HC Deb 19 May 1969 vol 784 cc157-80
Mr. Bob Brown

I beg to move Amendment No. 44, in page 68, line 26, after 'hours', insert: 'and from which a copy of those draft regulations may be obtained on request'. The effect of this Amendment is to require the G.L.C. to make copies of its draft regulations available on request and to state in its published notice of the draft regulations the place from where the draft may be obtained. The intention is that the draft regulations, as published, should be made available to anyone on request free.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Bob Brown

I beg to move Amendment No. 45, in page 69, line 14, after '4', insert '(1)'.

The object of these Amendments, the last six of which are merely consequential on the first—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that we take with this Amendment, Amendment Nos. 46, 47, 49 and 50?

Mr. Brown

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

If there is no objection, so be it.

Mr. Brown

The object of these Amendments, the last six of which are merely consequential on the first, is to ensure that the G.L.C. take appropriate steps to notify interested parties of the modifications which it makes to the draft regulations as a result of Ministerial directions under paragraph 4(b) of Part 1 of Schedule 5, before submitting the revised draft for the Minister's approval. It is to give reasonable opportunities for these people to make representations and it is to submit any representations received to the Minister.

The Amendments will ensure that the Minister is aware of the views of persons affected by the proposed Amendments to the draft regulations before he gives the council appoval to make them.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

We are happy to accept these Amendments. They arise out of points which we have put down in the form of other Amendments in Committee. They help to modify the legislation.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: No. 47, in page 69, line 20, leave out from 'of' to second 'in' in line 21 and insert 'such regulations'.

No. 48, in page 69, line 22, after 'that', insert: 'subject to sub-paragraph (2) of this paragraph'. No. 49, in page 69, line 34, at end insert: (2) The Minister shall not consider any such revised draft as is referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(b) of this paragraph unless he is satisfied that the Council—

  1. (a) have taken appropriate steps to inform any persons affected by the modifications incorporated in the revised draft of the nature of those modifications and have afforded those persons a reasonable opportunity to make representations with respect to the revised draft regulations; and
  2. (b) have supplied the Minister with copies of any such representations made.
No. 50, in page 69, line 37, leave out 'any'.—[Mr. Bob Brown.]

Mr. Speaker

We come now to Amendment No. 51.

Mr. Bob Brown

I beg to move Amendment No. 51, page 69, line 38, leave out from 'proposal' to 'being' in line 39 and insert: 'with respect to any matter on in relation to any area which is not the subject of a direction under paragraph 3, or which is the subject of a consent under paragraph 4(1)(aa), of this Part of this Schedule'.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Bob Brown

I beg to move Amendment No. 52, in page 69, line 40, leave out 'or, as the case may be, in that form'.

Mr. Speaker

It will help the Chair if it knows what Amendments are taken formally.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 53, in page 69, line 42, after 'direction', insert— 'with respect to any other matter or area'.—[Mr. Bob Brown.]

Mr. Speaker

The next Amendment is No. 54.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. At the risk of infringing constitutional principles, we should not object to Amendments Nos. 54 to 57 being taken formally.

Mr. Speaker

That is joyful news for Mr. Speaker.

Amendment made: No. 54, in page 69, line 45, leave out 'such representations as aforesaid' and insert— 'representations to which paragraph 2 of this Part of this Schedule applies'.—[Mr. Bob Brown.] No. 55, in page 70, line 4, leave out from 'representations' to end of line 5 and insert— 'to which paragraph 2 of this Part of this Schedule applies'. No. 56, in page 70, line, 9, leave out 'and'.

No. 57, in page 70, line 11, after 'question', insert— 'and to any such representations as are referred to in sub-paragraph (2) of the said paragraph 4'.—[Mr. Bob Brown.]

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I beg to move Amendment No. 58, in page 70, line 13, at end insert— 7.—(1) A regulation to which this paragraph applies shall not be made except with the consent of the Minister and such consent shall be given by an order made by him which shall be subject to special parliamentary procedure. (2) This paragraph applies to a regulation which would—

  1. (a) designate as a controlled area, or include in a controlled area, the whole or any part of any aerodrome (as defined by the Airports Authority Act 1965) owned or managed by the British Airports Authority in exercise of its statutory functions; or
  2. (b) include provisions affecting the operation of parking places within any such aerodrome.
The object of the Amendment is to ensure that where the G.L.C. proposes to bring one of the airports into the ambit of the car parking arrangements for London, that should be subject to Parliamentary procedure. We argued upstairs that it was a wrong principle for the airports to be brought under the G.L.C.'s control of car parking at all. It is said that the G.L.C. should have control of its own car parks because it is the highway authority for London. Under the Airports Authority Act the Airports Authority is the highway authority for its own airports, and it surely would be wrong in principle for its car parking authority to be taken away from it and placed under the G.L.C. As I understand it, the Bill as drafted will have that effect.

