HC Deb 30 July 1971 vol 822 cc1035-54

Motion made and Question proposed,

That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Eyre.]

2.36 p.m.

Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South-West)

The overnight parking of heavy vehicles in residential streets causes intense nuisance. It happens all over the country, and particularly in the large conurbations—certainly in London—and my constituency suffers from it particularly because it lies on the main routes north out of London.

I shall try to show to the Minister's satisfaction, first, that there is a very severe public nuisance in existence—he will probably accept my statement without having to prove it; secondly, that while there are remedies in law they are not effectively being used in the London area; finally, that the Minister has the right to intervene and should do so, particularly having regard to the concern which the Ministry has shown by its appointment of the working party on the parking of lorries, whose report I understand is likely to be published soon.

How bad is the problem? By its nature, it tends to be concentrated in some towns, in some part of those towns, and in certain streets and spots. I can best demonstrate the problem by choosing as an illustration that part of my constituency whose residents first brought the matter to my attention. I may say in passing that there is no subject, not even housing, on which I have received a larger number of complaints from my constituents than this. I have received perhaps 100 or 200 letters and several petitions.

The nuisance shows itself in this locality in the nose to tail parking of 20, 30 or 40 very heavy vehicles on both sides of one street within, on the one side, a few feet of the front windows of people's homes and, on the other side, a few yards of them.

The nuisance caused by this practice can be put under a number of heads. First, there is the noise. Then there is the danger to children in particular but also to other people attempting to cross the road, because in these high congested areas it is the practice to park these lorries quite literally bumper to bumper, and accidents have resulted from the practice.

Thirdly, damage is caused to pavements and other structures because the lorries sometimes tend to mount the pavements, but I would mention particularly the noise which occurs especially in the early morning. I have spent some hours between half-past four and half-past seven in the morning in this part of my constituency listening to the noise. Even to someone who has got out of bed early to do so, the noise is obviously something which a humane society should not tolerate. To anyone still in bed, the noise is unbearable. I do not think that I have to convince the Minister about this, because I have no doubt that it is all set out in the report of the working party which will shortly be published. This is happening not only in one part of my constituency, but in many other parts and in many places throughout London.

The existing law is that the police can act only where there is obstruction in the normal sense. Normally, there is not obstruction in the normal sense. Otherwise the law is dependent on the legislation of 1967 and 1968, which gives the Greater London Council power to make an order prohibiting the parking of any specified class of vehicle for a specified period. The G.L.C. could, therefore, on a proposal by the local borough, make such an order and make it impossible for this nuisance to exist, but the G.L.C. has not chosen to use that power and this is where I want the Minister to intervene.

There are parts of London where there are no car parks, lorry parks or nonresidential streets to which the lorries can be moved. That is not the situation in the part of Islington of which I am speaking. There are lorry parks, but they are not fully used. The G.L.C. was unaware of this at one time because it had not done its homework properly, but it is now aware of it because I have told the Council about it. Nevertheless, for reasons which I shall give, the G.L.C. does not take the necessary action.

The G.L.C.'s reason for declining to make an order is that it believes that the problem should be first investigated by means of its so-called experimental scheme in Tower Hamlets. That scheme has been contemplated for years, as I am sure the Minister's colleague beside him from a neighbouring constituency will recognise——

Mr. Hugh Rossi (Hornsey)indicated assent.

Mr. Cunningham

—and it is not in operation. For many years, it has been held out to all of us who have been campaigning on this subject as something that we must wait for and something which was imminent. The latest indication I have had was that the scheme was not now likely to be introduced until November this year, despite the fact that it has been talked about for at least two or three years.

The chairman of the relevant committee of the Greater London Council, when asked the reason for the delay, told me at a meeting a few months ago that the determination of the timing for bringing the scheme into force was in the hands of the Department. That is not the situation, but for practical reasons the chairman thought that it was in the Department's hands and that the Department was at fault in holding it up. I am not inclined to believe that. I am inclined to think that the Department is more virtuous on this subject than the G.L.C. I would like the Minister to consider this and if the G.L.C. is using the Department as an excuse, I hope that he will get the Council to stop doing so.

