HC Deb 28 October 1965 vol 718 cc431-94
Mr. Speaker

Before calling the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), I ask him, for the sake of the record, whether he has informed the Minister concerned that he intends to raise a matter on the Adjournment.

7.5 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

Yes, Sir. I informed the Minister at 4 o'clock this afternoon and I also informed the Parliamentary Secretary. I had a message at 6.15 to say that the Parliamentary Secretary was on his way. In the light of what I am about to say, the delay is not unusual. I am very fortunate to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, for a few minutes to draw attention to an extremely topical and important matter—the increasingly serious traffic congestion in London at the present time. The Parliamentary Secretary himself may be held up by the traffic in the short distance between St. Christopher's House and here. Perhaps the Assistant Postmaster-General will tell the Parliamentary Secretary what I have said when he arrives.

In several parts of London traffic has been brought to a complete standstill in the last week. On the anniversary of the coming to power of the Labour Government, London traffic has never been worse than it is now. There is a complete standstill. On Monday evening there was a standstill lasting about an hour in Parliament Square. On Tuesday or Wednesday of this week there was one in Knightsbridge for about one and a quarter hours.

As a London Member and a London resident I often motor down to my constituency and my experience is that at night time one can get from Westminster to Twickenham, a matter of 12 miles, half of the distance on a motorway, in 20 minutes or a little more. In normal traffic times it takes about half an hour. However, in the last fortnight I have had to allow one and a quarter hours to cover those 12 miles.

This is not exceptional. Constituents have been writing to me and telephoning me this week to say that buses are being delayed by 45 minutes. They say that they are often standing very long on the pavements waiting for London Transport to take them to work. Anyone with any experience of trying to ring up anybody in London before 10 a.m. will know that the telephonist always says that nobody is in the office yet and that everybody has been delayed.

I happened to have a party in the Palace of Westminster on Monday evening to which I asked a number of guests. They were to arrive at 6 o'clock, but most of them were three-quarters of an hour late and they all told me that there was a complete stoppage of traffic down Whitehall and Parliament Square, said to have been caused by an accident at the Elephant and Castle and an accident at Vauxhall Bridge.

The blockage had nothing to do with the Motor Show. That is popularly said that the traffic congestion at this time in October is the result of the Motor Show. As a former director of the Society of Motor Manufacturers which runs the Motor Show, I genuinely believe that the Motor Show has very little effect on London traffic. The reason is that the Earl's Court car park holds only 1,500 cars; there are additional car parks roundabout holding another 500 and there are possibly 500 cars parked in the streets around Earl's Court, most of them quite illegally, of course. There are another 500 cars, or rather fewer, at Olympia for the Dairy Show. There is thus a total of some 3,000 cars in that area. Ninety-nine per cent. of the people going to the show go there by Underground. They go either by District Line to Earls Court or by Piccadilly Line, or by the line to West Brompton. They do not go by car to Earls Court because they know they cannot find parking spaces. These conditions are brought about by factors other than temporary exhibitions. If 3,000 cars bring London to a halt, then London is not worthy to be a capital city. Our arrangements are not sufficient to take care of that little bit of extra traffic.

London traffic is really local traffic. There is very little through traffic, perhaps about 2 or 3 per cent. Over 95 per cent. of the traffic running round the streets belongs to residents and firms within London. There are 2 million cars in London, 9 million people live here; there are 250,000 cars parked every night in the streets of London. They are the ordinary conditions. Our traffic arrangements should be such as to take care of the ordinary life of the Londoner. I am a resident of London myself and I happen to have a car. I feel that I should be entitled to use it in London and that our arrangements should be sufficient to permit this.

I do not consider that in the last year the Government have done anything to deal with this matter. The Government have been negligent in not progressing with the traffic arrangements brought in by the previous Minister of Transport the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples). What did he do? He introduced clearways on all the main inlets and outlets of London; he introduced parking meters and cut down the number of cars coming into Central London. The Chiswick flyover and the Hammersmith flyover were completed during his term of office, the latter being popularly known at the time as the Marples Ridgeway. He also started the Victoria tube from Victoria to Wood Lane. There were five major traffic steps which he took to get London moving. I have not seen anything in the last year done by the Government to carry on that progressive work.

I have some practical suggestions for dealing with this serious situation, which is discussed in the leading articles of the London papers tonight. I think that we should proceed without delay with the scheme of urban motorways drawn up by the London County Council, the motorway box scheme as it has been called. The plans were made by the London County Council some years ago and it is only a question of will and cash to go ahead in making these urban motorways through London. We also want a greater number of urban clearways in and out of London. There is one feature of traffic control about which we have been very dilatory and that is the control of traffic by television. It would not cost a lot of money, and some of my hon. Friends have seen, in Munich, television-controlled traffic. The police sit in a box, with television cameras at strategic points around the city of Munich. When a street or crossroad becomes congested, it is seen on the television, and instructions are telephoned to divert traffic in another direction. I cannot see why comprehensive traffic control cannot be introduced at all the strategic points in central London. We have only to cover an area of about five miles in any direction to cover all the black spots.

We must also have alternative routes. It so happens that I know several alternative routes between my own constituency and Westminster. I generally go down the Cromwell Road, but if that is full I can go down the Embankment. If that is full I can go down south of the river, through Wandsworth. As a Londoner I happen to know alternative routes. But in my constituency the other day a busload of schoolchildren came from the comprehensive school at Kidbrooke to Twickenham. The bus driver, who obviously did not know the centre of London, came from the west and went right through Knightsbridge to get to Twickenham. As a result he was about an hour late. That sort of thing should not be allowed, bus-loads should be skirted round the outskirts of London. If Knightsbridge is getting congested then notices ought to go up telling drivers to take alternative routes round to the south or north.

We must keep the railways running. The Richmond-Broad Street line is not being closed. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing), tried to raise the subject of a debate on London traffic during questions on Business today. He has asked me to mention that the London commuter line from Luton and Harpenden running into Moorgate every day is now going to be stopped at St. Pancras, and commuters for north London and the outer ring of London are to be decanted into St. Pancras to find their way by an already overcrowded underground system. We obviously want more underground railways.

I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary has now arrived. I hope that he did not find the traffic congestion too bad. I am making some constructive suggestions as to how to deal with London traffic congestion. I have already pointed out that it is worse, than it has ever been and that we must have some more underground railways. The Paris underground system is four times more intense than our own. There are four times more lines and more stations in the central part of Paris than there are in the central part of London. We are proud of our underground system here but it is obviously not sufficient, and we want more stations and lines per square mile.

The other day I was in San Francisco, where they have a very serious commuter problem too. They have very large eight-lane freeways, but have found that the motor position is getting so serious that, even in America, where they are not particularly addicted to railways, they are to spend a thousand million dollars on a new automatic electrified rail system. If San Francisco is doing that, how much more ought we to do so in our overcrowded and congested city?

For the benefit of the Parliamentary Secretary I should like to repeat some of the points I have made. London traffic is mainly local traffic. We have to deal with the problem all the time. It is no good getting rid of traffic by diverting it to the outer ring. We want urban motorways and the box scheme as proposed by the L.C.C. for which land has already been reserved. We want more clearways, television control of all the black spots of London traffic, we want the police to give notice of alternative routes to motorists, we want to keep the railways running, we want more underground railways.

I notice in the evening paper tonight that the Director of Highways and Transportation for the G.L.C., Mr. P. F. Stott, has drawn attention to this very serious problem and has made 17 proposals for dealing with London traffic. He says Even if every one of these ideas is adopted they will, at best, only halt the further deterioration in traffic conditions affecting buses. In fact we shall be doing very well if the buses continue to hold their own. The Greater London Council's programme should have top priority.

London is still about the greatest capital in the world, certainly just about the largest. London transport has ground to a standstill in the last few weeks and it will grind to a standstill again whenever there is some little difficulty or accident. Congestion is stopping people getting to work. It is delaying the productivity of our office workers and, indeed, of our factory workers. It is stopping the delivery of goods and thus making them more expensive. Unless something is done in London as a matter of urgency by the Minister of Transport in the next year or two, not only will London's traffic grind to a halt, but the lives of 9 million people in this great urban area will be seriously jeopardised and we shall not have done our duty as Members of Parliament to put the matter right.

7.21 p.m.

Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)

This debate is as topical as the headlines in this evening's newspapers. We are glad that the Joint Paliamentary Secretary has been able to get here because this is a very useful opportunity to voice the grievance of millions of Londoners.

In the past 14 days there have been 78 major and minor traffic hold-ups in central London. I understand that this is well above average. We know that it is bad at this time of year. The trouble always seems to start with the Motor Show. Although I support almost everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) said, I disagree with what he said about the Motor Show. Why is it held at this time of year, and why does it take place in a very congested part of London? It brings hundreds of extra people into the capital. Although it is good for the export business and internal business, it creates tremendous traffic problems in London.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Perhaps it should be moved to the Crystal Palace.

Mr. Smith

I agree. If only the Board of Trade would hurry up its decision over the Crystal Palace site, perhaps that could be done.

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham said about the incidents which have occurred in London this week. There was the tremendous West End jam last night which affected many people. Many hon. Members probably did not notice it because they were in the House, but some of us were affected by the jam throughout central London on Monday evening. I was fortunate to have been invited to the reception of my hon. Friend in the House, and in travelling from Great George Street to New Palace Yard it took me 30 minutes to get across Parliament Square. One could see tempers rising on all sides. It was a beautifully clear night without any rain and there was no apparent cause for the congestion.

One shrinks from the future when one remembers that the Christmas shoppinig rush is just around the corner and that we face a winter of jams in fog, ice and rain. It needs only a sprinkling of rain to add 10 minutes to my 17 mile journey every day. I live in Harrow Weald, 17 miles from the Palace of Westminster. My journey takes me on average about an hour and it is gradually being extended week by week. I am sure that this is the experience of large numbers of other people who have, perforce, to come into the centre of London with their cars.

We want action from the Minister now. We have said this a number of times before. We shall repeat it and go on repeating it until we get action. I suppose that we would all agree that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) was a controversial figure, but I submit that he was probably the best Minister of Transport this country has ever had. It is no wonder that signs have been appearing in some cars in recent months saying, "Come back, Marples. All is forgiven". My right hon. Friend did a tremendous job in speeding up London's traffic, in introducing one-way working and in banning right-hand turns. He always seemed to be on the job and made sure that new ideas were brought into play. As a result, London's traffic speeded up. During his period of office as Minister, great improvements were made. I was able to undertake my journey into the centre of London from the out skirts far more, effectively than is possible today, because the position has certainly stagnated over the past year. Journeys are taking much longer.

I do not want to attack the Minister in his absence and we appreciate having the Joint Parliamentary Secretary here, but I hope that the Minister will read the report of this debate. He may not be a complacent man, but he certainly gives that impression. I certainly subscribe to the view expressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his magnificent speech at Brighton that the Minister of Transport seems to have done very little during his period of office. The traffic position in London is growing steadily worse the whole time. It has increased in intensity over the past 10 months, whereas it definitely improved while my right hon. Friend was in office.

New measures should be introduced to meet the situations which are arising and which will arise particularly over the next two months. I should like to put forward a personal view of what should be done. I am not an expert, but all of us who use the facilities in London and motor through it have their own experiences. I believe that collectively they can be of use to the Minister. Certainly the patience of the travelling public in London is gradually becoming exhausted. The Minister should study vigorously all the reports being submitted to him, particularly the report made today by the Greater London Council which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham. They are dealt with in the leading articles in tonight's evening newspapers.

The Evening Standard says: Mr. Fraser, the Minister of Transport, awaits the reports of a study group. The Ministry assures us that it is studying the problem. But London's traffic chaos has been the subject of continuous study for years. It is not an over-night revolution. And it is about time that the Ministry of Transport came up with some concrete suggestions. The Evening News says: In the last few days the evening rush-hour has given London a sharp foretaste of the complete traffic paralysis which has been threatening for years and looms nearer every week". The Minister has only to read his evening newspapers to realise exactly how intense the problem is. I should have thought that he could have brought new ideas into operation so that we could cope with the Christmas rush in a few weeks' time.

