
Since the beginning of the financial year 1957–58 we have recommended over 500 applications for loans to a total of about £4.3 million. Then there is legislation. Where necessary, the Government have introduced legislation to help local authorities to provide off-street parking. For example, in the Road Traffic and Road Improvements Act last year, Section 11 substantially simplified the acquisition of land processes for this purpose and Section 13 permits mixed development of a parking place with offices and shops or other type of user, provided the sanction of the Minister is obtained.
I saw a useful example of this at Bedford, a few weeks ago. I was invited to open a new off-street park there. The House will be interested to know that the charge to be made is only 6d. for four hours' parking. That principally is because the authority has been able to carry out a scheme of mixed development with shops under the premises which will help substantially towards paying the whole cost.
Of course, no one should take 6d. for four hours as a precedent for London, where land values are very high. There, it is more likely to be between 7s. 6d. and 15s. a day, because that would be the real cost. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith) suggested that the price was extortionate, but it has to be realised that if scarce land is to be used in the centre of a big city one has to pay an economic 822 price whether the purpose is a car park, storage of furniture, living, or business purposes.
In the inner part of London we have made very substantial progress with off-street parking. At present, there are about 16,000 car places in off-street parking, and a further 13,500 have been planned. In the next few years we should have about 30,000 spaces available off the street. Some of these will be in municipal garages or car parks and some will be in car parks run by private enterprise. I am not sure that this will be sufficient. We have some figures, which are somewhat tentative because it is impossible to make a firm forecast, which suggest that the demand per day might be in the region of 40,000 so these plans may not be ambitious enough. In any case, we are certain that local authorities and private enterprise are fully aware of the determination of the Minister to meter the streets and to impose payment for parking, and that there is a need for them to meet which is growing. In the outer areas, Woolwich has plans for 700 off-street car park spaces, Croydon has plans for 7,000 and Watford has plans for 3,500.
The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) raised the question of parking at suburban railway stations. She may be interested to know that since 1955 total parking capacity at those stations has increased by over 60 per cent. and further extensive additions are planned by the British Transport Commission. The total capacity in November, 1960, at these stations was 6,815 car spaces at 195 stations run by British Railways and 3,019 at 48 stations run by London Transport Executive. I have not full details for places outside London, but I have mentioned Bedford, and I should also mention Manchester where there is a very important new car park with amenities which I saw last week. In Bristol, where meters are in operation, private development has come into the field and established a new off-street car park.
Before leaving this subject, I should say a word about the provision of car park facilities in new developments to which my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Glyn) and a number of hon. Members referred. The broad position, taking the country as a whole, is that now most planning 823 authorities require about one off-street car place per dwelling. It is our view that all planning authorities should do at least that. I personally am a little doubtful whether those standards are quite adequate. We are moving very fast into the age of the two-car family, and that has to be taken into account by local planning authorities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham particularly referred to office building. In the L.C.C. area the standard is one place per 2,000 sq.ft. of floor space, which is equivalent to providing a car park for about 7 per cent. to 9 per cent. of office workers. We and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government recently set up machinery to go into the question of car parking needs and standards more thoroughly. In future, we shall be taking a greater interest in that than perhaps has been the case in the past. In my right hon. Friend's Ministry, there is a long-term study group under the chairmanship of Mr. Buchanan of which the House has been told on previous occasions. That group will be looking particularly at the problem of planning cities to live with the motor car.
All I have been saying so far has been concerned principally with private cars and light vehicles. I want to say a few words now about commercial vehicles which have ranked very high in this debate. I was impressed by the strength of support for the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) in his exposition of the problem of the overnight commercial vehicle parker. As I informed the right hon. Member for Vauxhall, I have had some experience of this matter recently. My hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne), in a very lucid and forceful speech, explained that it is not entirely a simple matter, but that there is also a problem for the commercial vehicle operator.
As I see it, there are two problems. The first is to provide parking space for commercial vehicles and the second is to have control over waiting, particularly over loading and unloading. It is quite clear that commercial road transport is absolutely vital to the continued industrial and commercial health of the country. We have to be very careful lest we do something which would damage 824 or disturb that. On the pure parking question, since commercial vehicles are large, it is very important that places are provided off the street and not on the street. Responsibility for provision of off-street parking of all kinds, for private and commercial vehicles, rests clearly with local authorities or the owners of the vehicles concerned. Several hon. Members asked that my right hon. Friend should take action, but they have not suggested what action would be open for him to take.
For daytime parking there are already about 200 free street parking places in London which may be used by all types of vehicles, including heavy commercial vehicles. In the night time, the position is that unless there is some obstruction or some danger caused by parking of these heavy commercial vehicles little can be done under the present law. Of course these vehicles disturb the amenities and the sleep of residents to a great extent. My right hon. Friend has had the matter raised with him by Parliamentary Questions which the hon. Member for Brixton and others have put, and has instructed that an investigation should be carried out. We are now investigating in detail, starting with the Tooley Street area of Bermondsey and going on soon to Brixton and other areas, the possible measures which local authorities, which have the responsibility, could take to put the situation right.