I would like to know what the scheme in Tower Hamlets is intended to prove. It has been called an experimental scheme and the G.L.C. and the police keep insisting that there are lessons to be learned in Tower Hamlets which it is important to learn before a similar scheme is introduced elsewhere in London.

I cannot comprehend that argument. I cannot see that before we introduce such a scheme elsewhere, it is necessary to know the extent of obedience to such a scheme, the effect of any level of fines in Tower Hamlets and the difficulty of recruiting traffic wardens who are prepared to work during the night.

I think that the idea of the scheme as a so-called experimental one has been used as an excuse both by the G.L.C. and more particularly by the police for dilatoriness in getting something done in other parts of London where there happen to be lorry parks and off-street parking.

Apart from the Greater London Council, there is the obstructionism of the Metropolitan Police. That word is not an exaggeration. I understand that this activity must come low in the order of priorities of the Metropolitan Police. It is only recently that parking orders for amenity reasons have been possible and, quite naturally, the police have put the prevention of crime at the top of their priority list. It is, however, important that the Government should make sure that the police realise that legislation for parking prohibitions on amenity grounds is now on the Statute Book, that the police must make the best of it and that they must wholeheartedly put their efforts into giving effect to it.

What has happened in this case is that when the G.L.C. discussed the matter with the police with a view to the possible making of orders for other areas of London besides Tower Hamlets, the police stated categorically that they were not prepared to co-operate in the enforcement of more than one scheme at a time. The police have no power whatever to make such a decision, but it is natural that the order-making authority, the G.L.C., should consult the police about the practicality of enforcement. What the G.L.C. has done, however, is to knuckle under to the negative attitude of the police.

When I took up this matter with the Home Secretary, the reply which I received from a junior Minister at the Home Office was to the effect that the police must enforce any orders that were made and that it was up to the G.L.C. to decide what weight to give to any objections that the police might put forward. In practice, however, that is not the way the balance of the argument has gone. The police have been permitted virtually to dictate that there will be only one scheme, and that in Tower Hamlets, for the time being and that there will be no such scheme in Islington for the foreseeable future, by which I mean something like one to two years.

I beg the Minister to consult his Home Office colleagues to ensure that the police, who are directly answerable through the Home Secretary to this House, refrain from this obstructionism and are a great deal more forthcoming than they have been hitherto.

If I were to leave the argument there, I think that with the possible exception of the point concerning the police, the Minister would be bound to reply that while he accepted that there was a problem, it was not his problem, that the G.L.C. had intentionally been given these powers by Parliament, that if the Council chose not to use those powers that was a matter on which it was answerable to its electors and that that was the proper way to deal with the problem. I would understand that view, even if I did not agree with it.

This week, however, there is a new element in the situation which makes all the difference. I refer to the Haringey Corporation Bill which received Royal Assent on Tuesday. Haringey Corporation went about getting its Private Bill in absolute desperation. As it made clear in statements in the Lords against the opposition of the Borough of Barnet, Haringey would have been perfectly happy if the G.L.C. had been prepared to make an order. It was only because the G.L.C. not only was not doing so but showed no sign that it would do so in the foreseeable future that Haringey took things into its own hands and sought a Private Bill.

Therefore, when the Tower Hamlets Scheme finally comes into being, it will be illegal to park a lorry on the streets in Tower Hamlets and in Haringey, but legal to park a lorry on the streets in my constituency. There will be other anomalies. If the lorry driver does it twice, the maximum fine which can be imposed on him in Tower Hamlets will be £20. In Islington he will be able to do it free. In Haringey he will be subject to a maximum fine of £50. He will have to remember that, whereas in Tower Hamlets all the streets are listed somewhere, in Haringey they are not all listed somewhere, and he will have to try to work out whether a street is a residential street and whether, if it does not look as though it is residential, some of it which is round the corner is residential, in which case it will still be illegal to park his lorry there. So the lorry driver will have to be a pretty sensible chap to work it all out as between Tower Hamlets and other parts of London.

