HC Deb 01 February 1961 vol 633 cc1007-70

Order for Second Reading read.

4.20 p.m.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I have to inform the House that I have it in Command from Her Majesty to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests so far as they are affected by the Bill at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Before I come on to the Bill itself and the question of off-street car parking, I should like to say that one of the great features of modern times has been the immense growth of traffic especially in the urban areas. This impact has been felt mostly. I think, in big cities such as Birmingham, where the local authority is the traffic authority and where they have their inner ring road, and so on, and in London, where I myself have special responsibilities. Of course, there are many ways of trying to ease the traffic congestion we now suffer from, and I should like to give a few illustrations of what is happening in London before I come to the question of the provision of off-street car parking.

In London, the new Road Traffic Act has made much easier the job of tackling the London traffic and I express again my appreciation to the Opposition for the part which they played in assisting with that Measure. I hope that they will give the same assistance with this Measure. The London Traffic Management Unit, which has now been established, has a number of expert traffic engineers, and the methods by which we are tackling the problem are numerous. There are many one-way streets. I think that the House will have had experience of Park Lane and the East Carriageway and what a difference it has made to London traffic. In London we are embarking on one-way traffic streams. The largest will commence at Tottenham Court and Gower Street on 16th May. I wish that it could have been before, but it is on that date because of the difficulty about trolley buses at the north end of Tottenham Court Road. These are only some of a number of schemes which are coming in.

We are trying to eliminate right-hand turns in two-way streets. Any hon. Member who drives a car will know the difficulty of going east along the Bayswater Road and turning into Hyde Park. That has been a great cause of traffic congestion. There, the right-hand turn will be eliminated and many other right-hand turns will be eliminated—in the Marylebone Road, and so on.

Another thing that we are trying is urban clearways. One will be to London Airport. I am certain that when we mark the road to the airport—and during the peak hours we shall remove standing vehicles—we shall get a far greater volume of traffic moving to and from the west and London. Another study which the new Traffic Management Unit is making is to try to get some arteries, as it were, in the inner part of London, within a two-mile radius of Aldwych. We have already earmarked 50 miles of roads which, we hope, will be the main arteries and we shall try to ease the traffic flow on those roads.

For example on the east-west route namely, Sussex Gardens to Euston Road and Bayswater Road to High Holborn and five north-south routes—Park Lane, Edgware Road, Baker Street, Gloucester Place, Charing Cross Road, Tottenham Court Road, Hampstead Road, Kings-way, Eversholt Street, Houndsditch, the Minories, Middlesex Street and Russell Street.

I believe that main arteries should be kept free for moving traffic. In addition, we are to earmark a further 40 miles of streets which will be a link between the inner and the outer area, especially during peak periods. Then there are such things as new works like the Hammersmith flyover where, every time I pass I see that great progress has been made, and the Hyde Park scheme; and we are to start the Chiswick-Langley elevated road, which will be the motorway out to the West. When it is constructed over parts of the Great West Road I am certain that it will make a great deal of difference for people travelling to and from London by air.

In London itself, we have, I am glad to say, an origin and destination survey. We have had discussions with the London County Council which have been both amicable and agreeable. A team of consultants has been appointed which will have the benefit of the experience of some of the leading United States traffic engineers and, also, hon. Members will notice, in the replanning of urban areas, the great emphasis now being placed on segregating the pedestrian from the motor car. There are all these things and many more, but they do not alter what must be the order of priorities for roads in our city centres.

I maintain that the first priority on a street in the centre of a city should be for moving traffic. Then, some streets are wider than others and the flow is determined by the inter-sections and not necessarily the width of the street. Therefore, where we have spare space it should be used in one of two ways, for the loading and unloading necessary for the commercial life in the city and secondly, it should be used for temporary parking by those people who wish to come to the city to transact business. I have always maintained that spare space should be used for eight temporary parkers for one hour a day each, rather than for one man for eight hours a day.

When one comes to permanent parking I am bound to say that we must provide off-street parking for the motorist. Some people prefer to live in the centre of a city and park their cars, and provision must be made for them. There are those who will want to come to the city and leave their car for most of the day, or for half a day. They should be parked off the street and pay an economic price for parking. I wish to say a word about temporary parking and parking meters—

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

Before my right hon. Friend leaves the matter of arterial ways—he said a great deal about arteries to the West—can he say something specific about the Old Kent Road being the gateway to the Continent?

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, this is a debate on the Second Reading debate of the Hyde Park (Underground Parking) Bill. I am quite willing that the discussion should be wide, but if we are to have questions about travel facilities through the whole of London and the outlying roads we should like to know whether that is in order.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged. I was wondering about it, too. I gather that the Bill seeks powers to make a cavern under Hyde Park which will be filled with vehicles coming on the congested arteries into our City. I suppose that in so far as the need for accommodation under the Park is related to those roads, it is proper to refer to them otherwise, I should have thought that it was not.

Mr. Marples

I only used that, Mr. Speaker, by way of illustration; to say that whatever else we did by way of traffic engineering it would not rid us of the necessity to provide off-street parking in the centre of London and to use what space was in the streets for temporary parking. I was seeking to come to the Government's parking policy so as to justify the Bill—

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

On that point—and I mentioned this in a previous debate—is the Minister saying that on some of the main urban roads out of the city he is thinking of a complete ban, in the interests of safety?

Mr. Marples

We are making a survey of the principal arterial roads to the centre of London so that we can see that these roads, especially during peak hours, are kept free from stationary vehicles. That would mean that a large number of motorists would be able to move in and out during those periods. The first experiment is an urban clearway from Knightsbridge to London Airport.

As you yourself, Mr. Speaker, will know from your constituency, when we provide meters it is more than ever necessary to provide off-street parking. In the centre of London—because this car park under Hyde Park deals mostly with the Mayfair end of the West End of London—we have had a great growth of meters. We have found that system to be the best way of regulating the traffic and keeping it moving, and traffic wardens and the ticket system have made it even more effective. In the early days there was a great deal of opposition to parking meters, but with each successive scheme the apposition has been less.

The growth of meters in London has been very rapid. In 1958, there was one scheme for 650 meters; in 1959, one scheme for 480 meters; in 1960, four schemes for 3,530 meters, and already, in 1961, there are six schemes in the centre of London for 3,200 meters, and two further schemes far 1,580 meters at Woolwich and Croydon. Local authorities are considering further schemes—

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

Before we get to the Bill, can the Minister tell us whether he has considered the use of parking meters for advertisement purposes? It might be useful.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)

That would be far beyond the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Marples

Observing your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I shall probably discuss this with the hon. and learned Member outside the House, where it will be in order—

Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)

What is the net revenue from the parking meters, and what profit do we make?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think that that is within the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Marples

Again, therefore, I shall not be able to give an answer.

It is quite clear that it is the policy of the Government to have these parking meters, and it is my earnest desire to give all possible help to local authorities that wish to have meters, discs, or whatever system they choose. I hope shortly to discuss more energetic action with the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee and the Association of Municipal Corporations, which have indicated their willingness to help.

We have now to consider the question of off-street parking, because if we are to have these meters in the centre of London it is only fair to the motorist to give him a place to which he can take his car. That was one reason why the Government were very anxious to include this Bill in this Session's legislation; so that the work could start at Hyde Park—if the House approves the Bill—while the present road works there are continuing. I think that it would be folly to let those present road works reach completion and then, six months later, tear them up, and start digging a hole in the centre of Hyde Park.

In the centre of London, the local authorities and private enterprise are between them getting on well with the job of providing off-street parking. In the Cities of London and Westminster, and in the boroughs of St. Marylebone, Holborn, St. Pancras and Finsbury, 12,000 car spaces have either been provided or are being planned in this way. The City of London has plans to provide, either by itself or in combination with private developers, a total of 7,000 car spaces, most of which will be ready within five years.

In the Mayfair area, the Westminster City Council is building a garage at Audley Square-Waverton Street, which will take 360 cars, and has plans for garages at Savile Row and Whitcombe Street to accommodate another 600 cars. Private enterprise has completed a garage at Curzon Street House for 100 vehicles, and one is projected in Bourdon Street for another 200 cars.

Although the Government have firmly decided against giving aid from central funds for the provision of off-street parking, we do wish to help in any way we can, apart from a direct monetary grant. In the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act we included provisions to make it easier for local authorities to provide garages, and also to make possible maximum development by allowing, for instance, shops to be combined with garages.

I remember that during the Committee stage of that Measure, hon. Members on both sides wondered whether advantage would be taken of that provision. I am very glad to say that quite a number of local authorities have indicated to me that this very proposal will help them to put car parks where, normally, they would not have been able to put them—because it would have been uneconomic—by combining them with shops, and so on.

Mayfair, of course, is an extremely difficult place in which to provide off-street parking, because of the expensiveness of sites. That is where Hyde Park comes in as really a godsend to the Government. The site is there, and we believe that the Bill will be very valuable, as it will make provision for an underground garage to be built in the northeast corner of the Park. For what I hoped would prove to be for the convenience of the House, I have had a map prepared. I thought that that would make it easier for hon. Members to follow the proposals in the Bill than would a long description telling them exactly where the garage would be.

This garage would also make it easier, not only for people coming to the centre of London and for people living there, but for the hotels in Park Lane and Oxford Street. There, a great deal of congestion is caused by chauffeur-driven cars hanging about the entrances for hours on end. By the Bill, they will be able to get accommodation in this garage, and I hope that that will assist matters considerably.

Underground garages beneath the Royal Parks were advocated in 1951 by the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, but I think that it is only with the advent of meters that such garages have become commercially viable. I have considered this scheme in great detail with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works and his staff, to whom I am very grateful for their cooperation, and for the time and energy that they have devoted to the scheme. Both my right hon. Friend and I are satisfied that an acceptable scheme can be devised without unduly harming the Park's amenities. We are also satisfied that it will fit in with the road system—there is no point in erecting a garage that is too big, and carries so many cars that it is impossible for them to filter into and out of the adjoining roads.

This is purely an enabling Bill. It is needed because there are long-standing statutory restrictions on the power of the Crown to dispose of land in the Royal Parks, whether by lease or otherwise. The Bill does not authorise specific work; it simply enables me, as the Minister of Transport, to let land within an authorised area for an underground garage, for a filling station and for ordinary ancillary garage activities—subject to a number of important restrictions. When referring to ancillary services I have in mind very minor repairs and such things as the washing of cars, but nothing in the nature of major repairs will be allowed. Petrol pumps will be included.

There is no limit on the duration of the powers, but the maximum lease permitted by the Bill is ninety-nine years, and at the expiration of any lease granted the Minister of Transport will consult the Minister of Works about future action. The authorised area for the scheme is 36 acres—

Mr. Mitchison

Before the right hon. Gentleman comes to that, I hope that he will say something about the rent. Letting implies a rent, and I hope that he will tell us by whom the rent will be payable, the conditions, and so on. We on this side are very interested in the financial aspect.

Mr. Marples

I certainly will, and if, when the hon. and learned Member makes his speech, he will say that he wishes for further elucidation, I shall take careful note of what he says and shall answer in the winding-up speech at the end of the debate.

The authorised area is 36 acres. This provides for accesses, underground roads, emergency exits and all that sort of thing. It gives the developer some room for manœuvre in the silting and design of the garage itself. The area developed as a garage would be considerably smaller, probably about six acres, with a capacity for 1,000 or 1,100 cars. The site chosen was based upon the needs for an open space free of trees, for the best situation for access from neighbouring roads and causing minimum disturbance to amenity 'in the Park and also to be as close as possible to the source of custom.

The location of the accesses is defined on the map which has been published as a White Paper. The accesses have been agreed with the Ministry of Works after full consultation with London County Council and the police. The location of the petrol station is shown at the foot of the ramp at the eastern end. The ramped vehicle access and probably one pedestrian exit are outside the park fence near the eastern road and other eastern exits will probably be underground, with the Park Lane system.