If I were the Minister I would enlist the greater help of the Metropolitan police in getting much tougher with traffic offenders. I do not mean the private motorist who is not parking at a parking meter. There is far too much unloading of heavy vehicles at peak times and too many badly parked heavy vehicles. There have been many halfhearted attempts to get on with road works at inconvenient times which could often be tackled on Sundays and weekends, but which always seem to be embarked upon during the morning rush hour.

Yesterday morning I had the experience of motoring through the "back doubles" to Westminster. I came via Sussex Gardens, near Paddington Station, which is always a bottleneck. There was a large coal lorry unloading by the side of one of the main junctions and causing a tremendous traffic jam which added about 12 minutes to my journey. One can see examples of this on every hand in London today.

I do not think we shall achieve much success by banning private cars from the centre of London. I know that there is a school of thought which believes that this is, perhaps, the panacea. I do not believe that it is. I should have thought that it would be too drastic a step, because some private cars would have still to go into the centre of London and who would decide who should have priority in issuing passes? My solution would be to ban some of the heavy lorries which are cluttering up the roads at rush hours rather than ban private cars. I would attempt to get some of the long-distance lorries away from the centre of London, particularly during the morning rush hour.

I would also smarten up London Transport. This has been one of my phobias for a long time and I shall continue to refer to it while I am a Member. London Transport badly needs a new approach from its management. I know that it is terribly difficult to run scheduled services when traffic is as heavy as it is, but the two stock excuses which London Transport always makes are getting rather thin. It always blames heavy traffic and staff shortages. Even when the roads are not too congested services are still bad. If we reach the stage of banning private cars, we shall need a much better bus service if life is to continue in the centre of this capital.

Something needs to be done about this. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, being well aware of the problem, will be able to offer some hope tonight. The London travelling public wants action now. We know that this is a great Government for public relations, but we think that deeds should now start to match the words.

7.30 p.m.

Sir Clive Bossom (Leominster)

For far too long the Government have marked time with a completely negative policy on traffic congestion in London. It is a vast and growing problem, as both previous speakers have said, which has really become ugly and terrifying. Time is no longer on our side, and the Government have got to do something about it. I will say that the Government are at last talking about "bus only" lanes, making more urban clearways, having television-controlled traffic lights, and having more parking meter zones in London in what they call the "glue-pot ring". All these are excellent, all are needed, all I agree with, and all I have advocated in the past. But surely the final answer today is that we must build new roads and new flyovers. The Government may try to persuade the public to use public transport, but it can never compel them to do so. Let us not forget that today we live in a car-owning democracy, because I think that the Government are inclined to lose sight of this fact.

As we have heard, we have in London tonight an exasperated public. I am quite sure that they would back the Government up to the hilt if they made plans and took immediate drastic action, even if it meant spending much more money on new roads. The Government would find that they got a colossal return on their money, because it would reduce congestion. As previous speakers have said, congestion today costs money, time and injury to nerves and health. If one gets into a traffic jam at Christmas time and is in traffic for 20 minutes, halted with all engines going, the fumes will be killers. What we need in London is a crash programme. It may be that that is the wrong term to use when talking about traffic problems, but we have got to do something drastic at this very moment. We cannot go on talking about it. I have said again and again that time is no longer on our side. For far too long the Government have done everything in bits and pieces. What we need now is a major comprehensive plan put into action as soon as possible. If we do not act soon, it will be too late. We simply cannot afford to continue with our present negative policy, and I am afraid it has been a negative policy for the past year.

It is not impossible to tackle traffic congestion. I well remember a few years ago that in Belgium, when they were staging their great World Fair, they simply carved out the centre of Brussels and built new flyovers and underpasses because they were determined to make traffic flow. It did flow for their World Fair, and it does so today.

Everyone knows how vital the motor car is to our national economy. Everyone knows how vital it is for our motor industry to sell motor cars. At the Motor Show, more and more people are wanting to buy cars and, thank goodness, more and more people are actually doing so this week. Yet the Government are spending all their time and energy in bringing forward measures to stop people using motor cars. I agree that there must be a certain degree of control, but every Londoner and every visitor from outside, including every foreign visitor, wants to see the Government getting down to producing a massive comprehensive plan for road building in London.

7.34 p.m.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

I endorse all that previous speakers have said about the need for major road improvements in the solution of London's traffic problem. I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to consider details of the situation which faces us immediately. I feel particularly indignant about this, having spent half an hour in a taxi cab going from the House to Oxford Street at lunchtime today. A lot of time was spent stationary in Jermyn Street, where parking meters are permited on both sides of a road which is used by a great deal of through traffic, and cars are trying to back into vacant meter spaces and unloading is going on. As a result, what could be a useful little road to supplement the more important route of Pall Mall is made virtually useless to traffic which wants to make progress because of the clutter on both sides of it. I fail to see why we need to have parking meters in Jermyn Street, particularly since on the way I observed that there were vacant meters at the bottom of Lower Regent Street.

I want to put this point to the Parliamentary Secretary. Is there not a case for the opening up of roads like Jermyn Street, Stafford Street and Hay Hill for greater use by through traffic by removing parking meters which, though widely spaced, act effectively to block the flow of traffic?

I have driven a car in and around London for about 20 years now. There was a time when it was becoming difficult to get about at all. Then, thanks to the improvements made by the two previous Ministers of Transport—and I would not like the work of Harold Watkinson to be forgotten in this context—it became noticeable that one was getting to one's destination very much more quickly, more smoothly and more safely. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said today. We seem to be getting back to a situation which can best be described by using an old Service term, a "snafu", which is probably a familiar expression to you, Mr. Speaker, but which, perhaps, I should translate as meaning "Situation normal: all fouled up". That is what London is becoming.

Hon. Members all enjoy the privilege of using one of the best car parks in the whole Metropolis, but I do not believe that it will serve any purpose to suggest that the only answer to London's traffic problem is to drive out private cars. Many of them belong to people who live here and have the right to expect to use their cars. Many of them belong to people who come into London commuting to business, to shop or to come to the theatre. They have an equal right to expect to bring themselves in by a means of transport which they regard as the most efficient. The test is that if the private car has to be taken out of London, it will only be done with the co-operation of the public and by substituting a more efficient means of transport. I would have gone to Oxford Street by public transport if it had been convenient, but I should have had to make two changes in the tube and I do not know of any bus that will get me there in half an hour. So I took a cab.

I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary has been recently to the Hyde Park car park and attempted to leave a car there with the intention of continuing his journey by public transport. If he has, he will endorse my own impression that it is practically impossible to get easy access to any other form of transport once one leaves one's car in the cavernous wastes of that subterranean mausoleum. The whole purpose of having a place in which to leave one's car is that one should be able easily to progress somewhere else by some other means of transport. Very few people park their cars in the Hyde Park car park in order to enjoy the beauties of Hyde Park.

I remember going there with the intention of leaving my car and continuing my journey in a southerly direction. I had to fight my way across the north-bound carriageway inside the park, climb over a couple of fences, plod across some flower beds and then cross over the south-bound carriageway in Park Lane. Having done that, I then had to start competing for the attention of London Transport buses. This kind of situation will not encourage people to use a car park of that kind, and I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the point that access to such car parks, which we are all agreed are necessary, must improve if they are going to be at all useful.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Will my hon. Friend not agree that the Hyde Park car park is very nearly always empty?

Mr. Onslow

I do not know. I do not go there any more. I have more respect for my shoes, because I do not like walking through flower beds.

Similarly, car owners would welcome the establishment of big car parks two or three miles outside the central area where they could leave their cars and where they could be certain of getting some other form of transport in which to proceed to their destinations. We have Christmas car parks established in our royal parks. Can we not have some more permanent arrangement established, with a workmanlike and well staffed taxi cab rank on the spot, where people who bring their cars into central London can leave them and proceed to their destinations by some other means of transport?

I hope that the Minister will remember that it will be greatly to his advantage to carry the public with him in anything that he does and that possibly the best way of doing this would be to consult the public on their views and not to be too proud to ask for their advice. Many of us who drive cars around London could make one or two suggestions as to how matters could be improved. One body of men who could make many useful suggestions is the body of taxicab drivers. They could suggest how London's transport could be improved. They might, for instance, have something to say about the shambles in the taxicab area at Waterloo station where there is a mad rush of passengers to compete for taxis, where there appears to be no queue and certainly very little order.

This is an urgent problem. We need long-term solutions, and clearly they require money, but I believe that many things could be done to improve the situation at the sticking points in our traffic in London. It would be useful if the Minister took a ride in a taxi now and then instead of relying on other transport.

7.41 p.m.

Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)

I should like to draw the attention of the House to the Report which has been published by a team under the chairmanship of the Director of Highways of the Greater London Council. It seems to me that the very fact that this Report has been drawn up emphasises the value of the action which the previous Government took in establishing the Greater London Council as an overall authority for this purpose, because it would have been quite hopeless to have sought to plan or to tackle London's transport problems from the smaller area of the old London County Council. We are glad to see this early fruit of one of the useful measures carried into law by the previous Government.

It seems to me that there is much to be gained not only from looking at the problem from the point of view of central London but from placing it within the setting of the south-eastern area and the people who commute into and out of London. If there were more well-advertised car parks on the fringe of London so that people could drive their cars in from the outlying areas and park in the car parks, and then continue their journey by public transport, there might be an improvement. If these car parks were reasonably priced and well-advertised we might have more people using public transport in the inner areas, providing—and I hope that the Minister will take this point—public transport in central London was improved and was of a high and rising standard.

Will the Minister give an assurance that the tube extensions which have been planned, particularly the Victoria tube, will not be affected by the economy cuts which have been put forward by the Chancellor? One is constantly coming across the most extraordinary ways in which projects are being affected by the economy cuts. I see the Minister shaking his head, and I am glad that he is confirming that this is one of the areas which has escaped the credit squeeze.

The problem of commuters who commute by car instead of by train is growing. My constituency, Basingstoke, is a considerable way out of London, and yet people are commuting from Basingstoke by car because of the appalling train service which is provided. May I give two examples, relevant to the discussion? On 22nd October the business train into London from Basingstoke, a journey which takes about one hour and sometimes rather less, was 50 minutes late arriving at Waterloo, but at Waterloo the passengers received no apology and no explanation from British Railways. At least, that is what I was told by those with whom I talked. On Tuesday it was 40 minutes late. It is not only a question of the exceptional delay of three-quarters of an hour on an hour's run; it is the regular delay, eight minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, day after day, with an irregular, erratic service which seems to be getting worse rather than better.

The reason I draw this to the attention of the House is that because of this bad train service a growing number of people are tending to travel together, using each other's cars, to London, adding to the traffic congestion. We must recognise this and deal with the train services into London in order to reduce the number of people who commute by car. If one travels on the business train from Basingstoke, as I do sometimes, one finds people herded into the train almost like cattle in a cattle truck. If they were cattle in a cattle truck I have no doubt that there would be a prosecution by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but because they are commuters, adult people, apparently they are not within the scope of that law. But there is no doubt that the appalling conditions on British Railways, particularly in the Southern Region, are adding considerably to the number of people who commute by car and who in so doing are seriously increasing the traffic congestion in London, and particularly in central London.

Will the Minister make some comments about the provision of off-street parking? My impression was that the money derived from parking meters was to be devoted by local authorities to providing off-street parking. Is it being so spent? How much profit have the local authorities made out of their parking meters and how much of it have they spent in providing off-street parking?

This is an important point which ties up with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) about the difficulty of getting from one of these off-street parking sites to anywhere else in London. Moreover, people driving into London, particularly those coming from the provinces, do not know where these off-street parking sites are. They drive from meter to meter around the squares and the streets, adding to the traffic congestion as they search for a vacant meter. Often they cannot find one for half-an-hour or more, and that in itself adds to the congestion. I suggest that on the parking meter should be placed a little sticky strip stating, "Your nearest off-street parking is …" It would cost a few pence per meter, but it would be quite helpful in preventing people from driving aimlessly around searching for vacant meters. Perhaps the Minister would also consider the question of how these people are to get to their destination after they have parked at an off-street parking site.