Such a situation cannot be tolerated. The Ministry regretted Haringey's going ahead with its Private Bill but did not oppose it or, at any rate not effectively, because the Bill is now on the Statute Book. Therefore, the Ministry cannot remain indifferent to the situation which has grown up.

Every London borough with this problem will now be advised to think in terms of a Private Bill. There is still no sign that we can look for any hope from the G.L.C. How can I tell my constituents in Islington that they should not press for a Private Bill, when Haringey has a Private Bill and there is no other recourse?

When an objection was raised to this procedure in the Lords, which is in common sense clearly regrettable, with some things being governed by Private Bills and some things being governed by legislation, the Lords dismissed the objection, apparently being persuaded that, there being no other recourse, they could not deny Haringey's right to take things into its own hands.

Consideration is certainly being given in my constituency to the question whether we should seek a Private Bill. I would encourage such a move.

It is therefore possible that there will be an absolutely chaotic situation in London shortly with no lorry driver being capable of judging where it is legal to park a lorry and where it is not. Different regulations will apply all over London, whatever attempts are made to harmonise the regulations which are made.

To stop such a piecemeal and highly unsatisfactory situation, I suggest that the Minister has the right and the obligation to step in. I have done my best to knock the heads of the various authorities concerned together, but without any good result. I therefore ask the Minister to intervene with the Greater London Council to persuade the Council that the existence of the Haringey Act creates a new situation where it is not tolerable for there to be continuing delay over many years in the implementation of lorry parking bans in the rest of London. The Minister has no power to tell the Council what to do, but the Ministry chose to appoint a working party on the parking of lorries throughout the country and it is therefore legitimate for it to seek to tidy the matter up.

The only criticism I make of the Ministry in this respect is that it is a pity that it allowed itself to be persuaded by the G.L.C. that the terms of reference of the working party should exclude London, because that merely meant that the G.L.C. was denied the very useful experience of having something to do with the working party, even though no doubt the results of the deliberations will be made available to the G.L.C., and it denied to the working party a very important part of the coverage of the lorry problem.

Therefore, the Minister should intervene, first, with the G.L.C. on that basis and, second, with his colleagues in the Home Department with a view to getting them to put pressure on the police to be much more positive in future.

In an era of the existence of the Department of the Environment, given that a situation like this exists causing intense nuisance which is clearly avoidable, and where the law is getting into such a tangle as it now is, there is a justification for the Ministry to try to tidy it up and bring relief to people like my constituents on Liverpool Road, who have suffered for so many years from this nuisance without seeing at the moment any light at the end of the tunnel.

2.56 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

Those hon. Members who are present will wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) on raising this topic and on presenting the situation in such a clear and well-exposed way.

I have some interest in the matter as I am a co-opted member of the Greater London Council committee which has been concernd with this problem. As far as my memory goes, what my hon. Friend has said is completely correct.

The difficulties have been well stated. We in the House can press this matter very strongly on the Government, because it affects thousands and thousands of people almost every day of their lives, it upsets their waking hours, it upsets their sleeping hours, it constitutes a danger to their children, and it is a blot on the total environment in which they live. It is not always that the House is able to tackle a tangible problem like this. I strongly support what my hon. Friend has said.

The nub of the issue, as my hon. Friend brought out so clearly, is the question of enforcement. Anybody who has been on any local authority committee will understand the difficulties facing an authority which has legal powers in deciding whether to apply them, more particularly when the authority is not the enforcing authority. In London the Metropolitan Police, perhaps rightly, are under the direct control of the Home Department and not under the nominal control for certain purposes of a watch committee. Any committee, in making a decision or not making a decision as the case may be, has, as my hon. Friend pointed out, to give some weight to the views of those who have to enforce the law. It would be wrong if a law was made which could not be enforced because, as everybody knows, the law is then brought into disrepute. But this matter highlights an environmental problem.