The problems of the G.L.C. and the Airports Authority are different. The G.L.C. deals with commuters, shoppers, and visitors to London. The Airports Authority has a confined problem: persons going to London Airport to set down or pick up passengers—that is, short-time parking for under an hour—making arrangements for the parking of its own staff for eight hours each shift, providing parking for people going on domestic flights, which means up to 24 hours, and, finally, providing parking for those going on overseas flights, generally for more than 24 hours.

The problems of the Airports Authority and the G.L.C. are different, but the Minister says that we have to bring in the airports because they have a considerable effect on London traffic. But, as I showed upstairs, the effect on London traffic is much less than most people imagine. First, 50 per cent. of people who go to London Airport come from the home counties and from areas outside London. They come from Reading, Watford, and so on; they go straight to London Airport without going into London. Of the 50 per cent. going to London, 60 per cent. go to hotels by bus, which means that they do not provide a parking problem for a private car and nearly 30 per cent. go to hotels not in central London. Only 12 per cent. go by car to the central London area. Thus, London Airport does not provide a parking problem anything like that which is imagined. It provides only a very small proportion of the traffic that comes in and out of London.

We have here a constitutional problem. There is a conflict of two Acts of Parliament. The Airports Authority Act, 1965, gives the Airports Authority the powers to provide its own car parks. This Bill, if passed, will attempt to take away those powers, or to give the G.L.C. powers to take away the car parking powers of the Airports Authority. When there is a conflict between two Acts of Parliament, surely it must be right to bring that conflict back to the Floor of the House so that we can settle it. It is not a matter for the G.L.C. to settle with the London Airport or with the British Airports Authority, nor for the G.L.C. to override the Airports Authority.

I should have thought that this was a grave constitutional problem, and that the proper thing to do was to bring the Act back to the House. The object of the Amendment is to do just that.

Mr. Bob Brown

The question of special treatment for British Airports Authority car parks has been argued at length by the B.A.A. with the Ministry, and the authority petitioned against the Bill for an exemption for its car parks. In Committee the Opposition moved an Amendment to exempt the B.A.A. car parks, and in the course of the debate they raised the question of the use of the Statutory Orders (Special Procedures) Act, 1945 to resolve the clash which they maintained would arise between the obligation placed on the B.A.A. by the Airports Authority Act, 1965 to provide at its aerodromes such services and facilities as are in its opinion necessary or desirable and the powers given to the G.L.C. to control parking at the Authority's aerodromes.

There are other areas in which this type of clash could occur. For instance, if the Authority wished to provide another access from Heathrow to the Bath Road it would have to apply to the local planning authority—Hillington Borough Council—which would have to consult the Minister of Transport because a trunk road was affected. The matter would then be determined on the basis of traffic flow and safety considerations.

If the authority wished to run a bus service between Heathrow and a Central London terminal, it would be subject to the normal road service licensing requirements. It would have to apply to the traffic commissioners, whose decisions whether or not to grant it a licence would be based on the requirements of the public interest, the extent to which the need of the proposed routes were already adequately served, the needs of the area as a whole in relation to traffic, representations by other operators, and so forth.

As for the use of special parliamentary procedure, we do not consider that it is necessary or appropriate, any more than in the case of the hypothetical clash over access to the Bath Road or a B.A.A. bus service, already discussed. Ample safeguards and checks have already been built into the licensing system, namely the Minister's call-in powers on the G.L.C. regulations, his power to order a public inquiry into them, the appeals machinery on licensing decisions—again with provision for the holding of a public inquiry, and the last resort of the compensation provisions.

These safeguards and checks provide adequate machinery for resolving any potential conflict between the airport authority's general obligations to run the airport and its facilities efficiently and the controls required under the current legislation. Special Parliamentary procedure is invoked where a person or an authority is much more directly affected—for example, as the Opposition mentioned in Committee—in the case of orders for the compulsory acquision of land for the construction of pipelines under the Pipelines Act, 1962 or harbour revision and other orders under the Harbours Act 1964.