I notice that the parking spaces allotted to parking meters are of a fairly considerable length—long enough to take a big car. Is it possible to give some tax advantage to the car owner or some reduction in the parking meter charge in respect of a car which is short enough to be parked in the breadth of a really big car? There is enough space allowed at a parking meter for a Rolls Royce, but one could easily have a motor car designed which was as long as the breadth of a Rolls Royce, and then two such cars could be put in one parking meter bay. That would enable more cars to be parked in the central area. It is a small suggestion but one which, from the tax point of view, might be usefully considered as a means of encouraging the use of cars of a more reasonable length.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

As I was here during the last Parliament, while my hon. Friend was not, he might care to know that the previous Minister of Transport set up a committee to investigate that very suggestion. Would he not agree that we should be told how that committee is progressing with its task?

Mr. Mitchell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information and I am well aware of his experience and expertise in this sphere. I, too, would like to know what has happened to that committee's report. I fear that it has been pigeonholed along with so many other things which reach this Government. What will happen to the report published today from the Director of the Greater London Council for Highways? Will that be pigeonholed? Are we to see any action? During my period in Parliament I have heard Ministers speaking in glowing terms about plans for the future, but those plans have to us seemed vague and woolly. When one considers the practical action that has been taken, very little indeed has been done.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)

It might be convenient if I intervened briefly at this point to get this matter straight. It only misleads the House to talk about pigeonholing reports which have not yet been received. A committee called "The Cars for Cities Committee" was set up to go into the subject of the size of cars, parking meters and so on. That committee has not yet reported. There is, therefore, no question of our having pigeonholed its report. It is still carrying on serious discussions with the motor manufacturers on the problems of design and so on.

I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will appreciate that the details in the London evening newspapers tonight have still to go before the Greater London Council, which is the traffic management authority for London. I hope, therefore, that the House will appreciate that it would not be proper for the Ministry of Transport to declare any views on what are merely the recommendations of a committee of the Greater London Council and which are to be debated next week by that Council—which, under an Act of Parliament, was made the traffic authority for London.

7.53 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

My constituency is a very long way from London, but I am a London ratepayer and I hold a local government vote in two London boroughs—Westminster and Lambeth. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has raised this subject because it is a topical and useful one for discussion.

We might indeed examine some of the developments which are taking place in other countries because we all agree that the problem is getting worse and that there is no one solution to it. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham mentioned the television controlling of junctions, a development which has taken place in Munich. We have had some experience of this in a provincial city here, but I would like to know what the Minister thinks of this system.

As is well known, a number of hon. Members have made a study of the problem and, with the help of the Roads Campaign Council, have made regular visits to other European countries to see the developments taking place in them. I recall that on one occasion we were taken to Paris and shown an underground control room in which, by pressing buttons, they could variegate the timing of traffic lights according to the flow of traffic on particular routes. On returning to London after the visit—this was several years ago—I inquired of the Ministry of Transport if we had investigated that system. I was given to understand that the matter would be looked into, but I never heard the result of such investigation, although I am still not sure that such a system would be feasible in an effort to solve the problem in London.

Sweden has a lot of ideas for solving the traffic congestion problem. For example, there are variegated charges for parking at different places which they have carried much further than we have. To park a car in the centre of Stockholm is extremely expensive. On the perimeter of the city it is extremely cheap, and many of the car parks on the perimeter are served by railways which readily take car parkers into the centre of Stockholm. Indeed, I understand that at the remoter railway terminals parking is either extremely cheap or even free. As I say, combined with this attraction for people to park on the perimeter, adequate public transport is available to bring people to the central area. Would it be possible to emulate that idea?

While we were in Stockholm an amusing point was brought to our attention. Their traffic wardens are women. They deliberately choose women because, they told us, men would not dare be rude to them and the women wardens were much stricter with other women.

I have often wondered whether we have sufficiently investigated the feasibility of adopting other forms of transport, such as the monorail system. Might this not be a means of duplicating certain existing services, either road or rail transport on the same surface space? I have ridden in two different prototypes of monorail on the Continent, the German-Swedish one which runs on top of a rail, which did not impress me all that much, and the Anglo-French vehicle, which impressed me very much indeed particularly since it is extremely silent in operation and accelerates very well and smoothly and is fast. There may be some snags involved which prevent our adopting such a system, but I would like some further information on the subject. I do not know whether the costings have been investigated as a possible means of doubledecking some of our transport services at certain places.

Many suggestions have been put forward. Many of them will have to be adopted if we are to solve the problem in London, which is an exceptional city because of its size and large population. We must also remember the tremendous area covered by London,. Our problems are different from the difficulties being faced by other countries, but we must consider the solutions which have been found by other countries. Perhaps by a compilation we can make some improvements and so finally solve the extremely difficult situation with which we are faced.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)

We who work and live in London will wish to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) for giving us this opportunity to state our views on a matter on which we all feel deeply. Unlike some previous speakers, I do not rise to tell the Joint-Parliamentary Secretary that I am in possession of the solution to the traffic problem. Like all the best problems, it is much more easily examined than solved.

I recognise that in London we are suffering from traffic thrombosis. This thrombosis is a consequence of affluence. So many millions of people can now afford to buy motors cars. This is to be welcomed. I would much sooner see our streets chockablock with cars than with hunger marchers. I suppose that we could solve the traffic problem in London by having a big increase in the number of people unemployed.

But we must recognise that so long as we have a prosperous society the number of motor cars on our roads will continue to increase and the traffic problem will continue to face us. We cannot escape from that.

I do not believe that: building more roads or providing more parking places will solve the problem. That is not to say that I am not in favour of building more roads—I am—or that we should not provide more parking places; I want more provided. Nor am I not in favour of doing all we can to speed the flow of traffic by all the devices mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham. I am in favour of all of them. But, having said that, we must remember that there is no solution to be found by the multiplication of space for cars. The more we increase the space for cars, the more will cars breed to fill the space available. We must not delude ourselves with the belief that more roads, better roads, wider roads will make traffic easier.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham referred to a visit to San Francisco. He will agree, like any of us who have been to California, that every device ever suggested for coping with traffic has been adopted there. The State of California has spent enormous sums of money on building the most magnificent roads, with all those devices. In spite of all this, motor cars have multiplied to fill the extra space, and the traffic jam in the cities of California is just as bad as it is in London. It is just as difficult to walk safely across Pershing Square, in Los Angeles, as it is across Piccadilly Circus in London.

I do not advocate the easy nostrum of spending more on roads, parking spaces and traffic devices in order to say that it will then be possible for everyone to drive a car where he likes and when he likes. We must say very plainly, and it will be very unpopular, that so long as we remain the prosperous society we are, and so long as people are eager to buy cars—and that, apparently, is an appetite that does not diminish but rather increases—we must restrict either the sale of cars or their use. We must make up our minds which it is to be.

It is not practicable to visualise a society in which almost everyone is well enough off to buy a car and, at the same time, to suppose that in such a society we need have virtually no interference with the use of cars. We cannot run our roads in the age of affluence on traffic assumptions dating from the time when cars were the monopoly of a well-off minority. Today, in our universally prosperous land, we must adopt a different approach to traffic.

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some idea of his Ministry's thinking on this subject. My belief is that as long as London streets are open to cars and lorries without any sort of limitation, congestion is inevitable. The more they multiply, the greater becomes that congestion. Therefore, if we really mean to do anything about it, we must take some steps to reduce the use of cars in London. There are only two ways of doing that; we can restrict the entry of cars into central London either by means of permits or by means of charges. We must choose between favouritism and price mechanism. We must ration either by the purse or by favouritism—because the issue of permits would involve favouritism, with all the objections that flow from it.

I therefore believe that if we must limit the use of cars in central London, we must ask the Minister what steps he proposes to take. He can cut down the number of parking meters. He can make it less easy than it now is to use the streets as garages. There are various steps that would prevent congestion from reaching the point where London traffic comes to a standstill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give us some idea tonight what he proposes to do.

Somehow or other some limitation must be put on the use of cars in London. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham who, in the expansive and generous fashion one would expect from him, has said that everyone is entitled to a car and is entitled to use it if he wishes. I agree that everyone is entitled to a car if he can afford one—and we are reaching the point where almost everybody can afford one. But there must be some sort of restraint on use—rationing by the purse or rationing by favouritism of permits. I hope that we shall hear the Minister's thinking on this matter because, to my mind, that is the root of the problem.

8.7 p.m.

Mr. Peter Doig (Dundee, West)

Listening to hon. Members opposite, one would imagine that this problem had arisen only since the Labour Government took over a year ago, but this congestion existed just as it is now long before that event. This is not a new problem, and it is with us now because of the failure of the last Government to do anything or solve anything during the previous 13 years—

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I must object to that remark. I do not think that the hon. Member was present when I pointed out six things done by the previous Minister of Transport which greatly facilitated London's transport.

Mr. Doig

I have been in London for longer than the period since Labour came into office—[HON. MEMBERS: "That is not long."] It is quite long enough—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If hon. Members opposite are prepared to condemn this Government on what has happened in one year, I have a right to say that I did not notice any improvements during the time of the Conservative Government.

On the Underground at peak hours we find, as we did two years ago, that capacity has been reached. At the busy stations, the trains come in quick succession; no sooner does one pull out than another pulls in. The trains are crammed. Already we find that the trains are the full length of the platforms, so it is impossible to run more trains or add more carriages. At peak hours, saturation has been reached.

What did the last Government do to overcome this? Very belatedly, they decided to have one new section on the London Underground. Years after that should have been started, and towards the end of their period in power, they decided, far too late, to do something.

Let us examine what causes all this congestion. There are far too many jobs in London. What did the last Government do to stop that situation arising? Absolutely nothing. The previous Labour Government left them a system for dealing with this problem, a system of granting industrial development certificates for new development. How did they use that system? They granted about 130 industrial development certificates for the whole of Scotland in a year, but for the London area—the most overcrowded part of the country—they granted no fewer than 725 and for Birmingham, the second most overcrowded part of the country, they granted 400-odd. They made no attempt whatever to use the machinery which had been handed to them for controlling this problem.

Mr. Curran

The hon. Member has given the number of certificates granted. Will he now tell us how many applications were rejected?

Mr. Doig

How many were rejected is immaterial. The important thing is how many were granted and where they were granted. The vast majority were granted for the most overcrowded part of the country, and the second highest figure was for the second most overcrowded part.

Mr. Onslow

Is the hon. Member saying that he would like these industrial development certificates to be refused in places which he would like to see developed?

Mr. Doig

Because the previous Labour Government did this my constituency does not have mass unemployment today. The City of Dundee benefited from the Distribution of Industry Act, passed by the previous Labour Government. But for that the overcrowding in London would have been worse than it is now. Many firms which went to Dundee would have come to the London area and made overcrowding worse there now. The previous Labour Government did something to deal with this problem and the present Labour Government are doing something now. The present Government stopped new office building in London.

Since the end of the war no less than 80 per cent. of all the new office building in the country has been in the London area. Can one wonder that there is this amount of congestion? Can one wonder when this is allied to misuse of industrial development certificates that we have colossal congestion in the London area? In other parts of the country people need jobs but, instead of providing jobs there, firms have come to add to the congestion in London. So we find London full of Scotsmen and Irishmen. They did not come here because they wanted to do so but because it is the only place in which they could find work. Hon. Members opposite, in Governments of the past, have caused this situation. Let us be clear about where the blame lies.

The previous Labour Government introduced planning Acts. I admit that these also caused traffic congestion because they divided cities and towns into different districts, into residential areas where people lived but had no jobs, and areas where there is work but no homes. Then the people have to travel to find their jobs. By this process people have been caused to become commuters. It used to be usual for the vast majority of workers to walk to work. That has become almost impossible in London today. It is now expected that one should live so far away from one's work that one spends an hour travelling to work in the morning and an hour travelling back home at night.