At the end of Park Lane many pedestrians cross when the lights are green for pedestrians and red for motor traffic, but it is certainly a hazardous business for the pedestrians. Ultimately, there will be pedestrian subways linked with this underground garage in Hyde Park.

The House will notice that the filling station is to be at the bottom of the eastern ramp. It will be a 12 ft. ramp which will not be seen, nor is it unsightly. The design and signs will be agreed with the Ministry of Works and subject to the normal planning procedure of London County Council. There will be a small number of ventilation shafts among the trees. These may be concealed in park shelters and their placing will be agreed with the Minister of Works. There will be certain emergency exits in the park and also smoke exits in the form of pavement lights.

Some trees will be affected, but the number is not likely to exceed 15. The precise details will depend on the detailed layout. The Minister of Works, under the Bill, will retain absolute control over interference with trees. There will be the absolute minimum of interference with the amenities and we shall ensure that it is kept to the minimum. Vehicle accesses on the eastern and north side of the park fence will have to be set back very slightly to allow for vehicle and pedestrian access from outside the park fence. The civil engineering technique of what is known as "cut and cover" will be used.

In other words, the whole of the cut will be in the centre of Hyde Park and will be covered afterwards and amenity interests will be taken very great care of. This is much cheaper than the method of normal tunnelling and it will mean that the Parade Ground, used for ceremonial purposes, will be restored completely. The accesses to the garage and some emergency exits will have ventilation shafts and smoke vents flush with the surface.

In all this work I intend to work in closest collaboration with the Minister of Works. I shall consult him in particular on the proposed terms of whatever lease is granted and on the materials used in the work. The Bill allows me to make regulations to control public order subject to development. Public control on the Park surface will continue to be exercised by the Minister of Works under his Royal Parks regulations and the developer of the garage will have to submit proposals to London County Council for planning approval. He will also be bound by all normal fire control and safety requirements.

If and when Parliament approves the Bill, I propose to grant a lease on a competitive basis for the purpose of building and operating the garage The Bill would permit me to grant such a lease either to a local authority or to a private developer. Discussions have already taken place with Westminster City Council, but at the moment it seems unlikely that the Council would be interested in taking a head lease. It therefore seems most likely that private enterprise will be entrusted with this task.

A number of firms have already shown interest and, as I said in reply to a Question on 30th November, such firms have been given some information on the conditions likely to apply. This, of course, has been done entirely without commitment.

Mr. Mellish

What about London County Council?

Mr. Marples

The local authority concerned is Westminster City Council and I approached that authority. It would be normal for Westminster City Council, as it is doing all the developments in Waverton Street. and so on, to be approached.

Mr. Mitchison

Is there any precedent for constructing an underground car park?

Mr. Marples

There is a precedent in Finsbury Square, in the City. That is a private enterprise car park.

Mr. Mitchison

For how many cars?

Mr. Marples

I should have to have notice of that question. I do not know at the moment, as I have not been there recently.

The Bill places a maximum limit of ninety-nine years on any lease. The actual length of the lease granted will be one of the matters dealt with in the competitive tender. As to the rent, the Government would be prepared, if necessary, to agree initially to a nominal rent so that the heavy capital cost might be recovered. Nevertheless, we shall bear in mind that the operation of a garage at this key site may well prove lucrative. In that event, we shall, naturally, take steps to see that the Government participate in the profits.

No Government expenditure will be involved in the building and operation of the garage. The whole cost will fall on the developer. If Parliament approves the grant of the powers, it will be necessary to invite the developers to submit tenders on terms and conditions notified to them. The successful tenderer will have to prepare detailed construction plans and there is some statutory undertaker's apparatus in the subsoil which will have to be moved. We shall press forward with all stages of this work as fast as possible.

I cannot say when work on building the garage will begin, but it will be started while the present road works are continuing. Therefore, I think that this gives encouragement to the private motorist in the centre of London who will see that we have his interests at heart and are making a very determined and unconventional attempt to meet his requirements. In America, I saw a number of underground car parks, in Chicago and Los Angeles. I have written to those places for details of financial terms and conditions and the experience they have had. That information I intend to scrutinise very carefully when it arrives.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington South-West)

Will the House have an opportunity of seeing the terms of the tenders and the suggested nominal rent and the later financial provisions which are to enable the State to take back something of the profit which accrues?

Mr. Marples

I do not know about the tenders, but any conditions I send out I am willing for the House to see. I am quite prepared to allow the House to know the basis, but, if a confidential tender is put in, it would be difficult to disclose details of one without disclosing details of another.

Mr. A. Evans

Will the right hon. Gentleman put in the Library the terms of the tender and the financial details?

Mr. Marples

I am quite prepared to do that with the terms and conditions under which I ask people to tender.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

Can my right hon. Friend explain whether there will be one tender for the actual construction and another for the operation of the garage? I understood him to say that it is to be a tender for both purposes and not separate tenders.

Mr. Marples

The actual terms have not been decided on and, as I have said, I shall put the details in the Library so that the House will be fully informed. It may well be that we shall have people to construct and operate the garage. I think that would be more desirable than to get someone to construct it and someone else to run it. We do not want to have to deal with more than one developer or a consortium.

Mr. W. Baxter

Will the right hon. Gentleman have any control over the charges to be levied?

Mr. Marples

No. They will be exactly the same as in some of the other garages built in the centre of London. It will be the economic price and it will not be a dictated price. It will probably be similar to that charged at Selfridge's and it will have to bear some relation to the cost. But it must be a very fair deal from the Government's point of view, because ultimately, when the heavy capital cost has been recovered, this will be a key site and will be lucrative. It must be a fair division between the Government and private enterprise.

For a long time the motoring organisations have been pressing the Government to take action in the provision of off-street car parking. I think that it is the job of local authorities and private enterprise to provide that off-street car parking at economic prices, and it is the Government's job especially to help the local authority in acquiring suitable sites, because in many cases private enterprise itself cannot find the sites.

It is, therefore, with confidence that I commend the Bill to the House, and I hope that it will be given an unopposed Second Reading.

4.51 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

The Minister began with a long exposition of various matters, the undoubted relevance of which I found a little difficult to appreciate. I think that we all agree with him that there is a need for more car-parking facilities in London; I cannot imagine anybody denying it. But what is he doing? He is giving away what belongs not to him but to the Crown and is managed by the Minister of Works, and he is giving it away on terms which remain singularly obscure. The part of his speech which I wanted to hear—it came at the very end—was very vague indeed; it related to the terms and conditions under which this provision was to be made.

The Nugent Report, Cmnd, 812, some time ago emphasised the need for these very facilities. This is no new discovery by the right hon. Gentleman or by any of the numerous committees which are supposed to be looking after London traffic. If London traffic could be managed by committees, I am sure that it would be all right now. In this respect it is rather like the Highlands.

The Nugent Report agrees that, The obstruction of traffic by indiscriminately parked cars should be dealt with by parking meter schemes"— to which the right hon. Gentleman referred— strict enforcement of No-Waiting Regulations and the provision of multi-storey garages to meet the demand of the essential long-term parker". He is a new man to me. He must be a relative of the hypothetical tenant about whom we are always hearing in rating cases. Apparently we have to consider "the essential long-term parker".

The plan has grown a lot. About a year ago, on 3rd February, 1960, there were some Questions about it. The hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) referred—it seems to be quite well known to everybody—to the delays in proceeding with underground car parks at Cavendish Square—I do not know what has happened there—and the north-east corner of Hyde Park.

The map indicates quite clearly not merely the north-east corner of Hyde Park, which I think is Speakers' Corner, but quite a large area around the whole side of Hyde Park—36 acres, of which six acres are to be occupied by the actual garage space. I do not know what would have happened if they had used 36 acres. I think that the risk about this garage is that it might prove to be rather too large. It is certainly required, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has information as to the local requirements to justify this pretty extensive Measure, but that even those who are not traffic experts will agree that one very large car park underground is not quite as good as a number of smaller car parks spread about in different places.

What the Nugent Committee had in mind, and what I think was intended for some time, were multi-storey car parks. I will not say that multi-storey car parks are necessarily right, but it is interesting 'to notice that multi-storey car parks are being used in a great many provincial areas. Only the other day an exceedingly attractive photograph appeared in a newspaper of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport opening a multi-storey car park. This was at Bedford. By whom was it run? It was run by the Bedford municipality, and it was a very large car park indeed. I take it that the municipality, whatever it can do, is able to do as much underground as it does over-ground, and I was rather disappointed to hear that, although the right hon. Gentleman had had discussions with Westminster City Council, the Government are so intent on abolishing the L.C.C. that he did not even think it worthwhile to talk to the L.C.C. about the possibility of the L.C.C. doing the job.

I know of an even simpler solution than that. We are dealing with Crown property. It has been Crown property for a very long time. It is proposed to use it for what is claimed to be a public purpose. It is proposed to use it for the relief of London traffic congestion. For that purpose a great deal of public money is necessarily and rightly spent at present. For instance, roads are widened, traffic wardens are provided and the whole apparatus and responsibility of the public control of transport is applied at the public expense to meet what is, after all, a public need.

The first point which would have occurred to me, if I had had to approach it, would have been that this is Crown land which is to be used for a public purpose and that it ought to be run by some public body. I fail to see the need for handing it out to private enterprise, unless it is purely ideological prejudice, as so often is the case on the Conservative benches. I fail to see why the right hon. Gentleman should commit himself for any other reasons than purely ideological prejudice to saying in this case that economic charges must be paid.

About a year ago the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), when talking about this subject, said, the parking difficulties in London and our great cities will never be solved until some multi-storey garages are erected in the centres of those cities". Goodness knows which costs most—a multi-storey garage on top of Hyde Park or an underground garage below it. I do not know, I doubt whether there is an immense difference, but I concede at once that the right hon. Gentleman has a long experience in these matters and great personal skill in them. I accept any comment which he makes on those lines.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

The hon. and learned Member is not seriously suggesting that we should put a multi-storey garage in the middle of our beautiful Hyde Park?

Mr. Mitchison

I am not as cracked as that. I was referring to a multi-storey garage because of what followed, and I am saying that I am not sure whether the capital cost would be very different. I was a little frightened by seeing the right hon. Gentleman express some doubt or dissent, and I thought that before I crossed swords with him on such a technical question I ought to mention expert knowledge. I come to what the hon. Member himself said, and I cannot think that there is much wrong with it: Further, is my right hon. Friend aware that the economic cost of such garages works out at about 12s. 6d. per day per motor car and that on that basis they will never become popular."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1960; Vol. 616, c. 982.] That is very stiff. As an example of charges at other places where people have to leave their cars, I remind the House that at London Airport the charge is 4s. a day. The charge at this garage may well be formidable, more than 12s. 6d. a day. The suggestion of the hon. Gentleman was that multi-storey garages should rank for grant, because otherwise they would be too expensive. In this case there is to be no grant. It is to be let out to private enterprise. The charges are to be on an economic basis.

We heard a little further elucidation of that, because we were told that it was expected that the project would be very lucrative. If it is very lucrative, which is even fruitier than an economic basis, goodness knows what the charges will be. We are invited to arrange for building a garage which will take 1,000 or 1,100 cars—at 12s. 6d. a day, more than 12s. 6d. a day, or how much a day? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what the charges are expected to be. He was under a duty to the public to make some estimate of them. I was surprised that we did not hear a word about charges in his speech. That is what we are concerned with.

I do not know how well off the gentleman whom the right hon. Gentleman described as "the essential long-term parker" is, but I do not think that the E.L.P., as I shall call him, exists in such numbers and with so many large purses as to be able to pay the full cost of a project like this. If the right hon. Gentleman can justify the Bill at all, it must be on the basis that he is meeting a public need and causing to be carried out what is a public duty. In those terms, nothing but a somewhat barren ideology could tie him quite so tightly to forcing the man driven to an underground park by the pressure of traffic in London to pay, not merely the economic cost of his parking, but a charge which is anticipated will yield lucrative results to someone else.