Various methods have been tried, particularly co-operation with the owners of vehicles. Here it would be right to point out an analogy which was brought out with some force by a fellow committee member who pointed out that nobody would think it right that a bus driver should take his bus home and park it outside. We know that for many drivers it is very convenient to park his vehicle close to or outside his home. But if the analogy is followed through, the case for some strict control is almost incontrovertible.

Reverting to the matter of enforcement, it would be right to say that the Metropolitan Police have a very difficult job to do and, as my hon. Friend said, it is their prime purpose to protect people and property from those who are on crime bent. But the Metropolitan Police do not rely entirely on police constables to carry out this sort of work. The Minister might remind his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department that in the early days of parking control in London we met a very similar problem—the enforcement of parking regulations where there were meters and where there were yellow lines.

I know as well as anybody that the enforcement of these rules is not perhaps what it might be. I understand that there is some delay and difficulty in awarding fines. But that was not at that stage the argument of the Metropolitan Police. They said they were short of manpower. The then Chairman of the G.L.C. Highways and Traffic Committee, a lady, said, "What about woman power?" I understand that at that time the Metropolitan Police were most reluctant to employ other than men as traffic wardens. But she persisted with great determination, and in the course of time the Metropolitan Police were persuaded that they should try out lady traffic wardens. We know what has happened since. Many of our traffic wardens are women, and most of them do their job extremely well.

I am not saying that the Metropolitan Police can enforce a lorry-parking scheme in other parts of London apart from Tower Hamlets, but the Under-Secretary might point out this precedent to his right hon. Friend because we in London are in this slight difficulty that we rely on the good offices of his right hon. Friend in relation to many of the police matters in the metropolis.

In this House only the other day there was a debate upon police manpower for road safety in schools. We appreciate that there is a problem in balancing out police manpower. But just as people need to be protected against crime and misdemeanour, they also need to be protected against the ravages of the environment, and there may be ways in which enforcement can be applied other than by deploying manpower resources required for combating crime.

I understand that under the Haringey Act enforcement will be in the hands of the borough council officials, and that is right. The situation which has arisen in London is a legal anomaly. I cannot say why the G.L.C. refused to oppose the Bill, but it did so, and this reflects the difficulty of the problem.

I put these points to the Under-Secretary in the hope that he will bring them to his right hon. Friend's attention because we must get the problem solved as quickly as possible.

3.2 p.m.

Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)

I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) for not being here when he opened this debate. This problem concerns the whole of Greater London, including the borough of Enfield, and I am no stranger to it. I have experienced the problem since I became a Member of Parliament 12 years ago.

However, we must look at this matter rationally. Parking a lorry is no worse than parking a car. It is rather like the housemaid's baby; it is a bit bigger. That is the only difference. I do not think we should be too hard on drivers because there is a lack of parking space for cars and lorries all over Greater London. The problem is largely financial.

My hon. Friend mentioned enforcement, and that is a different story altogether. Equally important is the enforcement of the law against unrestricted parking of cars in streets. I came along Haringey Road this morning, and there was not room for two cars to pass each other. My hon. Friend mentioned Liverpool Street where many lorries park, and this is no doubt because of the existence of a transport hostel in the vicinity.

What is needed is the provision of transport parking space. This means cash. We all know that the Government are measly with cash. We all know of the high price of land in Greater London, but unless local authorities get the cash to provide parking spaces the problem will not be solved, because lorries have to be parked somewhere.

3.4 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Paul Channon)

We all agree with the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) in congratulating his hon. Friend the Member for Islington, Southwest (Mr. George Cunningham) on raising this important matter in the House. I assure him at the outset that, in so far as they touch their responsibilities, I shall see that his observations are transmitted to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Greater London Council.

I am not sure that I entirely agree with one comment from the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie). In my view, there is all the difference in the world between parking a car outside someone else's house and parking a big lorry there. In a way, it is almost an entirely different object, and the amount of nuisance which can be caused by the parking of lorries outside people's homes is by no means the same. I do not deny that a nuisance is caused by the parking of cars outside people's houses, but the parking of lorries outside people's houses overnight has become a ghastly problem in certain parts of the country and given rise to a great many difficulties. This is why I welcome the opportunity to spend a few minutes talking about the problem now.