The closest analogy for the use of special Parliamentary procedure to the present situation was the original position that existed under Sections 159 to 165 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, where a statutory undertaker wished to carry out certain developments and the sponsoring Minister, acting jointly with the Minister of Housing and Local Government, ruled against this for general planning reasons. The Act contained provision for the special Parliamentary procedure in such cases. The Amendment would appear to be based on the 1962 provisions. However, we understand that the procedure was never invoked in the cases in question under the 1962 Act, and provision for it was accordingly repealed by the 1968 Town and Country Planning Act.

The Minister believes that there is no case for providing in the statute for special provisions for B.A.A. car parks. The only B.A.A. airport in Greater London is Heathrow, but future B.A.A. developments might conceivably include a vertical take-off airport much nearer the centre of London, or a fairly central heliport, for example, which might attract considerable volumes of private car traffic, and it would be necessary for a parking control system to be able to cover them. While Heathrow is too far from the centre to be likely to be included in a controlled area, certainly for some years yet, it would be wrong in principle to exclude parking in a place which is already a significant generator of traffic and is likely to be still more so in the years ahead.

9.45 p.m.

Mrs. Thatcher

We do not believe that the Parliamentary Secretary's reply is adequate to meet the case. He cited certain analogies, none of which seemed entirely appropriate. First, he said that extra permissions might be needed if another access were required from Heathrow to the Bath Road. That would be a question of another access on to property outside the Heathrow area.

The second case that the hon. Gentleman used was that the Airports Authority would have to get special permission to run a bus service. That also is outside the area of Heathrow. What we are concerned with is an Airports Authority which, by Act of this House, has special duties over Heathrow. Under that Act, the authority is the highways authority for Heathrow and has special duties with regard to parking of vehicles. It even has special powers to make byelaws.

We laid a large number of duties and obligations on the Airports Authority, and gave it extensive powers to carry them out. It must be rare to have another authority as the highways authority on land within its own curtilage, but this was certainly given to the British Airports Authority at the time. Now, another Act will have absolute jurisdiction, without the Amendment, over car parking at Heathrow.

Without the Amendment—perhaps the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—the G.L.C. can make an order on all car parking provisions at the airport, saying exactly when they are to be opened and closed, or that certain car parks should not be open until 10 o'clock in the morning, which, I understand from Press reports, the Minister intends to say to a number of other public car parking places, which seems crazy. It could say how many spaces should be available for long-term and how many for short-term parking—and all within the Heathrow area itself. It could specify the charges and ask to inspect accounts and take records from another public authority upon which we have laid special duties.

It seems to us a case of laying certain duties on a body and then laying conflicting duties, by way of another Act of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman made little reference to conflicting duties. He will remember our short debate in Committee about it. There are heavy duties on the Airports Authority under the Act which we have already passed. It would mean that, if the G.L.C. made some of these Orders, it would have to override some of the provisions of that Act, and there would be a clash.

The hon. Gentleman still has not said exactly what happens with regard to that clash. In our debate in Committee, the Minister said that if there were a clash he would have to tell the G.L.C., "This clashes with the duties of the Airports Authority; therefore, you cannot do it". Is he still of that opinion? It sounded from what the hon. Gentleman said today, and from his refusal to accept the Amendment, that the Minister would set himself up as the arbiter of which Act took priority over the other. He would then decide whether the G.L.C. should have power to control car parks and prices or whether the power should rest where it rests now, with the Airports Authority.

If the Amendment were accepted there would be no doubt about how such a problem would be resolved. Without the Amendment we cannot be certain. I trust, therefore, that the Amendment will be accepted because if difficulty arose the matter would come before Parliament and we could decide the best way to resolve the problem. If the Amendment is not accepted I imagine that the Airports Authority will appeal on almost every occasion to the Minister. This must be an administrative appeal, with the result that second-class justice will be done.

Mr. Ogden

indicated dissent.

Mrs. Thatcher

It will be not an appeal in a court of law but an appeal to an administrator who is not necessarily skilled in the law.

Mr. Ogden

When referring to second-class justice, is the hon. Lady suggesting that an appeal to the Minister is less fair than an appeal to a court of law? Is she aware that on many occasions Measures have been passed giving the public a right of appeal to the Minister —for example, in cases involving planning consent—and that no complaint has yet been made about that by her hon. Friends?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am anxious to limit appeals that are made to Ministers. After all, appeals made in this way are like hearings behind closed doors. The facts are not made known, and there are many occasions when, in planning matters particularly, the Minister overrides the reports of his inspectors.