In those circumstances, much the simplest thing to do would have been to let a public authority do the whole project. I am not certain that either the Westminster City Council or the London County Council is necessarily the right body. However, there are two right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench. They both have offices. One of them manages Hyde Park and the other manages transport. Could not they manage to run a garage between them, instead of providing a lucrative proposition for somebody else, out of the needs of London traffic and the poor E.L.P., who will have to pay for it all?

Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)

As it is so important to save money on all the different things on which we have to save money, would it not be better to let private enterprise have a good shot first?

Mr. Mitchison

I am not necessarily an E.L.P. I leave my car in the Temple. The hon. Gentleman's observation does not suggest that he appreciates the right way to look at a public duty. The Minister of Transport is supposed to keep the traffic moving. It is not as easy as it looks nowadays. He is doing all this as part of his public duty as the Minister of Transport. He cannot justify it in any other way. Why present some developer with a lucrative proposition at the expense of the poor E.L.P.? That chap is quite a character, and I do not see why all this money should be taken off him for this purpose.

That is my main criticism, but I want to follow it up a little further. This is a very odd Bill. When a Minister is to receive a lot of money, there is usually a Clause in the Bill saying what he is to do with it. I do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman will pocket it, but it is usual to make some provision for it. Provision is very carefully made in other cases. Not only will the right hon. Gentleman receive some rent, but if he had been a little less narrow-minded about this his Ministry or another public authority could have done quite well out of selling petrol. Apparently it is wrong for public bodies to sell petrol in connection with transport. They can make arrangements to provide underground parking space. They can even arrange for a lease on suitable terms, but on no account must they sell petrol. I have never understood why. It appeared in the 1960 Act, which provided that local authorities could do all sorts of things about parking, but in one obscure subsection it was provided that on no account must they sell petrol. Therefore, somebody else will make all the profits out of this attempt to meet the public need in London, certainly the profits resulting from the sale of petrol.

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

Unless I have completely misunderstood the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, he has contradicted himself at least once in the last ten minutes. At one stage he said that the E.L.P., as he put it, could not pay 12s. 6d. a day and he guessed that there would be a loss on the garage. The next moment he suggested that my right hon. Friend should take it on because there was a lucrative profit to be made out of it.

Mr. Mitchison

It is all quite consistent. I would never lightly say that I had been consistent, but in this instance I am perfectly consistent. It is not for me to say that the E.L.P. will get off with 12s. 6d. a day. That charge was based on the economic cost of something different. He may very well have to pay much more. Like the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole), I am innocent in these matters. I wait to be told by the responsible Department which is seeking to meet a public need how much it is to charge the public for using the facilities it provides. I did not get the information from the Minister. I hope that we shall learn it before the day is over. I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman now if he cares to tell us what the charge will be. He does not seem interested in doing that, but it is very much to the point.

It would have been very much better if either the Minister of Transport or the Minister of Works—or, as they are as closely associated as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the two of them together—could have managed between them to run the garage for the public benefit and even to sell petrol. Ideology forbids a public body to sell petrol. I suppose that is the right hon. Gentleman's reason for it.

I hope that I am making myself clear. When the Minister is called upon to act for a public purpose and to meet a public need, it is wrong that he should take measures which seem likely to result in the public paying a great deal of money for the benefit, at any rate partly, of the gentleman referred to as "the developer", that is to say, the contractor. I wonder if Mr. Clore is in on this. He has a hotel round the corner. I should not like to ask any questions on this topic. They might embarrass the right hon. Gentleman. It would have been very much better if the Minister had undertaken the project himself.

This is a case in which the House should be told rather more than it sometimes is on Government contracts. We should know the rent and conditions. The right hon. Gentleman had an uneasy conscience about this. He said that it would be lucrative. At one stage he said it would be very lucrative and that the Government would ensure that they got their share back out of it. We should especially like to know what those provisions are. This is a case in which the Government might reasonably say to the contractor, "We shall have the profits once you have made a reasonable return on a percentage basis on whatever you spend on doing the job for us". I am assuming for the purpose of my argument that we shall be led—I was about to say "up the garden path", but instead I will say into this misty cavern by the route which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested and that any form of public ownership is out of the question and any form of public management only doubtfully in it.

We shall not divide against the Bill. This is a real public need. Our objections to it are very much more the financial ones in relation to the way in which it is to be done and in relation to the result of the method on those who use the space. If the Government prune £50 million to £100 million off the National Health Service, we shall not let them off lightly when there is a question between them and some developer about who is to get the results of this very lucrative enterprise. Those results, if they are to be there at all, should go to the public, since what the Minister is doing is a public duty. This is very much a case where the activities of the developer or the contractor, or whatever we call him, should be watched very closely indeed in the public interest.

5.12 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) is worried about how the deal should be done. I profess that my anxiety is less than his but, it starts a little earlier in the story, I am worried about the deed that is to be done.

The Bill, which my right hon. Friend has outlined, offers an exciting and imaginative project. It is intended, as my right hon. Friend said, as an earnest of the Government's intention to deal with the off-street parking problem in Central London, and no one would question the need to do that. It is obviously a Measure that is a source of triumph to the Government. We know that, because it had an honourable but surprising place in the Gracious Speech, and I am fortified by knowing that this is a subject about which my right hon. Friend knows a great deal. Technically he knows what he is about. I acknowledge that before I go on to strike perhaps a more captious note. In the circumstances, it seems rather unkind, as well as vain, to strike any kind of note at all, except a favourable one, but I must admit that there are aspects of this Measure which leave me less than enraptured. Perhaps that is because I have no engineering blood in my veins. Perhaps it is because, like the hon. and learned Member for Kettering, I either do not run a car in London or, if I do, I have the yard outside in which to park. This is an interest which every hon. Member must declare.

At the risk involved for all who stand between the motorist and what he wants, I want to examine one or two points in the Bill rather critically. First, may I say a word, not on behalf of the great majority of car packers, but on behalf of the minority of park lovers. That they are places of value in London hardly needs emphasis, particularly the trio formed by Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James's Park, which are acknowledged to be without peer in Europe. It behoves all of us to watch very carefully any act of anyone in association with the parks. Nothing which detracts from their value or beauty, even temporarily, is to be lightly regarded.

My right hon. Friend has spoken of the minimum of disturbance. That remark implies that there will be some disturbance. He has spoken of ventilation shafts, which I take it will be permanent, of the emergency exit, which we hope will be permanent, and of the loss of fifteen trees. This is not the first, and it will not be the last, demand made upon Hyde Park. It is not the first, as the earthworks at Hyde Park Corner now make very clear.

Here it is perhaps apt to quote something that the then Minister of Transport said in the House three years ago, on 11th December, 1957, on the Park Lane Improvement Bill: Turning to the general amenities, I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, who has been most helpful in all this, and who himself hopes, I think, that his new Hyde Park will be rather more private and cut off from traffic, and of rather greater amenity than the present one."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1957; Vol. 579, c. 1291.]

The Minister of Works in question was about to lose four acres and sixty trees, and he thought that he would still have a greater amenity than the present one. It is clear, and my right hon. Friend has confirmed this, that we are now in for a really unbroken chain of operations. The Park Lane scheme, which we all commend for what it will be, has been running for some time, and I think will run on for quite a bit. One hears that this scheme is to be linked to it so there will be more or less an unbroken course of operations. I should like to hear before the end of the debate how long this project is likely to take. In Hyde Park it seems always jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, but it is very seldom that we get a clear view of today. The lines of Housman come into my mind: And since to look at things in bloom Fifty springs are little room … I wonder how soon it will be before we are able to see spring in Hyde Park without all the earthworks in between.

This proposal cannot be considered entirely in isolation. It is not only the future prospects of this park which disquiet me. Presumably this design is an exemplar of what is possible elsewhere, and I think one has a right to wonder whether, if it is within the rules of order to inquire, what may be the sequel to be expected from other local authorities. Is this cut and cover idea for open spaces to be regarded as an example which other local authorities should follow?

I have no doubt that, particularly under the eye of my right hon. Friend, this scheme at Hyde Park will be most skilfully done and the damage kept to a minimum. It will not be a kind of opencast mining operation. But if other local authorities get bitten by this idea, the Minister of Transport will not always be in a position to stand over them. What will be the consequences in other places to trees, open spaces, and amenities? That is something which we ought to consider before we let this Bill go.

I feel also that it is not out of place to speak about our endeavours to make any serious scientific approach to the traffic problems of London. My right hon. Friend may eventually shout me down about this, but I suggest that in terms of scientific research we know less about the traffic in London than we know about bird migration, and that is supported by authorities, whom I have heard quite lately, and one or two of whom, I am glad to say, advised my right hon. Friend. We are still far behind other places which have as many or more cars in their streets. Much more close research and expensive research has to be done if we are really to discover which car is going in which direction, why the owner is in the car, why he must be there and where he is going to finish up. That must be done before we can decide where our parking places, among other things, are sited.

I am suspicious of an operation like this which is being based on a less than an adequate survey of the general picture. Presumably—my right hon. Friend added a word of assurance here—we know all about flows of traffic likely to move from other parts of London towards this part and out of it. I accept that this flow to and from this haven will be all that it should be.

But palpably this plan is based not so much on research as on the convenience of Hyde Park being where it is and a place where one can cut and cover without massacring our arboriculture. We have hitherto never touched more than the fringe of this problem of the car and its future in the centre of our big cities. The question to me is, as Humpty Dumpty said, "Who is to be the Master?". That is all. The longer the question is undecided, the more difficult the answer will be. I have a feeling that the solution is to be found by simple economics. What is the economic price which ought to be charged for parking in the centre of a big city all day? There is a formula to be found here, but I do not think it will be found in time to accompany this Hyde Park affair. What charges should be imposed to strike a right balance? That is to say, what charges will give the man who has good reason to bring his car into London what he needs, but will discourage the man who ought to be discouraged because his presence in his car is not really essential? There is an economic answer, but I do not think it is altogether on the lines of what the Government are trying to do here.

I do not know as much about this as I should, but I think there is a great deal more to be done. Before we part with a large slice of Hyde Park—I think my right hon. Friend mentioned a total of 36 acres and 6 acres underground—we are entitled to hear about such work on a wider scale, and not only in London but elsewhere. Civil engineering on this scale demands commensurate traffic engineering. The two things ought to go together. A grand project of this kind is not really a substitute for deep constructive thought on a traffic engineering problem.

I am sorry to be unduly captious about this. I confess a deep affection for London parks, and I think that one is entitled to have certain reservations before accepting a demand which, as day follows night, will lead to other demands on the parks. Each demand will be essential in the interests of progress, as is the project which my right hon. Friend has in mind, and each demand will be justified. Also each demand will diminish those parks just a little more. Since I think this Bill is the forerunner of other Measures of this kind, and as such it ought to be judged, I want to be a little more sure of the direction in which we are moving.

5.22 p.m.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), I came into the Chamber full of curiosity about what the Minister would say about the Bill, but, unlike my hon. and learned Friend who got some answer, I unfortunately have had none as yet. I hope that we shall have more information before my hon. and learned Friend's very optimistic forecast that we shall not divide on this Bill is realised.

The Bill as drafted is a masterpiece of concealment and evasion. The particular collector's piece is the phrase: The Minister of Transport shall not be required to prevent … The Bill is as careful as it could be to avoid any commitment as to what sort of engineering operations are going to take place once this hole has been dug. I should have thought that we were en- titled to a fairly expansive account of the discussions which took place on the architectural and engineering possibilities. After all, this is a very significant and important step. As the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) pointed out, it is a matter of great concern.