As people become more and more concerned for the quality of urban life, and rightly so, and the quality of our environment in general, there will be growing pressure, again rightly so, to reduce the effects of the motor vehicle in ruining that environment. This will be especially true of heavy motor vehicles and their effects upon people's living conditions, and the indiscriminate parking of lorries in streets and open spaces is one important aspect of the problem.

Like many hon. Members and local authorities, my right hon. Friend is receiving a growing number of complaints on this subject, some of them coming from the constituency of the hon. Member for Islington, South-West. Lorries can be a visual intrusion. They lower the tone of the neighbourhood. They can block the light to people's front windows. They can certainly cause bad disturbance in the morning when the drivers make an early start. Also, they can often create a security problem; the parking of lorries with unguarded loads in the streets presents a great problem for the police.

As hon. Members know, both this House and the other place have recently been concerned with the Haringey Corporation Bill, which will prohibit overnight lorry parking in residential streets in Haringey. That Bill has just received the Royal Assent, and I think it appropriate that we should have present in the House today hon. Members who have taken a keen interest in the problem of overnight parking of lorries for many years—not only those who have spoken but including, very appropriately, I think, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) who is here as the Government Whip, who, we all know, has taken a keen interest in this matter and has done and is continuing to do good work for his constituents about it. I know what a problem it is in his constituency, too.

The Haringey Corporation Bill will, as I say, prohibit overnight lorry parking in residential streets in Haringey. The Department opposed the Bill in the other place, on the ground that it cut across the Greater London Council's powers to deal with the problem under the existing law. Nevertheless, the Bill received the Royal Assent and is now law.

As the hon. Member for Acton pointed out, the difference in that Measure is that the lorry parking prohibition will be enforced by the council's officers, not by the police. We shall have to see how satisfactory that will turn out to be in practice, but it is certainly an interesting experiment.

With the increasing awareness of the problem of overnight lorry parking, two main steps have been taken. First, Parliament was asked for improved traffic and parking powers. Up to 1969, local traffic authorities were unable to act except to improve traffic flow or road safety. The Transport Act, 1968, amended the traffic regulation powers, and restrictions can now be imposed purely to preserve or to improve local amenity. That Act gave greater freedom to provincial traffic authorities, and many traffic orders no longer need confirmation by my right hon. Friend. The Greater London Council as the traffic authority for London is already largely free of Departmental control.

In the lifetime of this Parliament there was recently passed the Highways Act, 1971, which will enable highway authorities, which have hitherto been devoid of parking powers, to provide off-street lorry parks, and my right hon. Friend has power to pay grant towards them.

A working party has been set up to study the problem in the north-west of England and recommend a solution for the whole country outside Greater London. The Greater London Council, rightly or wrongly, has its own powers given to it by Parliament, and London was omitted from the working party because the G.L.C. was conducting its own studies. The working party has recently presented its report, which will be published shortly. In advance of its publication, it is not appropriate for me to go into it and its recommendations, but there is a number of key factors I should like to bring to the attention of the House.

First, all traffic restrictions must be properly enforced, otherwise they are ineffective and the law falls into disrepute. Second, lorry parking prohibitions cannot be effectively enforced unless there is somewhere else for the displaced lorries to go. That is crucial. Third, off-street facilities are therefore essential. The transference of lorries to non-residential streets from residential streets is better than nothing, but it is only a second-best solution and is not appropriate when the street is a main traffic route.

Most of the hon. Gentleman's remarks were concerned with Greater London and Islington, particularly the Liverpool Road area of Islington. Environmental and traffic planning in London is the responsibility of the G.L.C, which has all the necessary powers and resources to study the problem and deal with it. I want to make sure that the G.L.C. is fully informed of what all three hon. Members speaking for London constituencies have said this afternoon.