In this instance we have laid certain duties on statutory bodies. If there appears to be a conflict, we want to know how that difference will be resolved except by a hearing behind locked doors in an adminstrative appeal to the Minister. This is not good enough. I hope that the Minister will agree to consider the matter further, and perhaps remedy the situation in another place.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Marsh

I beg to move Amendment No. 59, in page 71, line 9, leave out 'two' and insert 'three'.

Mr. Speaker

I suggest that it would be convenient for the House to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 60.

Mr. Marsh

That is satisfactory because these Amendments together meet the desires of the Opposition. It was suggested by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the provision which enables local authorities to revoke a car park licence if development has not been started within two years of the date on which the licence was granted or completed within five years of that date was too short a period. These Amendments extend those two periods from two years to three years and from five years to seven years, respectively. We believe that this change goes as far as practicable to give developers reasonable security without giving rise to the possibility of large numbers of dormant licences accumulating, so making it impossible for the boroughs properly to assess the number of parking places to be allowed on new licences.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

My hon. Friends and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for again accepting an Opposition suggestion and for attending personally at this late hour to move the Amendment so graciously. Would he help further by seeing that local authorities receive a general directive to the effect that before applying these provisions for the revocation of a licence, if circumstances outside the control of the owner of a licence have prevented him from implementing the licence, those circumstances shall be taken into account before revocation takes place?

Mr. Marsh

I will certainly look into that suggestion.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 60, in page 11, leave out 'five' and insert 'seven'.—[Mr. Marsh.]

Mrs. Thatcher

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. I wish to move whatever I have to move in order to secure a Third Reading debate—

Mr. Speaker

No. The hon. Lady must restrain her enthusiasm for the moment.

Motion made and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was not sure of the new procedure.

Mr. Speaker

I will help the hon. Lady, for the record. It is important. The putting down of a Motion by six hon. Members guarantees that the Third Reading will not be taken formally, but will be debated.

9.56 p.m.

Mrs. Thatcher

I shall know on another occasion, Mr. Speaker.

The powers in Clause 36 as it now is go much further than any which would have been granted by a Conservative Government. In our view, they are more far reaching and detailed than is necessary to control the numbers of long-term and short-term parking spaces for public use. They are restricted in their effect, and can inflict damage on the interests of those who have already provided public off-street parking spaces. I hope that the powers will be used very moderately, and we ourselves, when we are in a position to do so, will look again at those powers.

My second point relates to the extensive nature of the Bill. As the Minister has said on another occasion, this Measure combines the most powerful and comprehensive traffic powers into one authority—more comprehensive than any others in the world. This means that once vesting day is passed there will no longer be any point for those within the G.L.C. area writing to hon. Members with their complaints. The proper procedure will be for them to write to their Greater London councillors with their complaints, and also to the chairman of the traffic committee of the G.L.C. I mention this fact because I hope that the councillors realise the tremendous liabilities they are taking on, and the tremendous postbag they will get if they are properly to carry out their duties. I hope that the Minister and the Greater London Council will insist that before fares are again put up, the London Transport service will greatly improve. At the moment, it leaves much to be desired.

Thirdly, it is part of the Bill that the operation shall be made viable before vesting day. In that connection, we have had a report from the Prices and Incomes Board, to which we have referred here. The point I wish to put to the Minister—who, I understand, has agreed to the fares increases—is: upon what date will those increases take effect?

9.58 p.m.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

I have one or two comments to make from the point of view of the Barking Council and the South-Essex Traffic Advisory Committee, of which I am president. First, what is to be the rôle of traffic advisory committees in the new set-up? The Barking and South Essex Committee has a long history, it has been copied in many parts of Greater London, and it has done very useful service. On it we have representatives of the underground railways, buses, British Railways, and the various local councils in the area, including those of Barking and Havering.

Representatives of these various organisations meet from time to time and discuss the traffic needs of the area. They have over the last 30 years done very useful work in getting bus services revised so as to dovetail with the train services, and so on. They have criticised services, and have persuaded London Transport to take censuses in order to have the facts before it when discussing traffic grievances and problems. I hope that such bodies will continue because I am certain that they still have useful work to do. There still remains the question of ensuring that London Transport under the G.L.C. works in with British Rail services in the area. Secondly, there is a question which causes a good deal of disquiet locally.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the Proceedings on the Transport (London) (recommitted) Bill may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Marsh.]