There is a story that one of the earlier Georges asked one of his Ministers "What is Hyde Park worth?" and the answer was "Your Crown, Sir." I wondered, when the Minister was starting his speech and giving us the keynote of his estimate of the situation, whether we had been deprived of the estimable monarch or whether he had been sleeping, like Barbarossa, and whether the Minister had to explain, after all these years, why we now wanted to use Hyde Park; because, as though he were talking to somebody who was old and deaf, and with a desire to make clear what had been happening in the world, he gave us this wonderful estimate which we shall relish in HANSARD tomorrow when we read it over again, when he said that one of the outstanding features of our age is the increase in traffic.

Perhaps, out of a desire not to upset the old gentleman, the Minister did not refer to any other outstanding features of our age or any other problems which might have been worrying people. [An HON. MEMBER: "It would have been out of order."] It would not have been out of order to explain to the owner of Hyde Park some of the problems which have been giving us such concern, and I am surprised that the Minister should have been so willing to avoid what would have been in order when discussing the Second Reading of a Bill whose purpose is to carve up Hyde Park.

Surely we are entitled to ask what discussions have been taking place on certain aspects of the matter, and particularly on the aspect to which I am now about to come. I do not think there is a capital city in the world where any scheme for underground parking will not have been associated with the problem of Civil Defence and of deep shelters. I can understand why that has not been mentioned in the Bill, but I cannot understand why there has been no reference to it in the Minister's speech, because it will surely be in the mind of anyone who has been concerned with Civil Defence.

I am certain that it has been in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman himself, because we know of his brilliant personal career in connection with civil engineering and in moving earth before he came into the House. One would go about the country and see whole areas covered with machinery bearing his name. He must have said to himself, "If I were doing this how would I set about it?" although it is true that in the intervening years he has become an expert at dozing other kinds of bull.

He must have a sense of urgency and reality when he thinks about this project. Surely his train of thought must have led him to the question of deep shelters. He must have thought of something on the lines mentioned by the hon. Member for Ashford, and considered the problems of deep excavation. If this sort of architectural engineering is going to spread, I hope that we shall not make the same sort of mistakes as were made in buildings on the surface and cover whole areas with shallow constructions which make it impossible or very expensive to excavate deeper later on.

The Minister, as a Cabinet Minister, must constantly have had before him the papers on Civil Defence, some reference to which appears in the appropriate documents from time to time. In the last two White Papers on Defence there has been a token reference to Civil Defence.

No new development has been announced. In neither of those White Papers, nor in the two Reports of the Ministry of Health, which also contained references to Civil Defence, has there been any reference whatever to deep shelters. There have been references to other kinds of Civil Defence activities, but none whatever to the provision of deep shelters.

If it is true that the Government have abandoned all thought of providing deep shelters for the inhabitants of London, then the Minister ought to say so. This underground car park will be an attraction, in case of danger, to the inhabitants of my constituency and of the constituency of Mr. Speaker, and there ought to be some indication of its usefulness in such circumstances.

Is it not rather cruel to allow recruitment for Civil Defence in relation to the movement of casualties to the primary treatment centres, without there being any provision for shelter and protection of the vehicles required for this purpose? Would it not have been prudent at least to consider that in relation to this scheme?

A lot of people enrol each year in the Civil Defence and about the same number leave it in despair and frustration. But they all start with the hope that they will learn something which will enable them to be helpful. They will note with sorrow that there is no provision for or reference in the Bill to the sheltering of their transport, and the Minister might have dealt with that point today.

The right hon. Gentleman might have gives us a discursive, quick glimpse at the history of deep shelters and deep excavated buildings in other countries at the present time. The Chief Civil Defence Officer for the County of Middlesex was given a gold medal, not by this Government but by the Government of Denmark, for the great assistance he gave in the preparation of civil defence in that country.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I cannot connect that with the Bill at present before the House.

Mr. Parkin

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I could, if you would only let me try.

I think that anyone concerned with digging a hole in the Queen's back garden would have sent for such an expert and said, "Can you give us any useful advice such as you gave the Danes? Can we develop a dual purpose construction here, and what do you know about it?" We know that the Swedes have been extraordinarily lucky because they have been able to tunnel into rock. Some countries are more optimistic than others about deep shelters, but this may be because they have no rocket bases.

This really is the nub of my inquiry. I think that we ought to be told why, like the dog in Sherlock Holmes' story, the right hon. Gentleman did not bark. That is the mystery about his speech. It is inconceivable that this aspect of the problem was not even considered by the Cabinet and by the Minister personally. We ought to know to what conclusions they came and whether they were technical. We ought to know whether they came to the conclusion, reached long ago by the Commonwealth Relations Minister, that there was no possibility of defending the civil population, and more recently by the noble Lord, who, speaking on the subject of Polaris, said that it was disgraceful to pretend that the danger to Glasgow was in any way increased by the presence of Polaris because everyone knew that anyone within 100 miles of Glasgow would be burnt to a cinder immediately an H-bomb was dropped.

These opinions on the part of the Government might justify thorn in saying. "We are not going to waste money on things like that. Let us look at the fact that 7 per cent. of Londoners travel by car and only 93 per cent. by public transport. Let us put the priority where it lies." Or, alternatively, there might be another and more generous interpretation of the Government's mentality. It may be—and I suspect that this is the truth—that they know that there is, in fact, no likelihood of aggression against this country.

Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)

On a point of order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but there are a number of hon. Members who would like to discuss the Bill if they could have your help, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in doing so.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member for Paddington. North (Mr. Parkin) has been causing me some concern for some time. I hope that he will relate his remarks more closely to the subject of the Bill.

Mr. Parkin

I am sorry to cause you concern, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. My great anxiety is to cause concern to the Minister about problems which seem connected with this proposal to dig a hole in Hyde Park. We ought to hear from the right hon. Gentleman about these matters before we decide how to vote on the Bill and we ought to be told why it is that these other considerations have not been dealt with.

I was about to conclude that it may well be that there is a simple explanation—that the Government do not believe that there is, in fact, any military danger to this country and that it does not matter whatsoever. As I say, I was about to conclude on that note, and I will resist the temptation, which the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) has presented to me, to discuss the effect on the coloured peoples for whom he shows a great interest when they came to live in this country, and whose feelings are echoed in other parts of the world.

I hope that we shall get an honest, straightforward statement from the Minister of the discussion of the conclusions which must have been reached on this problem before the Bill is given a Second Reading.

5.36 p.m.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

This aspect of the Bill has, I suggest, been sufficiently dealt with in the speech to which we have just listened by the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) and, therefore. I will not now add any further observations on that subject.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on introducing the Bill. I must also at once declare a close personal interest in that I live on the corner of Upper Brook Street and Park Lane, which is extremely close to where this garage is going to be dug out. I wish, therefore, like the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), to express disappointment at the fact that the Minister has not told us a little more about the financial implications involved.

There is the case of the E.L.Ps. of whom I am one, living in that area, and, as an E.L.P., I should naturally like to be in a position to garage my car as cheaply as I possibly can. On the other hand, I think that as Members of Parliament we also have a responsibility concerning the expenditure of taxpayers' money. At this juncture a great deal of taxpayers' money is being expended in various ways, and I should not like to see such money spent on either digging this hole or in operating costs.

Surely there are strong grounds here for following the custom of years gone by of interesting such bodies as water boards or gas undertakings—before nationalisation, of course—whereby public money could be obtained by subscription. Some kind of public body could be set up to operate the project in conjunction with other underground places which may be obtained elsewhere, whether in St. James's Park, Regent's Park or in other squares. Possibly the revenue from parking meters could be used in this way. I should have thought that there could have been some means of starting up a public board with the public subscribing money at a fixed rate of interest, together, perhaps, with some participating interest laid down by Statute and a limiting of the amount of money to be charged.

If something of that kind could be done, and there are various ways of doing it about which the Minister is no doubt aware, it would meet some of the objections which the hon. and learned Member for Kettering has voiced and which I, and I imagine hon. Members on both sides of the House, also have. Something is being provided which is publicly needed, but at the same time it ought to be supplied at as reasonable a price as possible.

Mr. Mellish

We had better get this matter cleared up for the rest of the debate. The Minister can intervene to correct me if necessary, but, as I understand it, no public money will be provided. The work will be thrown out to tender—and I hope that the London County Council as well as private enterprise will be allowed to tender—and the contractors will develop the site. They will dig the hole and then it may be that the developer will become the operator. As the Minister said, the operational side will probably be very lucrative. If that is the case, should not the first priority be given to the Minister of Works? If, at the end of the day, the operation of this car park is going to be lucrative, he himself should undertake the task.

Sir W. Wakefield

Like the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), I should like a good deal more financial information on this point. I should also like to know what the prospects are. We hear that they may be very lucrative. I am not sure what will be the cost of digging the hole, but the cost of operation must be fairly well known. At the present time there is an urgent need for further long-term parking facilities in Central London.

The Minister explained the means that he was taking to ensure a quick and easy flow of traffic from the country into Central London. That is essential, but it is no use providing that unless, when the motorist gets into Central London and wants to leave his car for a longer period than one or two hours, a place is available for him to leave it. This garage will provide for that need, if the person can afford the price charged. If the price is too high many motorists will be deterred from coming into London in their own cars. Instead they will use public transport. It may be that the price factor is intended to be used as a means of restricting the flow of traffic into Central London.

Be that as it may, in addition to long-term parking Deeds for people coming in from the outside to Central London there is an urgent need in my constituency and Mr. Speaker's constituency for long-term parking facilities for residents. Only yesterday I received a letter from a doctor which says: I live in a flat at 59, Weymouth Street, W.1 and practice at 9, Cavendish Square, W.1. I am the owner of a Rover … which I use partly as a private car and partly in the conduct of that part of my practice which refers to oral surgery involving visits to houses, nursing homes and hospitals. There is no garage vacant, public or private, near either address. What is that doctor and other similar people—and there are many of them—to do? They have to live and work in Central London, and they must have suitable parking facilities.

The Bill will provide much-needed facilities in the west end of my constituency, but in other parts of my constituency there will still be urgent need, and I want to know if the Minister has any further proposals, in conjunction with the local authority, to extend underground car parking, for example, in Regents Park. I do not know to what extent the Crown Commissioners are in communication with my right hon. Friend in this matter, but there is large-scale development in Park Crescent, close to the medical area of Harley Street, which could provide suitable off-street parking facilities and which are at present urgently needed.

That comes within the jurisdiction of the Crown Commissioners. I do not know whether any enabling Bill is required to provide off-street parking there. If it is, I would have hoped that provision could be included in the Bill in respect of that land, which is now available and is very suitable for the provision of parking facilities. Alternatively, provision could be made in respect of any other part of Regent's Park, which consists of a large expanse of land on which a hole could be dug out without interfering with the amenities.

I would like to emphasise the point which has been made by my hon. Friend about the preservation of amenities. He referred to the nibbling away of a bit here and a bit there. It is extremely important that amenities should be preserved, and it is good to know that the scheme proposed in the Bill appears fully to preserve them. I hope that where the ventilating shafts protrude from the ground there will be proper screening with trees and bushes. That can easily be done. I hope that this may be an example of the possibility of valuable and practical commercial development taking place with, at the same time, an adequate screening of protrusions by proper planning.

Unless these and other long-term parking facilities are made available, I should like my hon. Friend to state what steps are being taken to provide temporary facilities such as were provided over Christmas. These were widely used.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I cannot connect that point with the Bill.

Sir W. Wakefield

As I understand it, the Bill is an enabling Bill to provide long-term parking facilities for Central London, and particularly for the West End. The Minister has pointed out the need for this, and has also said that extra provision will be made for speeding up the traffic flow. I thought it was relevant to argue that, while this hole is being dug in the park, temporary facilities should be made available to help the motorist. The public want to know what facilities they will have, in view of the spread of the parking meter. The parking meter schemes and the revenue from them are all tied up with the question of off-street parking, whether in Hyde Park or in the other buildings which we have heard will be erected in Westminster. After very great difficulties and many delays, and after the exercise of compulsory purchase powers, two sires have been acquired in my constituency, but they will not be ready for some years because of legal complications which are still to be sorted out.