Over the years it has become obvious that this has been causing the trouble. Previous Governments ought to have taken steps to rectify the position by incorporating jobs within areas where there is housing and incorporating houses where there are new jobs. That is all that would be required to do away with much of the trouble of traffic congestion, but successive Governments of the party opposite did nothing at all to tackle this problem. What did the previous Government do about Professor Buchanan's Report? Absolutely nothing.

Mr. Onslow

May I ask the hon. Member, as a matter of curiosity, how he would arrange matters so that a major employer in my area, the British Aircraft Corporation, could have its 13,000 employees within walking distance of their work?

Mr. Doig

We have only to look at what happened in the new towns. Cumbernauld is a typical example of a new town where the majority of people can easily walk to work, or travel a very short distance. All that is required is a Government which really means business to do something about the traffic problem. It merely means that we should plan our cities in a different way and use existing planning Acts for future development in a different way so that, instead of providing a housing scheme in one area for 6,000 people and no jobs, we should provide alongside the housing scheme 6,000 jobs. I assure hon. Members that it can be done.

This is something which ought to be examined very thoroughly. I come to the crux of the whole transport problem, not only in London but particularly in London. Successive Governments have raised money from motorists to pay for roads. They have never made any pretence about it—they have never spent the money on the roads. They spend less than a third of the money raised from the Road Fund taxes and petrol taxes on roads, and half of that has to be provided by local authorities. Less than a fifth of the money obtained in the first place especially to provide roads is spent by the Government on roads. Is it surprising when Governments are not prepared to face this problem and to spend the money on the purpose for which they obtained it, but raid the Road Fund and use it for other purposes, that we have not got the roads which we ought to have? That is why we have not got the transport system we ought to have. That is why this problem is so costly and why we have so many road accidents. The accident problem is very serious, but it does not get the attention it deserves.

We were told that the previous Government had a first-class Transport Minister, but look at some of the things he did. What happened to the Panda crossings? Do the parking meters make more parking space? We are back to the old Tory philosophy of rationing by the purse. If one has a big enough bank account one can park almost where one likes, but if not, one has to go away from the centre of towns to find parking accommodation.

One-way street systems do not get people there any quicker in most cases, because more miles must be covered. A motorist may travel more quickly, but he does not make the whole journey any more quickly and he does not arrive at his destination sooner. One-way street systems are an absolute nightmare to visitors. They are also very dangerous. Traffic flows into Park Lane from all directions. Park Lane starts off with five traffic lanes, but halfway down it narrows. The man who is willing to take the biggest chance carries on, and the others must give way. The first thing that a stranger to London does is to park his car and to leave it parked all the time he is here.

Does this represent what hon. Members think is an excellent job by the previous Minister of Transport? The vast majority of Members of the public do not think so. I would think they are far from satisfied with this Government's record on transport, but they were equally dissatisfied with the previous Government. The previous Government had 13 years. This Government have had one year. It is wrong to give the impression that this Government have caused all the traffic problems which now exist.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson

Nobody has said so.

Mr. Doig

This has been suggested by practically every speaker since I entered the Chamber.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson


Mr. Doig

It is wrong to allow that impression to go out from here, because there is a continuing responsibility on the previous Government. This problem has gone on for a long time. Some day, some Government must wake up and decide to spend much more money on roads, because they are getting the extra money in, anyway. The revenue is rising all the time. Expenditure is rising at a much slower rate. Some day this problem must be faced. The financial mess in which the previous Government left the country may well have delayed the process. This is at least a feasible proposition. However, at some time the Government must get round either to setting aside all the money raised from Road Fund licences and fuel tax, or they must fix a percentage in advance and say that they will keep that money for spending on the roads. In other words, they must get back to the position from which the late Sir Winston Churchill took them away. They must restore the Road Fund and use it for the purpose for which it was started, namely, for providing roads.

8.23 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Howe (Bebington)

It is difficult to follow the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) with any coherence, because most of his remarks rehearsed traditional panaceas and shibboleths about road policy which we ought to be saying goodbye to, and which I suspect the Minister of Transport even in this Government is saying some sort of goodbye to, if any solution is to be found to the problem.

I agree with the notion of placing as much work as possible alongside the homes of the workers as one way of minimising transport difficulties. In my own constituency in Port Sunlight there is perhaps the first prototype of such a venture. I agree that new towns, where everything is organised in that way, go some way towards producing the answer. The Minister of Housing and Local Government said only a week or two ago that he does not propose to start any more new towns in the North-West in the immediate future. As to the existing conurbations of London and big cities in other parts of the country, it is manifestly impossible to transplant bodies of workers to new homes within the existing set-up. We must look beyond that for the solution.

The hon. Member for Dundee, West, suggested that there was a quick and easy solution to the problem in a more complete and rational distribution of industry policy throughout the country. Conservative Governments in the past did their best to implement effective distribution of industry policies. The 1945 Act, under which it was all started, was passed by a Conservative majority Government. By what the Conservatives did for the motor trade—for Scotland, about which the hon. Member for Dundee, West, spoke, for the North-West and for Wales—they encouraged the creation of huge new magnets of industrial growth precisely to stop the continuing expansion in the greater London area. The result is that problems of urban transport are common, not merely to London, about which this debate has been primarily concerned, but to all the great urban centres. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell) in his place, because he will agree with me that the urban centre of Merseyside has just as great a potential traffic problem as London.

I want to ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary about the extent to which the present Government are following up the suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) in strategic terms as a way towards, not solving, but at least abating and regulating the problem of urban transport. The suspicion which hon. Members on this side have is that the present Government, Socialist in background, biased towards public ownership and public spending, are unlikely to be sympathetic to the solutions which most experts agree are right for the solution of this problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge began identifying them.

It was plainly right for the previous Government to embark upon the idea of charging for the use of road space by metering parking places. This was an elemental application of the principles of the free market to the use of a public commodity. It is, as the hon. Member for Dundee, West said, precisely rationing by the purse. An important glimmer which we began to see in some Socialists in the last year or two was that they were recognising that in this field rationing by the purse is a means of meeting social priorities as well as economic priorities. The House will probably remember the essay written by Peter Hall in the quasi-manifesto yast year, "Labour's New Frontiers", in which he enunciated precisely this argument—the way in which it was dawning on him that in the use of road space rationing by the purse was the most effective solution of apportioning priorities and far more acceptable than the favouritism to which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge referred.

We want to know whether the present Government accept this at least as a strategic way of apportioning the use of urban roads and whether they are prepared to follow through the differential price parking meters which have begun to come into central London, whether they are beginning to follow through the prescriptions on this topic enunciated in the pamphlet recently published by the Institute of Economic Affairs entitled, "Paying for Parking". It is only by using the purse in this sector that we can begin to attract private funds into the provision of off-street car parking facilities on the scale required. Only by a variable price mechanism can the most effective use be made of the parking space available.

As a second illustration of the same topic, the previous Minister of Transport, among the many things that he did, appointed the Smeed Committee to examine the whole question of the metering of road use, not by stationary cars, but by mobile cars. The Smeed Committee reported and suggested various technical solutions to the business of charging for the use of roads in city centres. This was, again, an intelligent application of the free market principle, alien to traditional Socialist beliefs.

What has happened under this Minister of Transport to the recommendations of the Smeed Committee? What developments are we likely to get from that Committee's Report? To what extent are the Government prepared to use the price mechanism to regulate the use of roads by moving vehicles as well as by stationary vehicles?

I come to the much more general proposition of how we are to get roads built more quickly than at present? The hon. Member for Dundee, West, made a characteristically archaic onslaught on Sir Winston Churchill and his raiding of the Road Fund—a hoary annual. The fact is that all Governments since that time onwards have so often demonstrated that this country does not devise an effective tax system whereby road users are entitled to the benefits of the tax which they pay, any more than alcoholics are entitled to the proceeds of the taxes which they pay. The Road Fund is part of the general body of taxation.

The more important worry is this. The hon. Member for Dundee, West, rightly said that what we would like to see are more roads more quickly. We would like, he said, to see a Government at last having the courage to recognise that all road taxation should go into road construction. That should be set in the context of the National Plan, a much vaunted document which contains a projection of the extension of expenditure on road construction. That projection is all contained within the limitation of a 4¼ per cent. expansion in public spending and therefore roads are in the great queue with schools and doctors and every other form of public social service provision.

Are we any longer likely to get the resources going into road construction if we look solely to publicly financed, tax-raised resources in this way? There are so many claimants on the resources which we are deliberately limiting in order not to socialise more than 41 per cent. of the national income. Is it not time to look into the market mechanism, not only as to the pricing of moving vehicles but for the construction of the roads? If the public are prepared to spend over £1,000 million a year on purchasing and running vehicles would not they be prepared to spend more as customers in tolls for the construction of roads?

We are beginning to make experimental progress towards this. The Forth Bridge, the Severn Bridge and the Tamar Bridge are or will be using the toll principle. We on Merseyside have known the toll principle in the Mersey Tunnel for many years. Surely this is where we can begin to devote to the business of providing roads greater resources by using people's willingness to spend as customers what they are unwilling to spend as taxpayers?

I hope that I have indicated certain ways which I should like to see the Government adopting to tackle the problem in the long-term in the strategic sense, but I doubt whether a Government committed to Socialism and proceeding against the background of archaic dogmas can show itself willing to recognise the value of customer choice as a means of raising resources to provide the roads. I should like to know whether there are any traces of this dynamic thinking remaining in the Ministry of Transport as a residue of the steps taken by the previous Minister now that the Ministry has been under Socialist domination for twelve months.

I heartily support what all hon. Members on this side of the House have been saying by way of condemnation of the inactivity of the present Minister. The traffic snarls of London are, of course, not the product of the last twelve months, and we know that they are growing, but we are concerned at the inertness displayed from that Ministry, more perhaps than from other sectors of the present Government. Whatever may be said about my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), he was a Minister of Transport who was out and about, doing and trying, and introducing solutions. Not all of them were right and it is easy enough to pick out one or two and criticise them, but of the present Minister the most that one can say is, "For God's sake say something even if it is only 'Goodbye'."

8.33 p.m.

Sir Richard Thompson (Croydon, South)

I have listened with great interest to the analysis of this problem by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Howe), but perhaps I may be allowed to try to bring the debate closer to the original subject, namely, the situation in London. Anybody who lives in London, as I do most of the time, or has a constituency on the fringe of London, as I have, cannot be in any doubt that the business of getting to and from work is probably the major preoccupation and major grumble of hundreds of thousands of people today.

It is very important that we should be able to send out from the House some sort of message to these people to show that we are not content to let transport in London quietly seize up as transport is doing in other great cities of the world. I happen to know something about New York. The congestion there is frightful. There one has a feeling of hopelessness, that traffic has become so "fouled up", to use the American phrase, that nothing can be done about it. We must not get into that frame of mind here and I believe that if we play our cards wisely that need not happen.

Over the last few months we have had dramatic reminders of the sort of situation, the perpetual jam which we experience today and which we shall continue to experience if we cannot devise some quick-acting solutions. As some hon. Members have already mentioned, a high-powered report prepared for the Greater London Council has just been published. I do not suppose that anybody here has read the whole of it, but most of us have read the summarised proposals as published in the evening newspapers. Many of these proposals seem to me to be extremely sensible. Many of them are extensions of what is being done now—the tidal flow, the new urban clearways, the extension of parking meters and things of that kind.

The solemn and appalling thought that comes to us about all this is that the compilers of the report themselves do not claim that their proposals will cure the situation. All they say is that they will halt the deterioration. They will not make things very much better. Indeed, with the enormous annual increase in motor traffic, whatever proposals we have we shall be fighting a losing battle.

This to me is the seriousness of the situation. Even if all these proposals were possible to be implemented straight away they would only apply a curb to a worsening situation and would not make it very much better. It must be remembered also that the peak periods of congestion, such as the Christmas shopping period, still lie ahead of us. It is true to say, as most of the newspapers have pointed out, that this problem has been under almost continuous study for years and years and we have not yet found a real solution.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) said, if we do not do something we shall be approaching a condition of imminent traffic thrombosis. It seems to me that any solution that we can find must be a pretty radical one which is bound of its very nature to upset a number of people. I do not think that we shall find a solution, for instance, by implementing Professor Buchanan's ideas, well thought out though they are. They would take at least two generations to achieve. They provide a worthy goal always in front of us, but we want a result which will enable us to get to and from work next year. We do not want solutions designed for our grandchildren. We shall seize up completely long before we get to that time.