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Mr. Parker

There is a great deal of feeling locally about the ending of the Transport Tribunal and the abolition of its control over passenger fares in the London area.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is an experienced Parliamentarian. Does this Bill end the Transport Tribunal? If not, he cannot talk about that.

Mr. Parker

It does, Mr. Speaker. Under the Tribunal's control over passenger fares, 23 objections have been made locally in the last 30 years. Sometimes they have succeeded, sometimes they have been turned down, sometimes they have succeeded in part, but certainly the discussions which have taken place have been useful for the people in the area. Many people who use the bus services in the Greater London area come from outside that area. Many commuters who use the London services will have corn plaints to make about increases in fares. What opportunity will they have to make representations and to ensure that their grievances are attended to?

There is a problem in my area where the District Railway has a line from Upminster to Bow Road. It is owned by British Railways but one half is operated by London Transport. After considerable argument over the years, London fares have been applied to that line. British Railways want now to operate its fares on the line, which would mean a considerable increase. So far such an increase has been turned down by the Tribunal. What will be the position in future? Who will decide what rate of fares there is to be on that important suburban line? These are some of the problems which people in my constituency would like to have answered.

10.3 p.m.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

We have been critical of this Bill. Its powers are very wide—perhaps too wide in some instances, particularly in Clause 36.

It will be a great experiment to see how the G.L.C. and London Transport get on in future. One thing we must avoid—I say this as a London Member—is London Transport falling back on the ratepayers as British Railways for the past 20 years have fallen back on the taxpayers. Although democracy objects to rises in fares, London Transport and the G.L.C. must be given a chance to operate this system as a commercial organisation. They must not be held back by the Prices and Incomes Board in the way that the Transport Tribunal held back the London Transport Executive two years ago, preventing it increasing fares with the result that last year it lost £10 million.

Clause 36 is too restrictive on car-parking operators. We should be thankful for the energy and enterprise of private operators in London in the last year or two. Unless the powers provided are sensibly handled by the G.L.C. there may be very draconian decisions which could cause a great deal of concern in this city.

The Minister tells us that the whole object of giving the G.L.C. these very extensive powers is to channel the traffic through London in a better fashion than at present. But he must face what the G.L.C. has said, that one of the results of the Draconian powers will be a reduction of the number of commuters and shoppers visiting London by car. There is no doubt that that will result from the passing of the Bill.

I hope that London Transport will be encouraged to pursue a progressive policy. It has been lacking in imagination. There is much criticism of it in my constituency, and I have no doubt that other London Members will also have heard criticism.

I hope that the operation of the one-man operated buses will be extended, and that that will give London Transport a chance to prevent some of the fraud now going on. If I travel from Parliament Square to Victoria in the rush hour I could easily not pay my fare, because the conductor does not have time to go round to collect all the fares. I am certain that about 25 per cent. of the passengers on buses do not pay their fares for short distances in the rush hours. Turnstiles will prevent that, and one-man operation means that turnstiles will be introduced.

I look forward to the London Transport Executive having a more progressive and imaginative future, guided, I hope, by a wise Greater London Council.

10.7 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

As several hon. Members opposite have said, the Bill creates a very comprehensive transport authority for central London, and for that very reason I am prepared to support the Bill's basic proposals.

It has been proved abroad in many instances that the only way to prevent the decline in passenger-mileage travel on public passenger transport services is to combine and co-ordinate as many such services as possible. So as to be able to gauge the kind of investment decisions that I believe the Greater London Council and London Transport Executive will have to face, this body will need even more external comparisons with other in-of roads and investment in roads.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot talk about the powers which are not in the Bill. On Third Reading, we discuss what is in the Bill.

Mr. Huckfield

I recognise that, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful for your guidance.

My point is that to give the Greater London Council the full comprehension of the kind of investment decisions it will need to make under the Bill I believe that more external comparisons with other investments would be needed.

Many of the difficulties in the Bill have been compounded by the dogmatic insistence of the representatives of the Tory Party in County Hall that the transport organisation must make a £2 million surplus even before it starts. This is the kind of thing that has necessitated the fares increases that we have discussed. For the representatives of the Conservative Party in County Hall to put such a burden on such an authority to start off with is bad. The authority will start off with a heavy burden because of the obligations the party opposite has already put on it.

I have been amazed by some of the things hon. Members opposite have said tonight. It appears that they do not trust their colleagues in County Hall; they want the Government to put obligations on them, which is a rather unusual situation.