I hope that the hon. Member for Brixton and other hon. Members will give us a little time to go into this further. It is not easy, as my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington made clear, and I hope that, as local authorities have power to provide off-street parking under Section 81 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960—the hon. Member for Brixton doubted that—they will consider using it.
I now come to control over loading and unloading. Outside London, the local authorities are largely responsible for the restrictions on loading. Inside London, the Minister of Transport is responsible. In parking meter zones we have had some experimental regulations in force since 19th September, 1960, and these are due to expire on 19th May next. Under them, all vehicles other than goods vehicles have been banned from loading except in the meter bays 825 and the loading gaps. There is no doubt that these experimental regulations have largely restored a sense of discipline that was not there before.
We have, of course, had quite a number of objections, particularly from motoring organisations and their members. These are now being considered, and my right hon. Friend will make an announcement shortly about the future of this project.
Another loading ban experiment was introduced in connection with the Pink Zone on 28th November last. This imposed a ban on waiting at a large number of difficult junctions and other key points in the zone and its approaches. At a typical junction, for example, we prohibited waiting, even for loading and unloading, for perhaps 30 yards round the apex of the corner. Parking was prohibited, but loading and unloading was allowed for perhaps another 20 yards. These lengths were tailored to meet the local needs of each junction. The London Traffic Management Unit, in consultation with the police and the Traders' Road Transport Association, worked each of them out. The restrictions were imposed for an initial period of six months. The result, we hope, will be to ease the flow of traffic in the more congested central routes, and make it easier for traders to load and unload.
I am glad to tell the House that the experiment has proved to be a general success, and that that is the view of the traffic experts in the London Traffic Management Unit, the police and the Traders' Road Transport Association. A few details have turned out to be less than perfect, but that is not surprising, and certain circumstances have changed. For example, the one-way working system which is starting next Sunday in the Tottenham Court Road-Gower Street area calls for changes.
During the last few months, the London Traffic Management Unit and the police have re-examined each restricted length, and have recommended a number of detailed changes. In some cases, lengths are being cancelled, in others a few new ones are being added, and yet others are being lengthened or shortened. My right hon. Friend proposes to make the regulations permanent when we get the details right, so, this week, advertise- 826 ments are appearing in the London Gazette and in local newspapers in areas affected, giving full details of proposed restrictions and inviting representations. He has also sent details to the Traders' Road Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association, the chambers of commerce, local authorities and others. Any representations we receive will be carefully gone into by the London Traffic Management Unit with the police and the local authorities.
To give us time to deal with the problem, my right hon. Friend has meanwhile made fresh regulations, which come into force next Monday, to extend the life of the old regulations until 31st October next. We hope to make the permanent regulations some time before 31st October. In making these fresh regulations we have made a number of detailed changes to suit the changed circumstances which will arise on Sunday, when the Tottenham Court Road scheme starts. These changes, like the one-way scheme, are made for a temporary period of six months.
I now turn to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and other hon. Members about car parking on the pavements. I have been asked for an opinion on this, which is something I used to deal with, provided that I was paid a reasonable consideration, but which I do not do any longer. I understand, however, that a person who leaves his car on a footpath might be committing one of several offences. Under Section 72 of the Highway Act, 1835, it is an offence wilfully to drive any carriage of any kind or any truck on a footpath.
Under the same Section it is an offence wilfully to obstruct the free passage of the highway, which includes the footpath. But, as my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State at the Home Department explained in Answer to a Question on 20th April, it is not the placing of the car upon the footpath which in itself constitutes an offence. If the offence is dealt with under the first provision I have mentioned, the essence of the offence is that the offender wilfully drove a vehicle on the footpath, not on to the footpath. Under the second provision, the essence of the offence is that the offender wilfully obstructed the free passage of the highway. It is for the 827 court to decide, on the facts before it, whether an offence has been committed in a particular case.
The question whether proceedings ought to be taken in a particular case—and I acknowledge my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby's interest in this, and was impressed by some of the cases he mentioned—is one for the discretion of the chief officer of police concerned. It is not one in which the Home Secretary or any other Minister has any authority to give direction. I understand that, in practice, the Metropolitan Police take action only where a car parked on the footway is causing danger, obstruction, or damage, and the offence is usually dealt with as one of wilful obstruction of the free passage of the highway under the 1835 Act.
I apologise for having spoken longer than I had intended, but I have tried to cover the ground as best I could. I have tried to give a progress report, because it has been some time since we debated parking. I hope that the House will pass the Motion, and that hon. Members will individually do what they can to bring before their local authorities the desirability of quick action now and in good time to deal with the car parking problems which will arise in every part of the country, if they are not already there, not only in the big towns and cities but even in small towns and villages.
In this matter, time is not on our side. The phenomenal growth in the number of vehicles is something which, although in some respects is comforting and helpful, for it shows that our economy is booming, nevertheless provides its problems. From debates of this kind, showing the interest of the House of Commons in the problem, nothing but good can come, and I hope that the House will approve this Motion.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House, mindful of the need to improve traffic flow and ease traffic congestion by the elimination of indiscriminate long-term car parking, calls upon the competent authorities to control street parking in their areas, to promote parking meter schemes, and to facilitate the provision of off-street parking places and garages.