I do not attach all the weight that some hon. Members attach to the beneficial effect of a really massive road-building programme round the centre of London. We can build roads till we are blue in the face and make it easier for traffic to come to London, but it is what happens when it gets there which really defeats us. This is not to say that I am against improving many of our out-of-date and inadequate roads, but by doing that alone we may do no more than multiply our problems.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and another hon. Member referred to the State of California and the appalling traffic congestion which exists in such modern cities as Los Angeles and San Francisco, with both of which I am familiar. It is not too much to say that the frightful traffic conditions in San Francisco are the direct result of the overbuilding of motorways. The motorways have brought so much traffic into the city, making everybody a motor car commuter, that they are now, in the middle of the twentieth century, having completely to rebuild the whole of their suburban rail transport system. It is being done at immense cost, financed on most original lines, but the lesson is there for us. We must not make the same mistake. We must not imagine that a purely road solution will give us the answers. When a much more modern city like San Francisco realises that it has been doing the wrong thing and must now turn renewed attention to a new public transport system based on the railway—not a conventional railway, and we can talk about that another time—we ought to learn the lesson and realise that just the building of motorways, fly-overs and under-passes, although they have a part to play, will not by itself bring us an acceptable solution.

We want a solution which is reasonably quick acting. Otherwise, we shall find the problem a great deal worse before the remedies can come into full play. Various proposals have been made. One is for a large traffic-free area, that is, free of traffic except public transport, taxis and certain exceptions. I agree that the exceptions would present great difficulty. One would always be in trouble as regards local residents, doctors, people delivering articles and so on who could be excepted from a general prohibition.

I do not consider that the right way to go about securing a large traffic-free area is to say to people that they simply must not drive their cars there. The motor car is a fact of life today. It means a great deal to an increasing number of people every year. The motor car owner is very heavily taxed. To say to him, at the end of the day, "There is a large area in the middle of your capital city where you must never go in your motor car", is, I think, to ask too much. We want to discourage him from cluttering it up, but sheer prohibition is too drastic and the wrong way to go about it.

On that theme, I wonder whether we have been very clever in our parking policy as it relates to parking meters. One of my hon. Friends pointed out, quite rightly, that the more parking spaces one provides the more certain it is that they will all be filled up in time. I often wonder whether or not the cars at parking meters are really cars serving the nearby offices and shops. We know the immense difficulty of supervising this sort of thing. The police and the existing staff of meter attendants and so on are not really capable of checking the many abuses which occur.

Have we got the business of parking control in the very centre of London the wrong way round? If we want to discourage people from driving into London and putting their cars somewhere, blocking the roads, making it impossible for public transport to move, and so on, the thing to do is to make it fairly difficult to park in certain places, with quite stringent penalties if they leave their cars lying about. Of course, it would be wildly unpopular, but it would not be so unpopular as saying to people, "You have motor cars, you pay all the taxes associated with them, but you must not come into London because there are too many cars there already". If we were really parsimonious with street parking in sensitive areas of London where work is done, people would get fed up with cruising round and round, hoping to be able to dump their cars somewhere and leave them for the whole day. If we applied that policy really rigidly, we could keep out a large number of cars which come in now simply because there is a place to go to.

Alongside this policy will have to go one of improving public transport services. We cannot deprive a man of the effective use of his car if he cannot get a bus or train. But there is no doubt that less congestion would make it easier for the bus services, at any rate, to function smoothly and more regularly.

The other matter which the hon. Member will have to tackle—and I am ready to agree that nobody has yet attempted it—is the staggering of working hours. This is going to be wildly unpopular with anybody upon whom it is enforced, but the present arrangement is quite crazy. Immense numbers of people come into London in the mornings and go out again in the evenings, all travelling in the most acute discomfort, herded together like cattle on trains that are packed and running at intervals of a few yards on our overloaded transport system. If we could make it possible for people to spread their journeys over another couple of hours in the mornings and evenings not only would they travel in much greater comfort but our transport system, which is now overloaded at peak hours and under-used for the rest of the day, could be more rationally put to work.

This has all been said on many occasions. Nobody doubts the theoretical arguments. But everybody shies at the prospect of telling people, "If you will not reorganise your day's work so that some of your staff can come in early and some later we shall have to insist upon your doing so." Everybody fights shy of doing that, but I feel certain that we are coming to the point where that may be the only way of bringing some rationality into our transport system.

It does not seem to me that any measures for alleviating the present problems can be effective unless they take account of the necessity to require people to stagger their working hours. Offer them incentives to do so, by all means—but that will prove to be part of the solution. It is not really so difficult. Many occupations require those who engage in them to work difficult and odd hours, but they nevertheless manage to attract people. The newspaper industry is an obvious example.

I want to end on a constituency note. In my opinion certain improvements could be made in the present situation. My constituency of South Croydon is a typical commuting constituency, requiring commuters from it to travel for about 12 miles through congested London whether they go by train or by car. I realise that this is a long-term suggestion, but I renew my plea that the new Victoria tube line, which I believe is now likely to be extended to Brixton, should be pushed out further, to Croydon. I realise that everybody wants special facilities for his own constituency, but if the population position and the immense numbers of people coming into London from Croydon is taken into account it will be seen that my suggestion would make a great deal of sense.

Secondly, will the Minister examine the fare structure and try to ensure that rail tickets are more interchangeable as between stations that serve the same area? The hon. Member may be surprised to know that Croydon has 24 railway stations. Some are naturally more heavily used than others, but if there could be a greater interavailability of tickets I am certain that we would not have all the people crowding into those stations which offer the best and fastest services. To encourage that process—and this echoes the plea made by some of my hon. Friends—I ask the Minister to look again very critically at proposals to shut down suburban railways which serve some purpose in transporting commuters into and out of London.

I would not apply the same arguments to little-used lines in the country for which no economic justification now exists, but the little-used suburban lines into London ought to be kept going because we cannot neglect any means of shifting commuters. I would advise the hon. Gentleman, if necessary, to offer substantially cut-rate fares on the lines which are little used perhaps because they are inconvenient or the service is a little slow. He should offer passengers a financial advantage to use lines which they do not usually use.

In my constituency there is the Woodside-Sanderstead line, which was threatened with closure nearly three years ago. I made a great fuss in this House, and I had the help of my constituents and we managed to avert that closure. We are doing all we can to encourage people to use the line, which is convenient and has the advantage of good car parking facilities at the stations. If the Minister were to offer a special cut rate, I believe that he would suck commuters off the other lines and on to ones of this type, making people realise that there was a way of getting to London which they had perhaps not previously realised. When there is a line which to the Minister's standards is not economically viable, let him use a good private enterprise solution. Let him say, "We will offer a really attractive bargain to the passengers on this line, and when we have got passengers back on to it, perhaps we can let the fares run up again." That is a very good idea indeed.

I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will feel that what I have had to say has had some constructive suggestions built into it. The very long-term solutions about which we hear so much are attractive, but we must do something in the short term if we are to make any difference to the commuter, and foremost among my proposals would be the staggering of working hours.

8.52 p.m.

Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)

This has been a most constructive and useful debate. At one stage a little element of party politics was imported into it, but I do not think that this is particularly a party political matter. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), who was the Conservative Minister of Transport, was the best Minister of Transport that we have ever had. The Labour Minister of Transport has come in for some criticism from the Opposition, but I am not sure that I am prepared to join in it as yet. After all, he has been in office only one year, and I do not remember my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey, who was in office for five or six years, producing very much at the end of 12 months. So I am prepared to give the present Minister a little longer before I pronounce judgment on him. I only hope that he is making some plans and also conducting the vast number of consultations which are necessary before one can start making changes with London traffic.

On the party side, I must say that I am a little surprised that no London Labour Member has spoken in the debate. Although I disagree with the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig), I feel that London Labour Members should be grateful to him for saying a few words about London, even though he is probably a greater expert on traffic in Dundee.

We should keep the question of traffic congestion in London in perspective. It is wrong to give the impression that there is hopeless congestion all day long and all night long. This is not so. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey introduced many changes, notably in regard to one-way streets, which have kept the traffic moving around London. The really bad congestion occurs mostly in the rush hours in the morning and evening, and for the rest of the day we get around perfectly all right. I am driving around London all the time. If one uses one's "loaf" a little and does not always choose main roads but goes by some back ways, it is quite easy to get about.

The main problem is in the rush hours. Such congestion does not occur in August but mostly at this time of the year, however, and it would be wrong for the Government to impose a scheme whereby private cars were banned from London all day long. I support the proposal that private cars should be banned from the bus routes during the rush hours. This is a sensible proposal if it is possible to work it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) mentioned "staggering". I have noticed that "staggering" by office workers is already beginning to take place. When I go to my Friday night "surgery" in Hounslow, I notice that the traffic is building up from 3.30 p.m. onwards. However, I would make the plea that, where possible, the Minister will consult those concerned to see whether the Dairy Show and the Motor Show could be held in consecutive weeks instead of in the same week. This would help not only the traffic but also the hotels, restaurants and everyone else.

I know that many conferences and exhibitions are going on all the time. I believe that an Irish exhibition is being held at the Washington Hotel in Curzon Street tonight. But most of them are relatively small and do not attract traffic to the extent of the Dairy Show and the Motor Show, which are the main causes of congestion in this part of October.

If we are to ban private cars even for a time from the main routes, it will be necessary to improve London Transport. I do not want to say anything to make London Transport's life more difficult. I am often in communication with the chairman about the bus service in my constituency and in the end it always comes back to staff shortages.

One appreciates the enormous difficulties that London Transport has in getting suitable staff. The only way to get more staff is to pay higher wages, and if we do that fares will go up. I am greatly in favour of coaxing the public back to public transport, but that means not putting the fares up again. It might even mean reducing them.

I suspect that here I am at loggerheads with the rest of the Conservative Party and that I am perhaps the only Conservative M.P. who believes that the time is coming when the Government, the taxpayer, will have to subsidise London Transport. If we go on putting up the fares people will simply not use the buses or the tubes. One reason why our roads are so congested now is that the minimum fare is 4d. and one can do the same journely much more cheaply in a small car.

If fares continue to go up, people will increasingly desert the buses and tubes and take to cars. One way of easing traffic congestion in London would be to get the minimum fare down to 2d. again, even if it meant a subsidy from the Government, who would in any case save money because this would more than offset the enormous sums lost in the great traffic jams.

I do not expect much support from my hon. Friends on this but I have noted what happens in other capital cities. One does not wish to hold up Moscow as a fine example but nevertheless the underground trains there are free. We should at least try to make sure that we do not go on putting up fares, otherwise the public will desert buses and tubes even more.

Another method whereby traffic flow could be helped concerns the London roads. Most of them were built many years ago with very wide pavements because of the greater number of pedestrians and the fewer vehicles in those days. In those days there were not so many vehicles on the roads, but there were many people on the pavements. Nowadays, there are more people in cars and fewer people on the pavements.

We therefore have many roads in London where the pavements are too wide and the roadways too narrow. I could take the Minister to 500 roads in London—if he and I had the time—where, if the pavements were made a foot narrower so that the roadway became a couple of feet wider, motorists could drive down the roads much more easily than they can now when cars are parked on each side and there is hardly room for a car to go between. It is no good blaming the people who have parked their cars. Everyone wants to have a car and they cannot all be in use all the time or everything will come to a complete standstill. There are many roads which, if widened by only two or three feet, would make traffic flow much more easily. There are examples in Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea, and I speak only of the areas I know.

There are motorists who, out of the kindness of their hearts and in order to help those who are driving along, park their cars a little on the pavements in order to get them off the roads. This makes the pavement narrower, of course, and if the police come along, such motorists are liable to be prosecuted, for they have committed an offence. That is wrong, because when motorists park their cars a little on the pavement, they do a public service and they should not be prosecuted for it. I recognise that this would need a change in the law and one day something may be done about that. Meanwhile, if the roads could be officially widened and the pavements narrowed, it would be a great help to many people.