I have been amazed by the hopping about of hon. Members and the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) as to who will foot the bill for certain things mentioned in the Bill. It seems that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) does not want it to go on the London ratepayers. The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley and her other hon. Friends do not want it to go on the taxpayer, yet at the same time they do not wish any of the services to be reduced. For the Opposition to come forward with all their wonderful solutions to make a better transport system and make the whole thing pay, without having anybody foot the bill, is not to put forward the sort of logical and consistent argument which I expected to hear when I came to the House.

We have been right to concentrate on the powers given to the Greater London Council under Clause 36. A good deal of attention has been directed to the more rigid control over the provision of car parking facilities. I spoke earlier this evening about the editorial in the Daily Sketch of Wednesday, 7th May—it is entitled to its opinions—and it has been said that a vast new rigid bureaucracy will be created and will sweep away one more of our freedoms. I do not accept that.

I am not prepared to stand by and see, and I am sure that no hon. Member ought to do so, either, the private operator of a car park in London make money out of the public who will have to park their cars there. In giving a car park operator a licence in Central London, one presents him with a near-monopoly. Already, one company, apparently the friend of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke)—I refer to National Car Parks—has a near-monopoly of car parking facilities in Central London. At Heathrow, one finds National Car Parks. At Euston and many other big car park centres one finds the same company.

I am concerned lest we have a situation in which one large company, already so big that many local authorities have no other to turn to, will not be controlled in the way I should like to see, and I am sure that Clause 36 will be of help in controlling that company.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us the number of car parking places provided by National Car Parks and the number of car parking places available in London?

Mr. Huckfield

I am grateful for that intervention because it enables me to make the point even clearer. The hon. Gentleman knows that that company, to which I have made several references today and several references in Committee, has a happy knack of pouncing on derelict pieces of land—any piece of land which nobody manages to got hold of—in key sites, knowing that it will have a near-monopoly of the provision of car parking places in the area. What is essential in Central London is that the short-term parker shall be able to park near to the centres I have mentioned. The hon. Gentleman knows that that company has a happy knack of comandeering sites near the places where people have to park.

Mr. Michael Heseltine


Mr. Huckfield

I have given way once to the hon. Gentleman. I have been kind to him. I only wish that he would extend the same courtesy to me sometimes.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

I have never refused to give way to the hon. Gentleman. Will he make his allegations about National Car Parks outside the Chamber, where he can be challenged by the people concerned?

Mr. Huckfield

The central point I have made both in this speech and in other speeches on the Bill is that I prefer, and I know that many of my hon. Friends prefer car parking places in near-monopoly sites to be owned, controlled and operated entirely by the local authority. I am not prepared to see a near-monopoly which the community itself has created being used for exploitation and for private profit. The Opposition have put forward their argument about inspection of the profit and loss accounts of these companies, and the House well understands the point which they make because they have made it so often.

This is a good Bill. It does not go quite so far as I should like with reference to new road investment, but it goes as far as we ought to go to secure adequate car parking control in Central London. I do not want to see the kind of vast new bureaucracy which the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) mentioned. I do not believe that that will happen. But I am not prepared to see near-monopoly situations which the community has created used for private gain. This is why we must have the more extensive powers in the Bill which will be given to the G.L.C. to inspect car parking provision.

I am glad that as a result of the Bill local people will have control of local transport. I have always said that if we are to have a flourishing, vigorous, dynamic public transport system and if our cities are not to come to a complete traffic halt, we must confront local people with local transport decisions. The Bill goes a long way towards doing that. For this reason, I wholeheartedly endorse its Third Reading.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Berry

As a London Member who has been in transport since I first became a Member, I should like to comment on this important Bill. We have had important debates in Committee and, as a result, some important improvements have been made to the Bill, many of which the Government have introduced tonight. Nevertheless, I am not happy about some parts of it.

Clause 6 is still far too reminiscent of last year's Transport Act. It gives unnecessary powers to the G.L.C. which I am sure it does not want. Clause 36 does not tackle the parking problem properly. Many examples have been given. I think particularly of Heathrow Airport. I am disappointed and surprised that the Government have not seen fit to accept any of our Amendments on this matter. The fact that the odd combination of the G.L.C. and the Minister wants the Bill gives us more reason to look at it carefully.

There is a vital need to tackle one of London's greatest problems—transport. Many people will be affected by the Bill, whether they live in London or live outside and come to work in the centre or merely come here from time to time on holiday, business or even to visit their Member of Parliament.