Because of all these difficulties, and the shortage of adequate off-street parking facilities, I welcome the Bill. At the same time, I am disappointed that it contains no provision for further facilities in other parks and squares, which would enable more rapid progress to be made in our aim to satisfy the needs of the long-term parker. I hope that before the Bill goes through further provisions will be introduced to provide much needed underground parking. I would earnestly ask my right hon. Friend to be a little more forthcoming and tell us more about the financial proposals for This development.

5.50 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)

If we are to have this scheme at all, the idea of the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) that we should have it on the basis of gas-and-water Socialism is not unattractive. Nevertheless, I still feel that, as the Westminster City Council seems to be reluctant to take the initiative, the Minister ought properly to approach the London County Council and see whether it will behave in a more public-spirited fashion. If he is unable to take that attitude, I hope that he will explain rather more fully why the opportunity has not been given to the London County Council.

My purpose, however, is to record my misgivings about the scheme as a whole. In the first place, I feel that Hyde Park should be the very last resort and, since we have done so little in other parts of London, we are not really justified in embarking on a parking scheme in Hyde Park. The Minister's Working Party which reported in 1956 said that off-street parking was needed for 20,000 vehicles. Since then, there have been estimates that the need is really for space for 30,000 vehicles, and I suspect that even that would be inadequate.

I saw recently a report of what the Commissioner of Transit and Traffic in Baltimore told us when he visited this country about fifteen months ago. He reported that in Baltimore, which has a population of 1 million, there are off-street parking spaces for 25,000 cars. He explained that, subject to certain safeguards, 85 per cent. of the cost of the site and the building of an approved parking structure is advanced, to be repaid over twenty years, interest being at 3½ per cent., much lower than the prevailing market rate, and under that system, twenty-six parking garages had been built by that date.

It was not quite clear from what the Minister said how many off-street parking spaces have so far been provided or are in view. It sounded as if the total figure was about 7,000. I hope that he will be able to tell us in more detail later exactly how many have been provided, when the remainder will be provided, and what is the Government's ultimate target for off-street parking spaces. Let us remember that, while the recommendation for 20,000 spaces was made no less than five years ago, we have gone on allowing the erection in London and in the West End of buildings with no off-street parking spaces in them. I should have thought that, before we embarked upon a scheme of this kind, we ought at least to ensure that wherever private enterprise develops a site there is adequate parking space provision.

My second objection is this. I believe that this underground garage will be in the wrong place. I welcome what the Minister said about the success of the Park Lane Improvement Scheme. I agree entirely with what he said. There is no doubt that it has effected a very substantial improvement in the flow of traffic. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it is a pity that we should now begin to interfere with the flow of traffic by having exits and entrances for the underground garage debouching, as it were, on the improved carriageways.

There is the other objection that, having speeded up traffic in the area, we now propose to attract more traffic into it. It would have been much wiser, if we were to have an underground garage of this kind, to site it, perhaps, under Portman Square or under one of the squares in Paddington instead of bringing additional cars into the area where so substantial an improvement has been brought about.

But my main objection to the scheme is the one which the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) advanced, namely, the damage to amenity. It is difficult to judge this, and I wish that the Minister had been able to present a White Paper to the House, with, perhaps, a model upstairs, from which we could really form a conclusion about the effect on amenity. After all, we do not know what will be the depth below ground level of the roof of the garage. We do not know what will be the difference in the water level in the area, and we do not really know what will be the long-term effect on the trees. I was interested to hear the Minister say that only fifteen trees would be affected. I have counted the trees shown in the designated area on the map and they total 126. I should like the Minister to explain how he arrives at his figure of fifteen.

When the Working Party on Car Parking in the Inner Area of London reported in 1953, it made two comments which I should like to read to the House. In paragraph 62, it said: From our investigations into the physical process of constructing an underground car park it is quite clear that excavating from ground level would be necessary and that no process of tunnelling or excavation without disturbing the surface of the ground would be practicable. I take it that that is the method to be adopted in this case. The Report goes on to say that The surface disturbed temporarily in this way would be somewhat larger than the area of the finished structure. A little later it is said: It must be remembered that trees are living organisms which grow to maturity and eventually die, and to replace them when old merely forestalls by a few years an act which is inevitable if there are to be trees in the future. In many cases we have found that garages could be provided with the replacement of only a few trees in the centre and the retention of the greater part of those on the fringe. It is clear that the Working Party, when considering the provision of underground car parks in London squares, was a little disturbed about the effect on the trees and, from my reading of its Report, I take it that the Working Party envisaged a more serious interference than the Minister himself seems to anticipate. I hope, therefore, that he will tell us what will be the effect upon the other 111 trees which he thinks will not be adversely affected.

Like the hon. Member for Ashford, I am a little apprehensive about the affects of the stewardship of the Minister of Works. As the hon. Member said, we recall the Park Lane Improvement Scheme, a scheme upon which many of us worked hard at the time and which we sought to improve. I cannot help feeling that in that case trees which might have been saved have been destroyed. I hope that we shall not follow that example in the case of the underground garage at Marble Arch.

Like hon. Members opposite, I am growing tired of this gradual destruction of amenity. There is always a compelling need which makes it obligatory upon us to make a concession of this kind. I remember our discussions about Winfrith Heath. We were told that that would probably be the only case of its kind. Now, of course, we have the construction of another establishment at Dungeness. When we agreed to the Park Lane Improvement Scheme, we were given the impression that that would be the last demand to be made. Now, we have this proposal before us.

We are gradually allowing the amenities of the country to be eroded in the most regrettable way. I hope that this will be the last demand and that, if we agree to this proposal today, the Government will not come along and suggest that there should be further encroachments upon the Royal Parks. I warn the Government that many of us will fight a proposal to have similar undertakings in Regent's Park, St. James's Park or any other of the Royal Parks. We shall watch suggestions of this kind with growing suspicion and submit them to relentless scrutiny.

I should be more readily prepared to welcome the Minister's proposal if I felt that it would make a real contribution towards solving London's traffic problems, but I believe that its effect on amenity and its confirmation of the principle that we can go on interfering with the Royal Parks is not warranted because of the smallness of the provision which is being made, the smallness of the contribution to the solution of London's traffic problems.

If I were convinced that this was part of a really radical scheme for solving London's traffic problems, my attitude would be different. If, for example, I thought that the Minister had proposals for, perhaps, banning private cars from the middle of London and for developing London's transport system, possibly with minibuses operating between the main bus routes, I should be more prepared to give the Government the Bill without arguing against it in the way that I have. Until we have more radical, more positive and more far-sighted and far-reaching proposals than we have had from the Government, many of us will view the Bill with regret and will let it go through only in spite of our strong suspicion that we are wrong to give it a Second Reading.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)

I would never accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) of being captious. Nor do I accuse the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) of being captious on this occasion, because I well understand the point about amenities. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, I am a great lover of the London parks. That is certainly a point about the Bill which we cannot possibly disregard. Nevertheless, I have been surprised at the lack of enthusiasm so far on both sides of the House for this Bill. It seems to me that it only does what many of us on both sides, including my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) and myself, have been urging in Questions on the Minister for years.

The hon. Member for Rossendale said that the development should not take place in Hyde Park and that we should look elsewhere. But the whole point is that Hyde Park is central and is in an area where motorists most require parking space. Despite the amenity point, I very much welcome the Bill, which is, I am sure, really in line with what most of us, at any rate, want, namely, to get stationary cars off the street and into central and convenient car parks.

As the areas covered by parking meters and the number of traffic wardens increase, so difficulties for the motorists increase. I have found this to my pecuniary cost. I have recently been fined on two occasions! I do not complain about that because it was quite right that I should be fined, but it is the object of using a car to be able to stop somewhere occasionally. It is becoming very difficult at certain times of day to stop anywhere at all in certain areas. The Hyde Park scheme will at least be a real assistance to the motorist. It will provide a central car park for the all-day parker. He is the person who clutters up the streets, impedes the movement of traffic and prevents the short-term parker finding any parking space whatever. He is the man who is using the Queen's highway as a free garage. He has done so for long enough, and he must now be prepared to pay for the parking space which up to now he has had free of charge.

The Bill does not indicate—perhaps it was impossible for my right hon. Friend to do so at this stage—the amount which the all-day parker will have to pay. I am told that in parts of New York the parking fee is as high as £1 a day. I imagine that even in London the motorist may have to pay perhaps 10s. a day for off-street parking.

Then there is the time factor. The time factor is rather important. My right hon. Friend gave no indication of how soon the Hyde Park underground garage will come into operation. I know that it would be difficult for him to estimate that, but, in the absence of an estimate, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone was justified in pressing the Minister to give the motorist some practical assistance in the meantime. The temporary car parks in the centre of London at Christmas time were of great assistance. But, as I pointed out by pure chance in a Question this afternoon, the problem is not merely a seasonal one. It is a continuing and increasing problem. I can see no reason why central car parks, like the Mall, Constitution Hill and Horse Guards Parade, should not be utilised until more permanent parking areas such as those envisaged in the Bill can be used.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Works may object to this. He may say that we have to take account of ceremonial occasions such as Trooping the Colour and Royal visits. I can understand this, but surely it would be far preferable to close these car parks on such occasions than never to open them at all except during the Christmas shopping rush. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say earlier this afternoon that he was conducting negotiations on this matter. If he is negotiating on my side, so to speak, with the Minister of Works, I wish him good fortune. To the Minister of Works I would simply say that he has been very co-operative and imaginative in allowing this Hyde Park scheme. I should just like him to be a little more imaginative and a little more cooperative and to allow us the use of these Pink Zone central car parks until the Hyde Park scheme can be brought into operation.

There is one other matter on which I think the Minister of Transport should insist. Developers of large new blocks of offices and flats should be made to provide off-street parking as an integral part of their developments. If my right hon. Friend has not the power to insist on this, then he should come to the House and ask for it.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue that point.

Mr. Fisher

I take your point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. But the debate has gone very wide. Even my right hon. Friend's speech, which I do not think you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, had the advantage of hearing, went extremely wide and covered the sort of point to which I am referring.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The fact that the debate has gone wide is no reason why it should go wider.

Mr. Fisher

I was about to submit that, when one compares the line which I am taking with that taken by the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), who throughout his speech spoke about Civil Defence, I did not think that I was going unduly wide. Nevertheless, I must, as always, bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I will not pursue the point, except to say that, if my right hon. Friend needs those powers, he has only to come to Parliament and I am sure that we shall give them to him as readily and as quickly as I hope we shall give him this Bill today.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

I share the misgivings of hon. Members who view the Bill with a certain amount of suspicion. The Government have not made up their mind on one fundamental point, namely, do we or do we not want more private cars in Central London? Without going into tedious detail, I can recall many occasions on which I have suggested to the Minister of Transport that the time has come to restrict the number of private cars coming into Central London. When I first made the suggestion there was a sort of horror-stricken gasp from the Minister at the idea that we should tamper with the sacred liberty of the individual.

London was not constructed with the idea of coping with today's volume of traffic. It is beyond our financial means to reconstruct Central London to cope with the growing volume of motor traffic in the West End and the City. Therefore, what I suggest that we must do is this, and this is a thought which is beginning to enter the mind of the Minister. We must, as politely as possible, deter private motorists from bringing their cars into Central London. The Bill will reverse that process. It will make it easier for a certain number of motorists who do not really require to bring their cars into Central London to do just that and to deposit them in the car park in Hyde Park.

To that extent, it is bound to increase traffic congestion. If the idea of the Bill is to make provision for the all-day parker, there will be a terrific jam at Marble Arch between, say, eight and ten o'clock each morning, with cars wanting to get into the underground garage, and another tremendous traffic jam between say, half-past four and half-past six every evening, when the cars want to come out.