My last comment is again on a constituency note. Some of the worst jams which I have been in in the last month have been not in central London, but on the road which leads to the M.4. I have to go along that to my constituency and on at least two Fridays out of the last four, to say nothing of two days out of the last four, the M.4 has been closed and the resulting traffic jam has begun at Hammersmith. The M.4 has been closed because of an accident and no doubt that is quite right and I do not criticise the police in any way for it.

The trouble is that the signs which close the M.4 begin on the London side of the Chiswick flyover, so that when the M.4 is closed, all the traffic has to be sent down the slip road into the Chiswick roundabout. As I have said, the traffic jam which builds up goes back to Hammersmith. I wonder whether it is possible for the signs closing the M.4 to be a little further along the motorway so that at any rate vehicles can get over the Chiswick flyover and then, if they have to go off, they can get down to the Great West Road further on. This would ease the jams and would help the motorists who are not even going down the A.4, but want to get to the Chertsey Road or to go down to Twickenham and Richmond.

I am prepared to give the present Minister of Transport a little longer, because I do not think that the congestion is his fault. It is part of the affluent society and it will continue. However, if he would do some of the things which I have suggested, he might ease matters temporarily.

9.4 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I was rather surprised by some of the suggestions of the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. Reader Harris). He suggested that in order to avoid traffic congestion in London, the community should pay more taxes in order to reduce the personal fares paid by the individual for his rail or road transport. I understood that there was a general campaign to get personal taxation down. We must stop this sort of double-talk, this request in the House for fares to be reduced in all sorts of congested areas and for the difference to be made up by raising taxation, and the talk out side the House asking people to pay more and more for the things they use personally in order that taxation can be reduced. One gets two sorts of attitudes by hon. Members of the Opposition, one for the House and one for the public outside. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman's speech will be read by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have no doubt that if he does read it he will be shocked because his idea of reducing personal taxation is crushed by the hon. Gentleman's proposition. I feel sure that the citizens of Glasgow, and the industrial areas of the Midlands and the North will be further shocked if more and more of their taxes are used to enable Londoners to get cheaper fares because of congestion.

Everybody likes to work in a car plant because it provides the best form of occupation of any industry in the world. The industry has set a standard of employment, of social service within the industry that has been aped and followed by other industries in order to get labour in the last 40 years. The motor industry is now probably the leading industry in the world and no doubt people will still go on buying cars. As long as this goes on, the possibility is that the person who owns a car will be able to travel cheaper than the person who has to buy his transport from a municipal enterprise or a private enterprise. When it comes to municipal enterprises, like London Transport, the hon. Gentleman suggests lowering the fares to get people back. This would mean giving London Transport a subsidy.

What about private enterprise? Many of us who live not in London but in Scotland, or in the North or the Midlands, rely partly on municipal transport and partly on private enterprise transport. In the constituency I represent we have two private companies running bus services and they are both having to put up their fares because more and more people in the rural areas are using cars. Will the same apply in these areas? Would the hon. Gentleman agree that since we are to subsidise the Londoner to give him cheaper transport, we should subsidise the Scot in the County of Dunbartonshire or in the City of Dundee or the Borough of Rutherglen? Are these people also to get a subsidy to enable them to charge cheaper fares?

Mr. Howe

That is a valid argument. Does the hon. Gentleman remember the Jack Committee's Report which proposed subsidisation of this kind and the experiments showing how this kind of problem, about which he is speaking, can be met? Would he not agree that it would be interesting to know from the Minister tonight what steps the Government have in mind, along the lines recommended by the Jack Committee to help rural transport as well as urban transport? Would he not also agree that if we are to raise the resources for giving subsidies of this kind, at the same time fulfilling the valuable pledge given by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), that we want to use the market mechanism to raise charges from road users along the lines suggested?

Mr. Bence

If it is left to the market mechanism to do it then I am afraid that the fares on the bus services of London Transport would be prohibitive. The hon. Gentleman wants to defy market practice because he wants to introduce a form of subsidy.

Mr. Howe

The point I was trying to make is that the market mechanism can be used to make the motorist in congested areas pay more, while they are congested, for parking and using the road. The proceeds of those payments could quite properly be used to subsidise public commuter transport and public rural transport. We can use the market mechanism to raise resources from the motorist and to keep some of the public service prices down.

Mr. Reader Harris

As the hon. Gentleman has mentioned me several times, may I say that I have no desire that the people of Lanarkshire, Glasgow, or anywhere else should subsidise Londoners. I have not said that. I do not know what the inhabitants of Vladivostok say about having to subsidise the underground in Moscow. Perhaps they feel the same as the hon. Gentleman. I suggest that Londoners should pay for themselves.

Mr. Bence

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman relates his argument to Vladivostok. In this country, one can kick up a row in complete safety about what is happening in one part of the country when one lives in another part, but it is dangerous to do that in the place which the hon. Gentleman mentioned. There it is a different proposition.

The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the right hon. Member for Enfield, West, who wants to reduce personal taxation, would be satisfied because instead of asking the community as a whole to subsidise cheaper transport to overcome congestion it: London and the danger of uneconomic fares, the whole community would pay increased personal taxation. Many motorists vote Conservative because they think that the Conservative Party does not want to make the motorist pay more. But the hon. Gentleman is a Conservative Member of Parliament, and he wants to make them pay more. Why should the motorist in Dundee who has a Mini pay more in motoring taxation so that the hon. Gentleman living in Croydon has cheaper transport in London?

Mr. Howe

The motorist in Dundee or Dunbartonshire, in areas of low congestion, would pay less in taxation. The motorist in areas of high congestion would pay higher taxes related to his use of the road. The petrol tax would be lower. The motorist who caused the most jams would pay more to subsidise the others. They will hang together.

Mr. Bence

I should think that they will hang together, but what the hon. and learned Gentleman is suggesting is that by registering his car in Dundee my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) will pay lower taxation, but that the fellow who registers his car in London will pay higher taxation. He is suggesting that there should be a differential tax system. If one lived in London and bought a motor car to travel to Whipsnade, or wherever it may be, one would pay higher taxation—a bigger annual licence fee, a bigger driving licence fee, and so on—whereas if one lived in rural areas one would pay lower taxation. This is what the insurance companies are doing. If a person has his car registered in Glasgow, he is charged £30 or £40 a year in insurance. But if it is registered in Dundee, the insurance premium is lower. The hon. and learned Gentleman wants the Government to do what the insurance companies are doing. This is a piece of nonsense.

I do not know what the right hon. Member for Enfield, West will say when it is suggested that there should be a differential taxation of motor cars over different parts of the country. When one buys a car, the thing to do will be to take it to the area where the lowest taxation obtains and get it registered there. We shall have the Secretary of State for Scotland putting before the Cabinet proposals to have a lower motor car taxation rate in Scotland. Then we will shift all the taxation offices from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow and we can register all the cars there.

Mr. Howe

If the hon. Gentleman will read, as I am sure the Minister has read, the Report of the Smeed Committee, he will see that differential road pricing has nothing to do with the area of registration of the vehicle. It involves a sophisticated application of differential pricing according to where one is using one's car. None of the difficulties which the hon. Gentleman so imaginatively foreshadows arises. He must do the argument justice.

Mr. Bence

This is pricing the use of vehicle on the roads. Therefore, this is pricing the roads. So we will have road tolls. Instead of increasing personal taxation, the hon. and learned Gentleman wants all commercial and private users of motor cars in the industrial belt of the United Kingdom to pay road tolls.

It has been suggested that higher road tolls should be paid by people in the South than by those in the North, and what is road pricing if it is not road tolls? People are not such idiots as to believe that there is a difference between a road toll and a road price. It is just like redundancy. Some people think that if a man is redundant, he has not had the sack. The man who is made redundant, on the other hand, believes that he has had the sack. The owner of a commercial vehicle who is asked to pay a road price will still believe that he is paying a road toll. That is treble-talk, never mind about double-talk.

If the right hon. Member for Enfield, West were here he would hear some amazing solutions to the problem of how to increase taxation on the motorists of this country. The motorist is paying too much taxation already. The motor industry is providing just about as much of our revenue as he should be asked to provide. I believe that motorists should be relieved of some of the heavy taxation they are already paying.

I remember when the Road Fund was appropriated many years ago. When a Government come into power and find that the people who were in power 12 months before have been dipping into the till, paying cash out and putting nothing in, they have to do something to stop the pilfering and get something back again. Eight hundred million pounds had gone, and the only solution was for the present Administration to follow past examples, though not to such a great degree, and put a little more taxation on the motor industry. It is a prosperous and successful industry, producing a highly successful product which serves the community probably as well as that of any other industry in the country. But that is no reason why the general body of taxpayers should be asked to pay higher taxes, or why certain parts of the country should pay higher taxes to clear congestion in the Metropolis. If we want to see congestion cleared from the Metropolis, people in Northern Ireland and Scotland can show how it can be done. The think to do is to transfer some of our administrative offices, industries and businesses to Scotland and to the North-West. That is the way to ease the pressure down here. Let us get more population up there.

Everyone is thinking of all sorts of ingenious schemes to enable 11½ million people to move about the streets a lot faster than they are able to do in the London area. Some people will do anything. It has even been suggested that we should chop the pavements in half. One hon. Gentleman suggested that instead of having pavements eight ft. wide, they should be cut down to six ft., and that that would enable 11½ million people in London to move about more quickly. Why not take the pavements away altogether? People will certainly move faster then, because they will probably be knocked over unless they do. No wonder the party opposite lost the last election, when one thinks of the general public reading the sort of nonsense that has been expounded from the other side. But that is what they are saying: cut half the pavements away and motor cars will move four and five abreast. Why not take the other half away? Then they will be able to move six abreast and pedestrians will be killed, which is certainly one way of reducing the population of London. Really, I have never heard anything like it in my life.

The answer to the problem, surely, is a long-tem one. The streets of our cities are hopelessly inadequate, because they were never meant to carry the volume of traffic that they have to today. The road system of London was never intended to service 8 million people. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the answer?"] The answer is a national plan, spread over a period. One only has to read the Buchanan Report. What we have to do is to build new towns to a plan which will accommodate the motor age. We have to build and plan our cities so as to accommodate the motor car, not the horse and cart.

Mr. Onslow

I am sure that the House is most interested in this lecture, but may I implore the hon. Member to come to earth and to give us his views as to how the lot of the unfortunate people using the transport system of London may be improved within the coming months?

Mr. Bence

I came here in 1951, 14 years ago, and that very same question was asked then. Nothing has been done over those 14 years. As hon. Members opposite have said, the congestion in London is getting worse. Indeed, it is getting so bad that they want to put the fares back to 2d. Even that is not enough, for the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth wants to cut the pavements away.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Will the hon. Member explain why traffic in London was speeded up under the last two Ministers of Transport over two or three years whereas over the past year things have got much worse?

Mr. Bence

It is suggested that in 12 months because of a change in Government we have moved from a progressive relief of congestion in London to a situation which is much worse. That is a piece of nonsense. The situation has been getting worse for years. The traffic congestion is as bad as it was five years ago.

Mr. Onslow

Would the hon. Member favour the House with an estimate of the number of miles he drives a car in London each week?

Mr. Bence

I do not drive a car in London at all. I use municipal transport. I have a car in my garage. I live in Glasgow, but I never use my car for shopping in Glasgow; I go on the bus. Consider what is happening in our modern society. I have known people go shopping in the City of Glasgow and spend three-quarters of an hour looking for somewhere to park their car.

Mr. Reader Harris

What is the bus fare in Glasgow?

Mr. Bence

It depends where you start from. Hon. Members opposite ought to go back to school. There is talk of a Conservative political centre. They need a Conservative education centre. From where I start the bus fare is generally 10d., and it used to be 4d. If everybody in the suburban area where I live used a municipal bus and kept their cars in the garage—if they went to Glasgow by bus and did not jam up the streets with cars each carrying only one person—the municipal bus fare would be not 10d. but perhaps 6d.