I wish the Bill well. I hope that there will be close consultations with the London boroughs and with those who live in them before major changes in bus services are made. I am sure that the service will be good. It will not be the fault of those who work the services if it is not. I express my good wishes to all those who will administer the Bill in the interests of the public and the 60,000 employees of the executive.

10.18 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)

Earlier today I tried to keep hon. Members from their Whitsun holiday. I have no intention of keeping them out of their beds now.

I am in no transports of delight about the Bill since both my efforts to amend it in Committee were conspicuously unsuccessful. To that extent, it does not come near enough to what I desire and what other hon. Members on this side of the House desire. However, I wish to make one narrow specific point about Clause 16 before we speed the Bill on its way.

One of the effects of this Clause will be to remove from the control of the new executive the Green Line coaches which cross the central London area. The effect on the organisation of transport does not concern me because I cannot speak with any degree of authority on it. I speak with a diminished degree of authority on another effect, namely, the effect on future industrial negotiations. I do not wish to be too precise, but the Minister still has certain power even if the Bill becomes an Act in its present form.

I am anxious that when the changeover takes place and the Green Line services are transferred to the National Bus Company, the lessons which should have been learned from the 1958 bus strike, when there was a dislocation between country and central London rates of pay, will be borne in mind by all those concerned and that in any negotiating machinery it will be remembered that hitherto the Green Line busmen have negotiated direct with the London Transport Board whereas other negotiating machinery exists for the country services. There is, as my right hon. Friend knows, considerable anxiety among trade union circles about this, and I hope, before I give my modified welcome to the Third Reading, that he will set some of those fears at rest.

Captain W. Elliot

On the whole, both sides of the House accept the Bill and wish it well. It is interesting that hon. Members opposite should welcome a denationalisation Measure. That is a useful precedent and we shall expect their support when we take similar action in due course.

I have some reservations about the Bill. We have had a good deal of discussion about the commercial nature of the London Transport Executive and on why it should receive similar treatment to that of private enterprise. But we should be careful not to carry the comparison too far, though the executive will be in competition with private enterprise. In the first place, the executive is to have great monopoly powers and great financial resources, not necessarily drawn from its business activities but possibly from the ratepayers. I hope that we shall not make the same mistake of handing out subsidies and not knowing exactly where they are going so that we are unable to identify services which are inefficient.

Secondly, there may be political motivation. We have heard tonight that the Government may interfere in possible fare changes and we know that fare changes have political implications. All of this makes the executive a very different concern from a commercial undertaking. Clause 1 gives the essence of the Bill when it refers to the … provision of integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities … Transport facilities include roads and the Bill gives the G.L.C. complete control over the roads in the Greater London area and that means complete control over the motor car.

Private cars are virtually the only competition which this great transport organisation in the Greater London area will have and I view that control with some concern. I believe that it will have to be watched.

On Friday, the Financial Times said, in an article headed, "London Transport on a profit basis": If the G.L.C. is to have any real hope of keeping London Transport permanently in the black it will have to introduce far tougher measures of restraint on private car traffic, particularly commuters … I believe that many other people have that in their minds. In addition, to removing competition, these great bureaucracies often seem to think that the only way to get into the black is to put up prices. But there are other ways. Let us take, for example, the interchange at Victoria, where hundreds of people stand in the open, getting soaked through or frozen stiff, while waiting for buses after getting off trains. No wonder they change to motor cars.

No doubt control is necessary, and I agree that it is, but the approach should be to make the public services so efficient that people will turn to them voluntarily and leave their cars at home. It would be intolerable if the private car user were driven off the roads in London in order to bolster up an inefficient public transport system. I wish this future authority well, but I intend to watch it closely.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. Ogden

I was tempted into this debate by a remark made by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot). He said that hon. Members on this side were supporting a Measure of denationalisation. He is, of course, conversant with Clause Four of the Labour Party constitution, which refers to the public ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. This Bill represents public ownership of the means of distribution and the Opposition are supporting it.

Coming from a constituency outside London, perhaps I can point out that the issue is not that we are giving control of London transport simply to the executive or to the G.L.C. but to Londoners, and this may well be an important precedent for other parts of the country.

Mr. Marsh

The hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said that the powers in the Bill go much further than would have been agreed by the Conservative Party had they been in office. They have been agreed with the biggest Conservative authority in the country—

Mrs. Thatcher

Not with me.

Mr. Marsh

As the hon. Lady says, not with her. It presumably flows from what she says that if ever the Conservative Party were in office they would repeal the Bill, which would make the hon. Lady very unpopular across the river.