Therefore, what we must decide is to whom the priority should be given. In my submission, it must be given to those people who have to use public transport to get to and from their work. They are the people who should get first consideration. If it takes longer for people working in the West End or in the City to get to and from their work, any proposition which adds to their working day—which is what it boils down to—or any suggestion that will lengthen the working day of people who have to rely upon public transport, should be resisted or, at least, seriously questioned.

One of these days, the Minister will have to come to the House and say, "We have now reached the limit. There is no possibility of providing any more parking facilities for private car owners who want to come up to the West End or the City either for pleasure or to go to work." We shall have to tell these private motor car owners coming from the west, for example, that they must leave their cars at, say, Ealing Broadway, use facilities provided in that area, and make the rest of their journey by Underground. Those coming from the south would have to be told to stop at Morden and come the rest of the way by Underground, and similarly with people approaching London from the east and from the north.

We must declare the central part of London what I might call a private-car-free zone so as to enable London Transport to do the job for which it is intended, namely, to enable people to get to and from their work with reasonable comfort and without undue delays. It is quite selfish and unreasonable to place in front of the convenience of the mass of the travelling public who have to rely on public transport the convenience of a comparatively small number of private car owners. It is because the Bill reverses what ought to be the general approach of the Ministry of Transport to this important problem that I share the profound misgivings of hon. Members, on both sides, about the Bill.

6.13 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I was amazed to hear the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) attack the Bill, because so often at Question Time I have heard him press upon the Minister the need for more parking space in London. The hon. Member is the last person who should attack the Bill. Time is getting on, however, and I wish to say only a few words. First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on persuading his colleagues in the Government to take this bold step at this time. It is not a moment too soon.

I happen to live in a little cul-de-sac at the back of Chelsea Barracks. Four years ago, there were only four all-day parkers in that cul-de-sac, so much so that when the troops were parading out of Chelsea Barracks with their bands, the police could move the vehicles out of the way. When I counted the other day, however, there were fifty-six all-day parkers. The reason is that people have been forced out of the centre of London by the parking meters and the stricter enforcement of the law and they are now disporting themselves all round the fringes of the Pink Zone.

I do not think that any further research into this matter is needed. There is undoubtedly a pressing need in the centre of London for these provisions. I am delighted to see from the map that the scheme will not spoil the amenities of Hyde Park. We must not do that. The work for the underground car park should be done, if possible, during the winter months. I believe that it could be done in a few months. We ought not to upset the lovers and all the others who enjoy Hyde Park in the summer.

I am delighted to see that the petrol pumps will be placed underground, or, at least, out of sight down the slope near the entrance. If there is any doubt about them protruding above ground, an architect or the R.I.B.A. should be called in to consider how to hide them. Obviously, there must be a long lease for a project such as this, which will be developed by a development company.

With the assistance of one or two people outside this House, I have tried to estimate how the costs of this operation will work out. As far as I can understand, it is likely that the capital construction cost will be about £1,000 a car. Then, there will be the running costs, including attendants. The developers, therefore, must recover something like £200 a car per annum, which is £4 a week or about 10s. a day. On an hourly basis, I imagine that the charge would be about 2s. or 2s. 6d. for every two hours. That sounds expensive, but it would be a tremendous facility to people who go to a meeting in, say, the centre of London and want to leave their car for, perhaps, four hours, but who at present are precluded from doing so. For a doctor who has to attend a case it would be a great facility.

The underground car park will not be filled with what the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) called the E.L.P., the all-day-long parker. There are so many initials in this debate that I wondered whether E.L.P. really stood for "Elderly Labour Party". In response to the appeal by the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) on behalf of the civil defence workers, I could not help feeling that the garage would be of more use, not to civil defence, but to another C.D., the Corps Diplomatique.

My right hon. Friend should decide to make the terms and conditions of letting the garage free in the sense that the operator should be able to make what arrangements he can for operating inside the garage. For instance, not only should the casual public be accommodated. but there should be provision for contract parking—that is, spaces let to places like hotels in the neighbourhood. I imagine that the "bread and butter" overheads of a proposition like this might well be assisted by Grosvenor House and the Cumberland Hotel taking half a dozen or a dozen spaces all the year round which they could let out to their own clients or managers. Half the problem in London is not the casual parker who comes for the day, but the man who brings his car to business because during some part of the day he has to use it to go from one place to another. It would be a great facility for firms or places like Grosvenor House to be able to enter into a contract with the developer of a garage like this for taking up, say, half a dozen places.

Despite what has been said by some hon. Members, I hope that this garage will be a forerunner of other convenient schemes in London. I envisage that under Green Park it would be perfectly simple to have another underground garage for 500 cars.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

What about under New Palace Yard?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Yes, even under New Palace Yard. In the case of Green Park, it would be simple to have another garage for 500 cars. The entrance could be from Arlington Street, under Arlington House, where there is already a garage, and under the footpath, without disturbance to amenities by the cutting down of trees. Similarly, I am told that no fewer than 2,500 cars could be parked under Horse Guards Parade without disturbing a tree or anybody. It could be done slowly, one-fifth of the parade ground at a time, until it was completed.

Mr. Lipton

What about the forecourt at Buckingham Palace?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I am not making any further suggestions.

One other interesting fact is revealed by this debate, and that is that we are approaching the time when underground car parking will be economic. This is slightly contrary to what I said a year ago. but I understand that now the price of land in London is over £10 a sq. ft. and in many places in London even above that. Where land is over £10 per sq. ft. it is even more economical to have an underground car park than it is to have an overground car park. The situation in the last year or two has altered in that respect.

I commend the Bill to the House, and I believe that this is an example which could be followed without destruction of amenities in one or two other places.

6.21 p.m.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) was bold enough to give some estimates on the financial side of the project. He told us that its cost would be about £1,000 per car. He went on to make other comments upon the financial aspect of this project, but he failed to mention an aspect which concerns every Member of Parliament, and that is the public interest. There is a public interest in this matter which has to be safeguarded, and which the hon. Member for Twickenham failed to remember and failed to mention.

One would have thought that even from the Government side of this Chamber some regard would be paid to the public interest and the financial repercussions of this on the Treasury. The Minister has told us that this is simply an enabling Bill permitting him to use a part of the Crown land of Hyde Park which belongs to the community through the Crown. What we are concerned with is a project which, initiated by a Minister of the Crown, will involve considerable financial outlay by some developer and a rather long wait before it yields a return, but which, ultimately, will probably yield a very considerable return. Apart from the amenity aspect, I shall confine myself to this matter of the arrangements which are to be made be- tween the Minister, on the one hand, and the developer on the other.

When I interjected during the Minister's speech the right hon. Gentleman promised, when I asked him, to elaborate the terms which will be put out to promoters—to the developers—on which to submit tenders. I think that is really the nucleus of this matter before us. What are to be the terms and conditions upon which the Minister, as representing the Crown, the country and Parliament. will allow a private profit-making developer to take possession of this part of Hyde Park? We have not been told enough about that rather important aspect of the matter.

I hope that the Minister will consider dealing with this matter not by way of tender, which the House will be unable to control, comment upon or criticise, but by another method. I hope that he will try to frame his proposals as to the developer in such a way that the House will come into the picture. We in Parliament really should not allow this valuable piece of ground which belongs to the community to be exploited for profit without scrutinising the arrangements very closely, and I hope that possibly tonight, when this debate is wound up by the Government, we shall hear more about the details of the form of tender and about the nominal rent which the Minister mentioned is to be paid for the initial years. I hope, further, that before this matter is finalised as between the Government and the private profit-making developer the House will be able to scrutinise the terms upon which this community property is handed over to a profit-making syndicate.

6.26 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

I too, like the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), have been reprimanded for using a certain amount of over-ingenuity in seeking to find a place in which to leave my car, and therefore it would be fatuous of me to be over-critical of this Bill. But, apart from the question of price, unlike the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans), I think it is highly unlikely that there is much profit to be made out of this scheme.

There are two main considerations which everyone looking for a parking place seeks. The first is that it should be easy to get into and out of, and the second is that it should be reasonably convenient to the place to which one wants eventually to go, and I have certain reservations about this scheme on both scores. It seems to me that this garage will be so big that it will be a major operation to get one's car in and out of it. I was particularly glad to hear that the Minister is thinking of putting a subway underneath the carriageways, because unless that happens—and I hope it will happen quickly—it will really be a major problem to try to cross the carriageways in Hyde Park and Park Lane on foot, particularly now that my right hon. Friend has used sensible traffic engineering and that the flow of traffic is so much quicker than it was.

I think everyone will agree that the Pink Zone parking schemes have been an outstanding success. They have been exceedingly popular with the public.

I would join with the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) in hoping that these plans will be used in the future for further underground garage development. I have in mind the rather dreary waste spaces on the Piccadilly side of the Mall which seem now to be used only for the collection of puddles and Where one could easily tunnel out spaces for a very large number of cars. Then again, of course, there is Horse Guards Parade.

Of course, the obvious answer to the question of the development of underground garages really lies in the great squares of London, central to the shopping districts and offices. I wonder whether the Minister has any plans to encourage local authorities or anyone else to build underground garages in St. James's Square, Portman Square, Grosvenor Square, or, indeed, any of the other great squares of London, because that seemed to be a notable omission from the plans which were coming forward on such a large scale for off-street parking in Central London.

We should not get hypnotised by this question of underground parking or think it both cheaper and more desirable. One should be able to park on the surface rather than underground. Most people will now agree that the parking-meter scheme has been a success, but I am surprised by the amount of space that is allotted to each parking meter. There must be a general assumption on the part of the authorities that almost everyone in London drives a Rolls Royce, whereas, in fact, the number of people driving A30s is substantially greater. If in future this is borne in mind in the provision of surface parking, I am sure that it will be found possible to provide almost as many parking spaces as would come from quite expensive projects of the kind that we are now discussing.

6.31 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I intervene for a short time in the debate. I represent a constituency which is a long way from London but I have lived and worked in London for many years now, and my wife is a member of London County Council. This is a very important London problem and I confess that I cannot understand what the Bill is intended to do and what effect it is anticipated it can produce. I am given to understand that if the Bill is passed and the underground garage in Hyde Park is created, we may find accommodation for 4,000 cars.

Mr. Mellish

For 1,000 cars.

Mr. Silverman

I have heard higher estimates. But supposing we do, for whom will this relief be effective? Only for those who want to bring their cars into London, leave them idle in London all day and then go home in them. It offers no relief whatever for the real problem of the London motorist, the man who needs to use his car all day long for going about from place to place, leaving it at some place where he needs to call and then picking it up and going on to the next place. This scheme will not help him, except in the sense that it will take off the streets whatever number of street-parkers are now obstructing his progress.

Let us concede that this is, at any rate, an appreciable advantage. It may not be very large but it is something that is assessable and is some kind of relief. But for how long? Does anybody imagine that the rate of increase of the production of cars or of the use of cars in great cities and in London will be retarded? It is an upward curve and will continue to be so. Even if we grant to the fullest extent the most optimistic estimate of the relief that anyone can foresee in the Bill, in a year or two, if nothing else changes, the position will be as bad as ever.

We shall have to look round for some other kind of relief. The time will come when there is no other kind of relief and we shall still go on pumping out cars in the factories, bringing them to London, and leaving the private motorist the unrestricted right to obstruct everybody else until London traffic finally grinds to a complete standstill.

What sense is there in it? How long do the Government think that we can go on leaving London's streets as they are, pumping ever more and more unrestricted private motors into it, the private motorists parking and driving all day long? If we go on like that, how long will it be before it is impossible to move about in the streets of London? It is almost impossible now in parts of the City and of the West End and indeed of other places. The notion that we can restrict or forbid private motorists to bring their cars into the inner segment of London is greeted with howls of derision and indignant protests about the liberty of the subject, but the liberty of the subject to do what? To bring his car into London and then have nowhere to put it?