Mr. Onslow

On a point of order. Is not the subject of the Motion the congestion in London? This is a serious matter and we should like some attention devoted to it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)

This is an Adjournment debate. We try to keep on the subject raised, but it allows a wide discussion. What the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) is saying is relevant to the discussion.

Mr. Bence

If the Opposition move a Motion for the Adjournment and talk a lot of nonsense, we are entitled to answer it and to expose their nonsense and their double- and treble-talk. This is what I am doing.

As long as an individual uses his car to go four or five miles into the city in order to shop, jamming the streets, and as long as people go to their offices by car in the morning parallel with municipal transport, there will be congestion. We see this in London and in every city in the country—one man driving in his car to business in the morning, parking the car all day long in the streets. I have a London businessman acquaintance, a man who, generally speaking, outside his motor car is a very nice fellow; but inside that perishing motor car he is a devil incarnate, and he blames everybody except himself. If his car has broken down—and when that happens it is the manufacturer who is to blame every time—or when it is in the garage for servicing he immediately complains to me and writes to the Press about the inadequacy of public transport. Here is a person who uses public transport only when his car is out of action. What a situation!

It must be remembered that if public transport authorities and even private enterprise contractors are to have enough vehicles, capital equipment, available to give every passenger a comfortable seat at all times, particularly during the peak periods, while most of those vehicles are idle for the rest of the day, they will have to be subsidised. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite want to subsidise private enterprise that way and so increase the taxation on what they have described as an already overtaxed community? If that is their view, let them state it clearly in their manifesto and the facts can be brought before the public at the next election.

As long as four and five-seater cars are used to do the shopping, with only one or two people in each vehicle, the problem will get worse in London, Glasgow, Birmingham and elsewhere. It is extraordinary to think that people use their cars for shopping and going to work even in the rush hours. In London this morning I saw a number of buses trying to make their way along Whitehall, all surrounded in the crush of traffic by private motor cars, each having only one occupant.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Were they hon. Members?

Mr. Bence

Of course not. Not many hon. Members use their cars to come to Parliament. After all, our car park would not hold more than a couple of hundred vehicles. Most hon. Members travel by public transport and some even ride bicycles. I have no doubt that some hon. Gentlemen opposite would be quick to suggest that if we had many more cyclists on our roads they would cause a nuisance, wobbling in the paths of buses and cars.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) spoke about suburban railway lines and said that there were 24 stations in Croydon. He made the extraordinary suggestion that to popularise some stations the fares charged at them should be reduced while the fares charged at the stations which one wished to depopularise should be increased. I have never heard anything like it in my life. I have heard of the butcher who makes up a batch of sausages and hangs them up at 2s. per lb. and then, using the same meat, makes up another batch, makes them look a little fancy with some parsley and charges 2s. 6d. per lb. I must liken that butcher's activities to the hon. Gentleman's suggestion for Croydon's railway stations.

I can imagine what people living near the stations which are to be depopularised would think. For the same journey they would have to pay dearer fares. I have never heard such madness. Even the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) would not suggest a thing like that. It makes nonsense of transport.

What we should do is to plan consciously for proper co-ordination between road and rail, and give the motorist who commutes from well outside the city the chance to use his car to get to a point at which he can get an efficient rail service, or even a municipal bus. The car can be kept out of the central areas by the offering of suitable facilities. The raising or lowering of fares has nothing to do with this—it is a question of offering facilities; of making car users conscious of the fact that at a particular point there is a reasonable certainty of a service to take them where they want to go. This has been done in some parts of my constituency by British Railways, where adequate parking space has been provided at a terminal. More and more people take their cars to that rail point, knowing that they can get on the electric train to Glasgow. That is how this problem can be dealt with.

I do not believe in all these weird Heath Robinson ideas of manipulating railway fares, having tolls and the like. That means "priceways"—an American term like the "teach-in". They also have freeways in America. I do not like road tolls—we have one in Scotland, and the sooner that is ended the better. If this is the sort of thing that hon. Members opposite intend to do if they get back to power, we must get among the motorists and tell them so. Hon. Members having spoken in that way, I hope that appropriate steps may be taken to get the leaders of the Opposition to renounce the idea for good. The motorist is bearing enough already—do not let us make it worse for him. We have already paid for the roads once with the Road Fund. Apparently hon. Members opposite now want to make us pay again. We have had enough of that. Even to satisfy the wish of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West to reduce Income Tax I am not prepared to concede the proposition that those using motor cars should pay again. They have paid enough.

9.3 p.m.

Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)

What has been said about road tolls by the hon. Members for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) and the hon. and learned Member for Bebington (Mr. Howe) compels me to intervene briefly in this debate. It is one of the subjects about which there is a great deal of misunderstanding, partly because it is assumed that whenever a road is built and paid for by means of a toll an additional burden is put on the motorist. In actual practice the opposite is true, because in the majority of cases a toll is only applied to a new road when that road is a motorway, a freeway, a parkway, or whichever American term one chooses to use. That road will normally connect one town or one part of the country with another over a very much shorter mileage than the existing road, which was either totally inadequate for a major part of its length, subject to considerable traffic delays, or took a very devious route resulting in a much longer total distance.

It has been shown conclusively in France and Canada that the construction of motorways and the charging of tolls upon them results immediately in a very substantial saving to the motorist in terms of fuel consumed, wear and tear on the vehicle, and speed in getting from one point to another. That aspect should be borne in mind. I am not particularly fond of the idea of toll roads and I wish they could be avoided. Nevertheless, more and more people—I am one of them —are coming to the conclusion that this may be the only solution to the existing problem of getting motorways and quick communications between various parts of the country as soon as necessary. There is very little option unless we are to increase taxation in one form or another.

If we rob the Exchequer of the money which is received from petrol, the old Road Fund taxes and Purchase Tax on motor vehicles, the Chancellor has to find the money from some other source to maintain his general overall budgetary programme. Consequently, unless we are to increase taxation by one means or another, if we are to have new and faster roads quickly some form of tolls may have to be imposed. This does not mean that the entire cost of a road would have to be met by tolls. It does not mean that the toll should be a continuous charge on a road. I would object to any legislation which would propose such a measure.

In imposing a toll, whether on the Tamar Bridge linking Cornwall to the west of England or on the Severn Bridge in South Wales, we should always seek to remove the toll as soon as the capital cost plus a reasonable rate of interest has been repaid. This should be implicit in any legislation on either bridge or road building. On a toll motorway it would be absolutely imperative that provision should be made that the moment the major part of the cost has been met the toll shall be removed and the maintenance of the road should continue to be the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport without additional charge to motorists.

Another condition which would be important to a toll road would be that there should be an alternative route available. I do not think it right to say to any motorist, "You must use this toll road, or "You must pay in order to go from London to Birmingham on the Ml." We must ensure that there is an alternative which the motorist may use if he wishes. This principle has been adhered to in France. The alternative route there is very little used because the majority of motorists and conveyors of goods by road prefer the fast and normally safer method of the toll road or motorway even though they have to pay an additional charge to use it.

The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) mentioned the danger of creating a fast network of motorways which would result in people coming into the major centres of population. He gave the example of Los Angeles and San Francisco and he could have added New York. I do not think this is necessarily applicable in the United Kingdom. Certainly the Government's plans or the plans of any political party for developing regions of the country will be only a pipedream unless we provide fast roads to connect remoter areas with the capital city and major centres of industry and the ports of exit.

If we are to relieve congestion in London and if we are to get additional population, additional industry, additional opportunities for employment in Scotland, Mid-Wales and south-west England, and of course in Cornwall, we can do so only when we have road communications which will attract the light industrialists and commercial undertakings to those areas. It may well be that before we are much older this Government, or another Government, may decide that the only means by which the money can be raised short of additional taxation to build the necessary roads will be by imposing some form of road toll on new motorway construction.

I hope and believe that when such legislation is introduced it must be made quite clear that a toll would be applicable only for as long as the capital cost of the road was outstanding or until a major part of that cost had been paid off. There is a great deal of misunderstanding on this subject. A debate on it at a future time would be of great value to hon. Members on both sides.

9.40 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)

Everyone will agree that we have had a fascinating and spontaneous debate. I want, first, to apologise to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), to the House, and to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for being some minutes late in arriving for the debate, as a result of which I missed a part of the hon. Gentleman's speech, but, fortunately, only a tiny fraction of it. It was not until 5.30 that I heard that this debate was certain to come on. I was then in the Palace of Westminster. I had to travel to St. Christopher House in Southwark Street. Within the hour, at the peak hour of London's traffic, I had to travel back from St. Christopher House in Southwark Street to the Palace of Westminster.

In that way I fully prepared myself in a practical way for the subject of this debate, even though I was not able to undergo very much briefing on so many of the points which have been raised. Therefore, it will be well understood by hon. Members, the notice having been short, that my right hon. Friend and I will have to study the very many and varied points which have been raised, some of which involve major issues of policy, others involving detailed questions of constituency transport problems. As I have said before—I hope I have always fulfilled this promise—I will in correspondence let hon. Members know the answers to points which have been raised.

Before I come to the major issue raised originally by the hon. Member for Twickenham, I want to deal with one or two particular points. One hon. Member—I cannot remember who—seemed to think that we in the Ministry of Transport needed more advice from the public or consultation with people such as taxi drivers. I can assure that hon. Member that he is quite wrong. We have more than enough consultations and a constant and almost overwhelming flow of advice from the public in general, which is often as contradictory as that which we have had from hon. Members during this debate.

The Continental experience has been referred to. I assure the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Geoffrey Wilson) that there is a continuous study in the Ministry of Transport of Continental experience. People constantly travel to see what is going on in the United States, in Sweden and in Italy. We see the reports regularly. There is an interchange of views and news between Governments all the time on these problems.

I sympathise with the constituents of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) in their problems of travel to Waterloo. The hon. Gentleman failed to mention that this is mainly due to the scheme of electrification of the line from Waterloo to Bournemouth, works in connection with which are causing hold-ups and difficulties. We have received quite a number of complaints about it, but this scheme is in the interests of technical modernisation and unfortunately some interference and discomfort are being caused.

Mr. Mitchell

I do not think that what the hon. Gentleman has said is the full explanation. The schedules have been retimed to take account of this, and the evening trains run to time.

Mr. Swingler

I know how difficult this is. I have been experiencing it long enough in travelling from my own constituency in the Midlands to Euston. Rescheduling takes place. I know that all sorts of problems arise in the course of these tremendous schemes of electrification. They cause trains to be very late and discomfort occurs. I am sorry about this. If there are serious complaints, we will investigate them with the Railways Board. I repeat that the scheme is in the interests of modernisation and we want it to go forward as rapidly as possible.

Somebody mentioned the design of cars in relation to parking meters and more sophisticated methods of organising parking in towns. I interjected at that point about the alleged shelving of reports. I do not want anybody to undervalue the Roxbee Cox Committee which was set up some time ago to study proposals about cars. The Committee has met some technical problems and is carrying out detailed conversations with motor manufacturers and others. We hope that this Committee will produce results. I know that frequently in the House there is a horse-laugh about committees, reports, and the shelving of reports and things of that kind, but this Committee is being treated with great seriousness and we earnestly hope that good technical advice will be forthcoming as a result of its deliberations.

The hon. Member for Truro spoke of the use of television. He may know that a very advanced scheme will be coming into operation next year in an area of west London conceived in my Department and now being proceeded with by the Ministry. The scheme is for the control of traffic signals over a wide area by computer. It will include television surveillance such as is now used on one of the London bridges but it is proposed to use it for a whole area for the operation of traffic signals by actual and continuous observation of traffic. We are therefore bringing into use sophisticated techniques.

Some hon. Members have spoken of a period in which nothing was being done about London traffic problems and congestion. Some things said in the debate might provoke me into considerable partisanship but I am endeavouring to restrain myself because I think that the House would prefer that. I may be provoked further, because we have still plenty of time, but I think that my hon. Friends from Scotland have relieved me of the task of entering into the more general controversy which might otherwise be stirred up.