While the G.L.C. is the traffic authority for London, enforcement of its schemes is a matter for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. The Council is obliged by law to consult the Commissioner, but does not have to obtain agreement. In the end it is up to the Council to decide what weight to give to police views. In the last resort it is possible for it to ignore those views, but in reality that would be most unsatisfactory. It is better that there should be some harmony of view between the council and the police about these important matters, because the success of the schemes depends on effective enforcement. This is assured if the police support the scheme fully. Therefore, the Council must carry the police with it.

It is true that in 1969 the G.L.C. set up a working party of officers of the Council, the London Boroughs Association and the police to collect data on the problem in London and recommend solutions. Ten boroughs, including Islington, where problems were particularly acute were short-listed, and the western part of Tower Hamlets was selected for the pilot scheme. The area is used by 300 lorries for overnight parking. There are off-street facilities for that number of vehicles, but all are underused. It is entirely a matter for the G.L.C. how it conducts that inquiry and how long it takes. The Department has no need to give it final approval, except on technical points like signs—almost formal matters. The Department has no wish and no reason to delay the inquiry.

The proposed G.L.C. order will prohibit overnight parking of all vehicles over 2½ tons in all the streets in that zone in Tower Hamlets. It was originally hoped that the scheme would be in force by early 1971. But when the draft order was advertised a number of objections was received which indicated real difficulties in the Spitalfields Market area. The Council had to devise a supplementary scheme for the area, which caused delay. It is now almost ready to make the order when the appropriate signs are ready. There has been some difficulty in obtaining them quickly, but the scheme should be in force not in November but, all going well, in October. That may not be as quick as the hon. Gentleman would like, but perhaps it will be in force by the time we return from the Recess. We are at least in sight of seeing that experiment started.

Mr. George Cunningham

Since this is intended to be an experimental scheme—and I have said that I do not understand its experimental nature—when is it intended to be concluded?

Mr. Channon

I will come to that in a moment. If I have not the full answer, I will write to the hon. Gentleman. I am not sure how long the experiment will last. The Tower Hamlets scheme is regarded by the G.L.C. and the police as a research project. This is a new type of scheme which has not been done anywhere else in London. Two experimental schemes have been held outside London recently. They have been tried by Birmingham.

The G.L.C. has tried to devise a scheme which will work from the outset without snags. It is breaking new ground. Past experience with new parking ideas suggests that many lessons will have to be learned before the concept is effective. This was true of the old meter zones. The hon. Gentleman will recall the experience with them. Only in the light of working experience did they become fully workable. Let us hope that such a process does not happen in this case, but one cannot be sure.

The G.L.C. will want to learn what happens to the displaced lorries and to what extent there is need for off-street facilities. Many vehicles may be local and it may be that, with the introduction of the scheme, they will disappear into the owner's premises, where they should be already in any case. It will be interesting to find just how much off-street parking is really required. The G.L.C. will also have to find out how effective the signs are and the extent to which they are needed.

At the same time, the police are concerned, among other matters, with the adequacy of the signs, with the level of enforcement that will be required and with the number of patrols they will have to have. They will also want to discover the extent to which drivers will comply voluntarily with the scheme and the extent to which they must be compelled. They will want to discover the suitability of restrictions—for example, whether exemptions are necessary or adequate. They will also need to discover what the response of the courts will be to cases presented to them and the amount of manpower that will be needed. I am not referring here just to the traffic wardens—that should not be a major problem—but to the staff engaged in the process where fixed penalties are not paid. The hon. Gentleman is aware of the problem of the enforcement of fixed penalties.

The police will also have to consider carefully whether or not the existing £2 fixed penalty is an adequate deterrent. Indeed, a whole host of matters will have to be considered when the experiment goes into force. While I could not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said about the obstructionism of the police, I guarantee to him that I shall ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to consider the problem and what hon. Members have said about the police and the other matters which have been mentioned.

Mr. George Cunningham

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the question of the £2 fixed penalty. We do not need an experimental scheme in Tower Hamlets to prove that the £2 fixed penalty is a nonsense. I can give him the answer now. At least a £20 penalty is needed. Whether it be £20, £30, £40 or £50 really does not matter, but clearly a small penalty like £2 is madness. That is why I say that we are not proving anything in Tower Hamlets.