The hon. Lady asked the date of the London fares increase. It is too early to say yet; it will probably be some time in September, although the new fare structure has to be worked out.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) asked about local traffic advisory committees. This is a very complicated issue and, if he will forgive me, I will write to him. On his other point about the position of local authorities outside the Greater London area, Clause 11 gives special rights of consultation on London Transport rail and bus services in the areas, and there will, therefore, be provision, as he wishes, for consultation and the expression of views.

The abolition of the powers of the Transport Tribunal in London is logical in that the matters it dealt with will now be dealt with by the G.L.C. Far from having some other advisory body, for the first time these issues will be dealt with by a body which is elected by the people of London. The basic idea behind the whole proposition is that Londoners will be able to determine the sort of services they want, the price they are prepared to pay for them and the way in which they wish to pay that price.

Reference has been made to the evil possibilities of subsidising urban services. I have said before, and will say again, that these services cannot be run like a greengrocer's shop. If hon. Gentlemen and hon. Ladies opposite will do the overall arithmetic, they will find that the economic return of a subsidised public transport service is frequently higher than the amount of subsidy required to provide it, but I will deal with this in a moment.

I do not wish to take up hon. Members' time by rehearsing in detail everything that the Bill does, and all the points that we have discussed on the Floor of the House and in Committee. There has been an acceptance on both sides of the House of the basic aim which we are pursuing, which is to give the G.L.C. as wide and as effective powers as possible in transportation generally.

We now have in the Bill a unique document of great importance, which provides new and effective control of all aspects of transport within the Greater London area. The Greater London Council will have not only the control but also the responsibilities. The G.L.C. will be able to determine the way in which London Transport Executive is to operate its services, and the level of the provision it is to make to meet the needs of Greater London. Equally, it will have to take financial responsibility for its own decisions, and this in my view is a right and proper position.

But this is only part of the Bill's object. We have had a lengthy discussion on Clause 36 and Schedule 5, dealing with the control of public off-street parking. This issue is important, but it is only a part of the wider powers which the Bill gives to the G.L.C. in highways and traffic generally.

The G.L.C. will now be able to take into account all the factors involved in determining a transport policy for London and making London as convenient and efficient a place to live in as it possibly can.

My hon. Friend raised the matter of the Green Line buses. This is a point which has concerned him, since he has raised it on other occasions, and I know that it concerns some of the organisations involved. None the less, in our view it is the only way of organising this particular sector of London transport.

The same sort of questions have been raised about manufacturing powers. It seems to me to be absurd for a public authority to be debarred from using its capacity to the fullest extent.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the financial position of the executive, about the capital write-off provided by the Bill and about the fares increase which has been approved by the Prices and Incomes Board.

The Government agreed to the demand of the Greater London Council that the London transport undertakings should be viable on hand-over to them. The action taken by the Government in the Bill and elsewhere meets this requirement of the council.

The council could, as some of my hon. Friends have suggested, have entered into a commitment to use its powers of subsidy to the executive under the Bill so as to obviate or reduce the need for fare increases. It has rejected this course and is entitled to do so, since it is its responsibility. In the circumstances, the Government have felt obliged to take action, to which I have referred. Once the undertaking is handed over to the G.L.C. it will have the full financial responsibility for its activities. It is then for the council to determine the policies which the executive should follow and to determine them in the light of the financial obligations placed on both the executive and the council under the Bill.

Many doubts and fears have been expressed. They always are expressed in relation to something that is very new and very large. There have been the fears expressed by some of the car parking operators, whom I do not have the crusading desire to attack as has my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield). They undoubtedly have fears. But these fears will be shown to be without foundation particularly in light of the new Amendments which we have included this afternoon.

I end by saying that in the Government's view this is a good and useful Bill and one that will make a very substantial contribution to the general well being of our capital city. It has been possible because the G.L.C. was able to participate in an imaginative and risky step in many ways. We have conducted our discussions with the G.L.C. on a fair basis, and I would like to pay tribute to the co-operation which we have had from the council. It is on the basis of mutual co-operation, in a matter which is new, large and important, with the assistance which we have had from the council, from the London Transport Board, and in their various ways, devious though they may have been, at times with the support which we have had from the Opposition.

Although they are not always quick to acknowledge virtue when they see it, they usually finish up by supporting the policies of the Government, which they recognise, in their heart of hearts, are the only possible means of making a contribution to society.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Third time and passed.