Hon. Members may say that nothing spectacular has been done, but work on the problem of counteracting congestion and improving the situation for London traffic is something that is going on every hour. There is a continuity about road improvements and the introduction of new schemes. Hon. Members who are ignorant of them are unacquainted with the London situation. Those who are acquainted with it and who travel widely know that it is a source of considerable complaint to the Ministry of Transport that so many changes are going on in one-way systems, in the organisation of roundabouts and diversions and things of that kind arising out of the work of the London Traffic Management Unit which was started by our predecessors at the Ministry of Transport.

Research and investigation has been going on for a considerable time to get the traffic flowing better and, curiously enough, traffic has been flowing better. I know that hon. Members will not believe me, but despite what they have said it is the fact that over the last few years, although there have been these terrible jams and fearful congestion in many places, statistically the rate of traffic flow on account of the work done in traffic management has been better. We have no reason to believe that the situation has deteriorated in the last 12 months.

This work is going on continuously but—and here is an important point which few hon. Members have mentioned—a very important constitutional change has taken place within the last 12 months. This constitutional change, decided upon by the last Parliament, was that the whole responsibility for the management of traffic in the London area should be handed over on 1st April this year to the Greater London Council. Hon. Members have made representations in the House to my right hon. Friend and to me calling for this, that and the other to be done in London. Perhaps they do not appreciate that the Measure for which many of them voted in the last Parliament handed over total responsibility for traffic management to the Greater London Council.

This is why we read what we do in the London evening papers tonight, and this is why it is not proper for me here now to comment upon the recommendations with regard to future traffic management in London and the more stringent measures of restraint which, undoubtedly, will have to be imposed by the G.L.C. on car users in London. This issue is to be debated by the elected representatives of Greater London next week, I think, and it is a matter for them to decide. This is what the last Parliament determined. It is for the Greater London Council to decide what measures of traffic management should be taken, not for the Minister of Transport. So let no hon. Member opposite at least complain that, rightly or wrongly, on 1st April this year we were constitutionally required to hand over responsibility for traffic management to the Greater London Council and my right hon. Friend has ceased to have power to take measures except when the Greater London Council presses him to do so to enable it to implement recommendations which it wishes to adopt.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

It is true that traffic management is now in the hands of the Greater London Council, but what I said earlier—I think that the Minister was not present—was that we wanted to see some of the great schemes going forward for urban motorways and the like. These matters have not passed from the Government's responsibility.

Mr. Swingler

The hon. Gentleman is quite right there. Highway expenditure and the planning of new road construction is still my right hon. Friend's responsibility, but a great part of this interesting debate this evening has ranged over measures regarding parking and parking spaces, the control of roads, the control of cars, and so on. These are matters of traffic management in order to try to avoid or counteract congestion, and in the Metropolitan area the traffic management authority now is the Greater London Council.

I shall say a few words now about the general situation. We are mostly familiar with it, but I think that I ought to say a little about our analysis of it. The situation is well known. The problem is in no way a new one. It has been building up over the years during which there has been a 100 per cent. increase in the ownership of cars. In the next ten years, there will be another 100 per cent. increase in the ownership of cars. The number of cars has risen in a short time from 4 million to over 8 million and we think that it will probably rise from over 8 million to 19 million between now and 1980. As some hon. Members have said, this is an indication of a welcome improvement in the standard of living in this country, but it presents a very serious problem.

Eighty per cent. of the people of this country live on 10 per cent. of the land surface, the major urban areas, and this 10 per cent. of the land surface has roughly 20 per cent. of the roads, which in vehicle mileage per annum, carry more than 50 per cent. of the traffic. This is the tremendous urban problem which has been building up. It has built up, to a greater extent in London and to a lesser extent in other places, to a degree which now jeopardises the operations of public transport.

This quotation from the Annual Report of the London Transport Board, with which many hon. Members may be familiar, makes the situation clear: Between 1954 and 1964, the number of road vehicles entering the Central Area during the morning peak has risen by 29,100 (44 per cent.) but the number of passengers in those vehicles decreased by 35,500 (10 per cent.). The 31,100 additional cars, carrying 42,600 extra people, occupied much more road space than that made vacant by the 1,600 fewer buses. In 1964, private cars carried less than one third of the total road passengers but amounted to more than two thirds of the vehicles, while buses and coaches carried over 60 per cent. of the passengers but represented only about 5 per cent. of the total vehicles. This is the situation that has caused such increasing difficulties as the infrequency of bus services, the difficulty of recruiting staff for the buses and the irregularity of the buses—a general worsening in the situation which caused my right hon. Friend to act a few months ago in a way which I shall mention shortly.

In the third place, we all know—this is not a new situation—that the roads programme for the urban areas has not been keeping pace and will not keep pace with the build-up of traffic and the extension of car ownership. Some hon. Members have recognised that in the debate, but others have been reluctant to do so. It is clear to anybody of intelligence examing the resources of the country that this points to the increasing necessity, as the years go by, for measures of traffic management. We cannot cope with the whole of the problem merely by new road construction. An increasing part of the problem will have to be coped with by a more sophisticated management of traffic.

The fourth aspect has been the failure to plan employment opportunities—with the building of office blocks or factories with a consequent creation of more employment opportunities—in relation to transport facilities and the viability of those facilities. There has also been a failure to organise the effective staggering of hours. Instead, we have had over the years a greater concentration of traffic in a smaller and smaller part of the day. This is the essential nature of the problem we face.

What action has been taken? In the first place we inherited a situation in the Metropolis where, in a few months, the responsibility both for conceiving the highway construction programme in London and for the management of traffic in London was to be handed over to the Greater London Council. My right hon. Friend very early on entered into consultations with the new authority and had discussions about the measures necessary both to try to improve the public transport position and to take more stringent measures for traffic management.

Those consultations between my right hon. Friend, the Greater London Council and the London Transport Board have resulted in the responsible committee of the Great London Council putting forward the proposals which are tonight publicised in the London evening Press, which I do not propose to comment upon because they are a matter for urgent debate and discussion by the Council. It is for the Council to take decisions in these matters. It will be for the Council to raise with my right hon. Friend any measures that require additional powers for the Council, and to implement those things which it believes should be implemented in order to try to reduce the congestion and to get traffic moving in London. But we must leave it to the Council to carry on working out the proposals.

Mr. Dudley Smith

It is all very well for the hon. Member to talk about further consultation and action. Surely he is aware that in the last two days there has been almost a breakdown in the movement of traffic in London, and that with the Christmas traffic coming along there may be a complete breakdown. Surely emergency action and initiative are now needed by the Minister.

Mr. Swingler

The hon. Member is not facing the point. I said at the beginning that the last Parliament decided, in its wisdom and after considerable debate—and with the support of all hon. Members opposite—to hand over to the Greater London Council the responsibility for dealing with traffic congestion in the Metropolis.

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Lawson.]

Mr. Swingler

The duties of the former London Traffic Management Unit of the Ministry of Transport passed to the Department of Transportation in the Greater London Council. Now it is for the elected representatives of London in the Greater London Council urgently to consider the situation. It is apparent to me that they have been urgently considering it and have been debating measures. No one can say that there are no radical proposals if they have read what these recommendations are. No one can say that there has not been quick and radical thinking on the problem. Drastic proposals are being put forward and will be debated. There will no doubt be discussions between representatives of the Greater London Council and my right hon. Friend on the implementation of the recommendations in London. The situation is known to be urgent. I would emphasise that action is going on all the time in regard to traffic management measures in London, but further and more drastic action, which we all agree is called for, will take place.

Secondly, my right hon. Friend has not done nothing about the London Transport Board. In fact, he was criticised by the Select Committee because he so urgently took action in June and intervened to stop the London Transport Board making its usual annual increase in fares. When right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power it was a regular annual thing—ten times in the last ten years.

My right hon. Friend intervened to stop the fares increase because of the worsening position of the buses and underground trains. The fact is that it is clear, as he said, that the Board is finding it increasingly difficult to meet the two duties imposed on it by Parliament—to provide an adequate service and to pay its way taking one year with another. When he stopped the increase in fares, my right hon. Friend said that in the circumstances the Government had concluded that a thorough examination of the conditions under which the Board operated was necessary, including the possibility of even more extensive traffic management measures and also other measures to restrain the traffic. That was on 23rd June, 1965, since when there has been a stoppage in further fare increases, and shortly my right hon. Friend will be reporting to Parliament about the steps we propose to take to improve public transport in London and make any necessary revision in its financial structure. So action has been taken on that front.

Thirdly, in spite of the criticisms which we naturally expect about the roads programme, it is a fact that that programme is now running at a higher level than ever before, in particular in London. More is being done. Contracts to a higher value have been placed for the widening of highways and the construction of new highways than has ever been the case before, and this is something which will certainly continue. In spite of the fact that the Government found it necessary to defer important projects, I want to make it absolutely plain that more capital is being invested in urban roads than ever before—in new road construction and the improvement of existing roads.

Fourthly, we have a transportation survey continuously going on in the Metropolitan area, as we have in six other conurbation areas. This covers not merely the responsibilities for traffic management and road construction but also the relationship between rail transport, bus transport and so on.

We, of course, place the highest importance on better utilisation of the rail services, especially in the suburban areas. Indeed, we regard it as of the highest importance in all the conurbations. When certain hon. Members say that nothing has happened in the last 12 months, I recall the agitation about the Richmond-Broad Street line. Certain lines which were previously threatened with closure are continuing, not, I am sorry to say, because they are remunerative but because we and the Railways Board think they are essential as part of the general pattern of transport services for London and certain other areas.

It is impossible to deal in isolation with any of these problems such as the maintenance and improvement of rail communications, getting the buses moving and making bus transport viable and exercising reasonable restraint upon the use of cars in order to prevent traffic jams. That is why we place great importance upon the transportation survey as a whole, for it relates to each other such things as the proposals for the motorway "box"—and we recognise the need for the construction of urban motorways—drastic changes in the pattern of conurbation roads and the whole question of road maintenance, the build-up of vehicles and the position of the buses and rail transport.

In face of these extremely difficult problems no one alone has the panacea. Every conurbation will require a comprehensive transportation plan for the future, relating municipal control of traffic management to counteract congestion to the use and responsibility and financial viability of the different kinds of transport facilities and services available.

It is no use anyone saying that one can solve the problem by one kind of measure. In a great city like London we have to move along continuously with more and more sophisticated measures of traffic management. It may be that the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Howe) is right and that in some cases it would be appropriate to introduce road pricing. It may be in some cases appropriate to use certain forms of parking meters while in other places it may be more appropriate to have disc parking. This is one of the aspects to which hon. Members should pay attention.

Many different schemes are being debated in the country, organised by local authorities as appropriate to their differing circumstances. They are being worked out differently because not all problems in all areas are the same. I hope that hon. Members, when considering this very difficult problem of traffic congestion and the build-up of vehicles on the roads, will not pretend that either this, that or the other measure is the universal panacea and the sole approach we should make to a solution. A great variety of different methods of traffic management will be needed together with a great deal of flexibility in the organisation of rail and road services if we are to deal with this situation. In the last decade we have not evolved the flexible organisation required to cope with the situation. Nor have sufficiently sophisticated measures of traffic management been developed. Let no hon. Member opposite say that a marvellously splendid situation was bequeathed to us.

We have not managed to solve the problems and we do not pretend that at the moment we have the universal solution. It was very appropriate that the hon. Member for Twickenham should have raised this issue tonight, appropriate not only because of the Dairy Show and the Motor Show—and let me say straight away to the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. Reader Harris) that we are not dictators in the Ministry of Transport and have no control over the organisation or concurrence of these shows and the consequential results—not only because of the deplorable jams which have occurred and which are increasingly irritating but also because it is clear from the news tonight that the proper authorities charged under the law with dealing with it are thinking about it in radical terms and are making recommendations. When those recommendations come forward to us and proposals are made, hon. Members can rest assured that we shall deal with them as urgently and as speedily as the situation requires.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at eleven minutes past Ten o'clock.