Is it the liberty of the subject to bring his car into London and then not to be able to move it about? The liberty of the subject is a real, practical thing. It is not a paper consideration or a slogan. And it is an old principle that if giving everybody unrestricted freedom or licence in a particular respect operates to the detriment of everybody else's freedom, one is entitled without any offence against the liberty of the subject, to intervene and to regulate it. Nobody denies that.

Suppose that we were to say, "No private cars within the central area of London at all." How would the man whom it is supposed to benefit by this scheme be injured? If the Bill goes through and we build an underground garage in Hyde Park, he will drive his car into this garage in the morning, if he can get in and there is room for him, and then he will proceed out to Park Lane and find himself a bus, an underground train, or a taxi and travel to wherever he wants to go. All well and good. But he could do just the same from Paddington Station, and that is what he would do if we did not allow him to bring his car into Hyde Park.

What would he have lost or suffered? Let hon. Members consider what we could do with the traffic of Central London if private cars did not produce the congestion that they now produce. Consider how we could improve public transport by bus and how we could increase taxi-cab facilities. Everybody would be able to move about more freely, more cheaply, more expeditiously and more conveniently than they can by this exercise of the so-called liberty of the subject to get into everybody's way.

What is the use of tinkering with the problem this way when we know perfectly well that, even if we get the utmost advantage that is contemplated from the scheme, in a year or two the position will be worse than when we started? Let us leave Hyde Park alone. If we are worried about the liberty of the subject, then let us leave him free to enjoy Hyde Park and any other amenities that London has to offer. Nobody will suffer any real deprivation of liberty or amenity or convenience if we make up our minds that this business of going on choking up our streets with an unlimited number of private cars is no good to anybody.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

For some years I have regarded the problem that we are discussing today as one that one can prove logically will ultimately result in nobody being able to move in London at all. Already during certain hours of the day it is quicker to walk than to rely on mechanical transport. I cannot see that any of the alternative schemes will really add to the general comfort, and that is without suggesting that anyone has been speaking foolishly in the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), for instance, said that if one lives in the part of the country where I live and wants to get into London, one has to go from Morden by train. I have tried twice during the recent Recess to get into London that way. It has the great advantage that, whereas before 8 a.m. I cannot get a seat on the Southern Region train at Ewell, West, if I go from Morden I can get a seat provided that I am there when the train doors open. Before we get to Stockwell the whole of the corridor between the seats is crowded with passengers. Trains run into London from Morden with a frequency that I think is entirely admirable as a piece of timing by the people who fix the railway timetable. My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton looks as if he is about to leave the Chamber. If he is now hoping to go out of London by train his chances of getting a seat will not be very good. There does not appear to be a reasonable solution to the problem of the people who want to use trains to get into London between seven and nine o'clock in the morning or even a little later than nine.

I cannot understand what will happen when a car gets to Hyde Park and goes into the underground garage. How many of the people who will use their cars to get as far as that have a place of business within a distance from Hyde Park that they are willing to walk? After all, the people who come in by car steadily get their legs atrophied, and a walk of a few yards is a matter of a great discomfort to them. I do not know how they will get out of Hyde Park without first suddenly becoming pedestrians, for they will then have a bit of a walk, I imagine. They then have the walk to their place of business.

Also, the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) said that some people want to use their cars during the day to travel from their place of business to keep some appointment or other. Will they walk back to Hyde Park, go out on their business, return to Hyde Park and then walk back to their office? The idea seems to me to be completely fantastic.

I suggest that what will probably happen will be what my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) said, that when the people go out of the car park they will want to get on the buses at a time when the buses are already overcrowded. Thus, they will not merely endure discomfort themselves but will inflict greater discomfort upon people who are already going about their business in consider able discomfort. I think that the patience of the people who travel into and out of London during the rush hours is the finest example that the Christian virtues still exist among the ordinary people of the country. I speak as someone who is not a motorist and whose life is concerned mainly with dodging motor cars every time I want to cross a street. I have been successful so far, but one must never press one's luck too far.

Let us realise that the proposed scheme will benefit very few people, and they will be mainly people who are fairly well blessed with this world's goods. Half a sovereign a day, which I gather is the estimate of what this parking will cost, is a very considerable addition to the travelling expenses of people who have to come up to London at least five days a week. If one adds £2 10s. a week to their travelling expenses, it will represent a very heavy burden for all except comparatively wealthy people.

It seems to me that we have here a problem which we have allowed to get into such a state that any scheme to improve it can generally be riddled by the application of simple logic, a subject which does not, of course, trouble the Minister of Transport, for his optimism is never destroyed by the mere workings of logic in any given situation. The problem requires a great deal more consideration than has so far been given to it. It should be put before a body of people representing all classes of society and all kinds of knowledge relating to the problem.

I could not vote against the Bill, because it will do something. I do not think it helps the people with whom I am mainly concerned, my wretched neighbours who either have to travel up in discomfort from Ewell, West to Waterloo or else go to Morden and endeavour to get on a train there and then suffer great discomfort, such as is experienced between five o'clock and half-past six every evening by persons trying to get out of London without an undue waste of time.

No one can say that this is a good Bill. It reminds me of what the Home Secretary said about a Prime Minister; it is the best Bill we have got. Thank goodness there are not alternatives at the moment with which we can Perplex our minds. However, if the Minister of Transport really desires to make any impression on the appalling problem of London transport, he must find some people who will give a great deal more frank and clear thought to it than he has so far been able to discover.

6.50 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

It is a long time since I spoke from this exalted position about transport—or so it appears to me. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to start with a tribute to my very good friend—and, I believe, the friend of the whole House—Tony Wedgwood Benn, who was our leader on transport matters on behalf of the Labour Party and did a magnificent job.

He would have enjoyed this debate today. He would have been in his element and poked a lot of fun at the Minister of Transport—something which he could do very effectively. But he would also have asked a simple question: why is not the Minister of Works replying to this debate? This Bill concerns the Ministry of Works very much, for it involves a Royal Park, and certainly the Minister of Works should have something to say.

The Minister of Transport may be surprised at the reception which the Bill has received in the House. Of course, he is not very adept at estimating the reactions of Parliament. He has his own reactions, which are usually those of a business man's approach, to these matters. He failed to realise, in putting this plan forward and talking about an underground garage in Hyde Park, that one of the most important factors is that this is not just a London park but one of the greatest parks in Great Britain. It is something which is part of our democracy.

I have taken the trouble to read—and I hope that the Minister, when he gets time from studying reports on roads, will do the same—"The History of Twenty-five years (1856–80)" written by Sir Spencer Walpole, dealing with the time when reform movements were active and with the tremendous fights for freedom of the parks and for the freedom of the people.

All this may be taken for granted now, but democracy has not just occurred— it had to be fought for. Now the right hon. Gentleman comes along and, using typical modern jargon, says that we must have a new use for Hyde Park. He must not be surprised if a number of people have reacted violently. That is why the Minister of Works, who looks after our Royal Parks, should be replying to the debate and giving us assurances about the future of the parks.

Nevertheless, it would be inconsistent for us to oppose this Bill, though perhaps for reasons different from those given by the Minister of Transport, In allowing this Bill a Second Reading, however, we are gravely disturbed by the lack of information which we have had up to date, and we shall want many more assurances before we agree to allow it a Third Reading.

This is not the first debate which we have had on the problem of traffic in great cities. We have been given many figures, both for the present and the future. We believe that the priority in our cities should be for public transport on the main roads. But, having said that, one must ask: How are we to achieve it? Any hon. Member who glibly says that certain parts of Central London should he denied to the private motorist should have a look at the implications.

If we decided to deny a large area to the private motorist, then we should have to bring in legislation in order to do it, and should have to agree to certain classes having permits to use the area despite the ban. Immediately we introduced those permits, the black market boys would print their own, and then we should have the police doing nothing else but look after permits and those who had them.

Having said that, however, it is essential to recognise that we must say to the private motorist that, as the pattern is now forming, it will be such that if he goes into the main roads of our cities he will have to pay dearly, either by off-parking facilities or by parking meters. It is the duty of all of us to ensure that these facilities are given to those who can necessarily afford them. It is as simple as that. It may not be a good doctrine, but in 1965 we shall have 16 million vehicles on the roads. Today we have 8½ million.

The approach, therefore, must be imaginative. We may say that the roads must be kept clear of the private motorist and that all he will be allowed to do is stop to pick up or put down a passenger. But if we do that we must provide him with parking facilities. That is why we on this side of the House consider it inevitable that Hyde Park, or any other park, where practicable, should provide underground facilities for parking. This was a natural consequence of the arguments which have been adduced up to now.

One of the arguable points about this Measure is that the right hon. Gentleman says it is an enabling Bill. He was not able to tell us how this underground garage is to be paid for. He has not yet made up his mind whether it will be privately owned or municipally owned. We believe that it is absolutely monstrous that this has not been decided upon by the Minister at this stage.

Either the Ministry of Works or the London County Council should own it. The Minister has said that the garage will be lucrative, and I am sure that he is right. A thousand cars a day will park there. No doubt it will eventually not only pay for itself but will make a profit. Why should this great facility underneath one of our Royal Parks be handed over to private enterprise to reap the benefit of the profit? It does not seem feasible that the State, if it provides the site to private enterprise because it cannot find sites of its own to develop, should not retain a measure of control.

I believe that this site should be reserved either for the Ministry of Works or for the L.C.C. I cannot believe that it would be very hard to operate, or that it would need many attendants. The municipality would be able to run it just as well as would private enterprise.

Conservative Members should be very careful about this, because at the seaside almost all car parks are owned by the local corporation, and they are run very well. No one complains about that. I imagine that Brighton and Margate and other seaside resorts represented by Conservative Members would resent private enterprise awning their sea-fronts and taking the profit of the car parks along them.

I realise that I do not speak for everybody on my side of the House, just as the Minister of Transport does not speak for everyone on his side of the House, on this subject, but I believe this car park to be inevitable and a consequence of our having to live with the motorist today.

The hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) complained bitterly about Pink Zone parking and asked why it was not continued. There is a great deal to be said for his arguments. The Minister has bragged a great deal about the success of the Pink Zone. If it was such a success, why did he operate it only for Christmas?

The traffic in London, particularly in Central London, is just as bad for the rest of the year as it is at Christmas. I see no reason why facilities for parking should not be allowed. The Minister says that we will be well advised to ask questions of the Minister of Works. The Minister of Works is here today and he should be getting up to answer this debate. His Department is associated with this Bill, which is trying to bring parking to central London. We believe that had the Minister of Works cooperated with the Minister of Transport on the extension of the Pink Zone facilities, it might well have been that Hyde Park need not have come into the matter. However, this car park is obviously something which we have to have because of the removal of many of the facilities which were available at the time of the Pink Zone.

The Minister of Works (Lord John Hope)

As the guardian of the amenities of the Royal Parks, I would far rather have cars underneath, where they will not show, than all over the place where they will spoil Hyde Park.

Mr. Mellish

It is a matter of opinion. As they were parked in the Pink Zone, I do not think that they spoil the Park.

The Minister of Transport has this very difficult problem of trying to cater for the motorist and no one—and this applies to hon. Members on both sides of the House—has the right to say that millions of pounds should be taken from motorists while at the same time they are restricted. Nowadays, the average person wants to buy a car, and nothing will stop that trend. We have to live with this problem.

However, I have a complaint against the Minister of Transport and I should like him to answer some questions. I am advised that the London County Council asked for this underground garage to be built, making its request at the commencement of the Hyde Park scheme, but that the Minister turned down the request.

Mr. Marples


Mr. Mellish

The Minister has this happy knack of saying "No" off the cuff to these questions. For example, I am told that he discussed the matter with the T.U.C. recently and is supposed to have said, again off the cuff, that he intended to drive all private motorists off the roads.

Mr. Marples


Mr. Mellish

I am advised by the London County Council, at a very important level, that the Council pleaded with him to have this scheme ready for implementation at the start of the Hyde Park improvement scheme. In fact there has been a year's delay. Is that true? If so, what does it mean? Has extra cost been incurred because this garage was not started at the same time as the Hyde Park scheme? Is not this delay in the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry very serious?

One of the reasons why we in London welcome the Bill is that it shows a change of policy on the part of the Government. The Minister of Defence, when Minister of Transport, made it perfectly clear that he would not give any special financial assistance towards providing car parks on expensive sites. His general attitude was unfriendly towards such schemes. We support the Bill at this stage because the present Minister has gone out of his way to find a site to try to relieve congestion in London and, in co-operation with the Minister of Works, this financial help is now being given.

We shall not oppose the Second Reading., but in Committee we shall try to tighten the Bill considerably. We shall want to know much more about its financial implications and try to make certain that at the end of the day this car park is owned either by the Ministry of Works or by the London County Council. We shall want to know far more about the time factor and how long it is proposed to take to construct the car park—the Minister must have some ideas about that—and when it is expected to come into operation. We believe that, providing we are given certain assurances about the amenities of Hyde Park, the Bill will do a useful job for Londoners, motorists and the country generally.

7.4 p.m.

Mr. Marples

By leave of the House, I begin by wishing the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) a quick recovery from influenza. He has done splendidly today considering that he has been ill. I must now go on to ask him what was the high level source of the London County Council which said that the Council had met me and that I had turned down its request in connection with the Hyde Park Scheme.

Mr. Mellish

The Planning Committee of London County Council, and Mr. Edmonds was my source.

Mr. Marples

I shall have a word with Mr. Edmonds about it, because when the Hyde Park scheme was going through we were interested in this matter, and I have always been interested in it. Frankly, I was first told by the lawyers that it would be a hybrid Measure, then that it would not be and then that it would be, but I assure the hon. Member that at no time have I refused the L.C.C. or anybody else on this issue. I have been interested in it from the beginning, and I shall certainly get in touch with Mr. Edmonds on the matter.

The hon. Member also referred to some off the cuff remarks which he said I had made when I met the T.U.C. in a 3¼-hour private meeting. We had an agreed Press release, but four different versions of what I said appeared in four different papers the next day. One part was so offensive that I categorically denied it straight away. If the hon. Member wants me to refer him to anybody, I refer him to Mr. Woodcock, the General Secretary of the T.U.C., and I advise the hon. Member to ask him what happened. He will then get the reassurance which he wants.

Apart from that, the hon. Member seemed to agree with a great deal of the Government's policy towards oft-street parking—that it should be provided at economic prices and by local authorities in conjunction with private enterprise. I agreed with him when lie said that the motor car had become almost a symbol of social status. If anybody wants to have a motor car, then I join with the hon. Member in saying that it is premature by a long chalk at this stage to say that private cars should be banned from the centre of London.

I think that the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) has not thought out the matter. This is something to be considered carefully. Would doctors be permitted to have private cars in central London? Would commercial travellers be denied their cars in central London—or invalids with tricycles who now have special permits to park in Westminster and to come to London to work? I know of one or two invalids who work in Berkeley Street who have special parking facilities. What about foreigners coming here as tourists? Are not they to be allowed in the centre of London? What about business in the hotels and shops? The centre of London would be destroyed as an area if we took steps as far reaching as that.

If he were here. I would ask the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) whether he drives to London and leaves his car in Palace Yard? I used to come here on my bicycle and he, as a little man, comes in his big car—he can only just see over the steering wheel. I can tell him that it is only by the grace of God and the absence of getting in the hon. Gentleman's way that I am at this Box today. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not here, but I have no doubt that he is engaged on other and more important business and I wish him well in his task.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beckhenham (Mr. Goodhart) asked what I was doing about parking in other local authority areas. I am to see the Association of Municipal Corporations and the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, because in the plans which I hope to make for off-street car parking I propose to lean heavily on local autho- cities for acquisition of property and to do a deal in partnership, as it were, with private enterprise.

This technique of getting these underground car parks is nothing new. It was used with the Metropolitan Railway years ago when, instead of tunnelling, which was expensive—it was moving the earth which was expensive—a hole was cut and then covered.

Many people have been worried about the amenities of Hyde Park, but I assure them that when the car park is finished they will not be able to see that it is there merely by looking around. I am certain that visually it will be perfectly acceptable to all hon. Members. I offer that assurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), who sent me his apologies for not being able to be present and who followed me as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I think that the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) will agree with me that while I was at the Ministry I did my utmost for the amenity interest of the National Parks and other areas, and I assure the hon. Member that, even with my vested interest as Minister of Transport, I could not have supported this scheme if I had thought that the amenities of Hyde Park would be damaged in any way. I assure him that the scrutiny of my noble Friend the Minister of Works and his Ministry has been as searching as any audit of a joint stock company.

The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who always enlivens us with his wisdom and wit and whom I congratulate on dodging motor cars for some 78 years—he has done very well and is hale and hearty and will last for a long time yet—

Mr. Ede

I was run down by a penny-farthing in 1890 and it taught me to have great circumspection in walking across the Queen's highway.

Mr. Marples

I can only hope that the rider of the penny-farthing bicycle was not as erratic as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne in his large car.

The right hon. Gentleman might say that I am optimistic, but do not let us be too pessimistic. The Pink Zone arrangement of 1959 was an effort to try to get us out of a mess at Christmas time. Although there was over 6 per cent. more traffic in that year than in the preceding year the traffic flowed better. This year there was another 6 per cent. increase in traffic yet the Pink Zone worked better than it did in the previous year.

One of the best services that a Minister of Transport can render is to ensure that public transport is able to move freely. One of the difficulties is that buses are so often delayed. This year, as in the previous year, we found London buses running into trouble on the periphery of the Pink Zone. We shall therefore have to spread further and further out.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) was kind enough to say that he would not be here when I replied to the debate. He asked what would be the cost of the garage per car. It may vary with the design of the garage, but we expect it to work out at between 7s. and 10s., which is about the price ruling in that part of Mayfair. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked where the money for the lease would go, and pointed out that this was not mentioned in the Bill. I am advised by the legal gentlemen that there is no need to have it in the Bill. Although it is not mentioned, it will, as hon. Members might well know, go to the Exchequer.

The hon. and learned Gentleman also asked about multi-storey car parks. They are being built both in the City of London and in Westminster. He also thought that a car park for 1,000 cars was too large and would not be used. We are certain that it will be. The same thing was said about the Lex-Selfridge Garage, and it was not used until we had parking meters in the streets. When the parking meter system is extended, as it will he this year, the garage will be used. Charges will not be excessive. The operator must get a return on his money, and the price will probably be the same as that in the Lex-Selfridge Garage.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey said that it should go to the local authority. We played fair. We went to the Westminster City Council and gave it first refusal. We asked the Council if it would like to take a lease on this. To be quite frank, the Council was interested at first, but then said that as it had so many other projects on hand it would be better if we dealt with it in another way. That, however, is not the final answer. The Westminster City Council is the authority responsible for parking meters. I went to the right source. All the Metropolitan boroughs in the City of London are the parking authorities for their own districts, and I do not think that I did wrong in that respect.

Mr. Mellish

Why cannot the Ministry of Works take it over?

Mr. Marples

I do not think that it would be appropriate for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works to take it over because he is not in business to provide car parks.

It is an education to be at the Dispatch Box. It is an education to hear the conflicting advice that I get from hon. Members opposite. If I appoint a committee they say that there are too many committees. On the other hand, I was faced with a deputation led by the hon. Gentleman who asked me to set up another committee. At Question Time today I was reproved very amiably and in courteous terms, by the hon. Gentleman who considered that I had too much work to do. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering took precisely the opposite line and suggested that I should take on this additional task. Whatever one does when one is a Minister, one is bound to be wrong. The Opposition must make up their minds what they want.

I told the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) that I would place in the Library a copy of the draft lease which we shall send to tenderers. This garage will be let in precisely the same way as the service areas on the M.1. We shall prepare a general specification of what we have in mind for the structure, fire precaution requirements, and so on. The organisations will provide their own designs. We shall vet those designs, and the companies which tender will estimate, as they did for the M.1, their capital costs, their expenses and the income that they are likely to get. After that, they will bid for the lease. They will bid the variable rent which they think they can afford to pay. They may make it variable in many ways. That is the competitive element in it.

We at the Ministry of Transport will watch this very carefully, and the Treasury will watch the Ministry of Transport. The interests of the House will be looked after as they are in the ordinary course of events.

My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) asked how soon the garage would be ready. The first step is to get the authority through Parliament. People outside sometimes wonder why we are a little slow in this House. They expect us to go straight into Hyde Park and start digging. As soon as the House gives permission—I cannot move before that and it would be improper to do so—and detailed plans are sent out, the actual construction time will depend on whether it includes two summers or two winters. It will take between eighteen months and two years to build—two years at the most. If the weather is fine and not like it has been lately, it will probably be completed within eighteen months of the detailed drawings being ready.

My hon. Friend said that the Ministry should insist on the developers of new office buildings providing adequate off-street car parking facilities. They do that now, and there is no need for additional powers. The standards have been varied by the London County Council and we are again looking at them in the light of modern requirements.

Without any party feeling, I am bound to say that every expert in this country has under-estimated the increase in cars and the amount of garage accommodation required on new housing estates and in new towns. Only eight garages per 100 people have been built in the new towns, and that has proved to be inadequate. The garage accommodation has fallen far short of what is required.

The hon. Member for Rossendale asked why this site had been selected. The answer is that it is a convenient site. It is near Mayfair where sites are very hard to find, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton pointed out, when one does find them they are expensive and may be awkwardly shaped for building. The London County Council as the planning authority—with which I shall be in close contact very shortly on another matter—agrees that a 1,000 car garage will not overload the surrounding roads. The London Traffic Management Unit has looked at it. My Departmental engineers have also looked at it, and we are certain that it will not overload the roads.

The hon. Member for Rossendale counted 126 trees in the authorised area and asked about the remaining 111 trees. The answer is that we expect the garage itself to be under the parade ground where there are no trees. It is only the entrance and access tunnels which will interfere with the trees.

The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) made a most interesting speech on underground garages. He asked why we were carving up 36 acres. The answer is that 36 acres were taken as the area in which work would take place—to put the spoil and to get a good amenity background to it—but only six acres will be used for the actual hole in the ground. If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I will not go into the other points that he made because they were rather far-reaching. As he was mat wholly in order during the whole of his speech I do not think that he would expect me to go into matters that he raised as deeply as he did.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield), who is always interested in these things, asked what else could be done about off-street parking. I am seeing the Association of Municipal Corporations. I have also seen such people as the Kensington Borough Council. As parking meter schemes are extended it will be necessary for the various authorities to take action to provide facilities for off-street parking, and I want them to prepare their plans in plenty of time.

I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone that the exhaust vents and emergency exists will be screened. As I said, after it has been completed one would not know that there is a garage there unless one were told.

My hon. Friend quoted from a doctor's letter to say that there was not sufficient accommodation for off-street parking in the area where the doctors normally live and work. St. Marylebone Council was very good. It got a site in Harley Street where it proposed to allow some off-street parking. However, one or two doctors round there objected to it. Then they wrote to me to say, "Where can I park my car?" I very nearly told them.

I think I have answered most of the questions and have not taken up too much of the time of the House. I am obliged to the House for not opposing the Bill. If the enthusiasm of the other side was not quite what I hoped and expected, I will, nevertheless, drown my disappointment in a few moments. I thank the House for giving the Bill an unopposed Second Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Commital of Bills).