Mr. Channon

What the hon. Gentleman says may very well be right. But these are the sort of matters which will have to be considered when the scheme is put into force. I accept that this is the sort of question on which the hon. Gentleman may well be right. At first sight, it seems to me that what he has said is likely to be the case.

All these matters—certainly the vast majority of them—even if the hon. Gentleman does not accept the fixed penalty point, are questions which the G.L.C. themselves should be sorting out in practice before it goes on to deal with other areas. The G.L.C. is examining other areas to decide where it could act. It is not for me to defend the G.L.C. I am relating the situation. It will have to decide in the light of the hon. Gentleman's comments and, indeed, of the pressures which the hon. Member for Acton will exert as a member of this Committee for it to act more speedily. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, North-East should have a conversation with the hon. Member for Acton, who is far more in a position to influence the course of events in this issue than I am. Perhaps he should be acting more energetically.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful for that accolade, but I have already had conversations with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) on this point. I think the Under-Secretary of State is mistaken. I hoped that I had made it clear that the effective power of the G.L.C. Committee rests on the co-operation of the Metropolitan Police—a point which the hon. Gentleman himself has made. I hope that he will talk about enforcement with the Home Secretary and perhaps ask the Metropolitan Police to think in wider terms. For example, in Haringey this will be done by local officers. Would it be possible for matters of this sort to be enforced by a network of officials perhaps, who may be associated with the police? Could not it be looked at in the broad way which is not receiving the attention it should do if the scheme is to work? Whether the fixed penalty be £20 or no, this part of the manpower problem should be looked at most closely.

Mr. Channon

I entirely accept that the attitude of the police is an extremely important factor. I have always said that I will see that these matters are studied by the Home Secretary. Whether the powers can be enforced in Haringey by a system of local officers rather than the police we will have to wait and see. It may be inadvisable to allow the system to operate everywhere until we know whether it works satisfactorily in Haringey. It is not for me to decide the choice of area.

I will certainly see that my right hon. Friend considers the hon. Gentleman's remarks. He and his constituents have pressed the case for Islington with great vigour. The G.L.C. is only too well aware of local feeling and it will not overlook the claims of Islington in deciding where to go next. But it will not come as any surprise to the hon. Gentleman, especially in view of this debate, if I say that there is much feeling in other areas of London about who should be next. My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) would have pointed out the great feeling in Wembley, if he had caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey would have said that there was a great deal of feeling in his constituency. It is not easy for the G.L.C. to decide which should be the next area.

Mr. George Cunningham

The hon. Gentleman said that it would be unsatisfactory for each London borough to seek a Private Bill. I hope that if my borough and others in desperation turn, as Haringey turned, to a Private Bill, the Ministry will not put up more opposition than it did to Haringey. I hope that we may have an assurance about that, because we should take it very ill if a Private Bill of ours were obstructed by the Ministry to a greater extent than that of Haringey was.

Mr. Channon

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we should treat any Bill brought forward by any London borough on its merits and that it would receive the support or opposition it deserved. He need not be particularly alarmed about the Department opposing his Bill, as he should reflect that, on the evidence of the past week, that is not necessarily a conclusive factor in deciding whether a Bill receives the Royal Assent. I assure him that we should consider the case on its merits and not have any particular bias against Islington, or Enfield, or anywhere else, compared with Haringey. We should just have to see the Bill and what was proposed.

I assure the House that if the Greater London Council asked us for assistance on any aspect of the problem we would do what we could to help about it. I shall take careful note, and make sure that the Department of the Environment takes note, of the comments of hon. Gentlemen this afternoon. I shall draw the attention of the appropriate authorities and the Greater London Council and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, as dealing with police matters, to what has been said.

All of us agree that the overnight parking of lorries is becoming a serious difficulty causing great damage to living conditions. People are finding it increasingly intolerable outside London and perhaps even more inside, for the reasons I have given. A solution is not entirely easy, but progress is being made, both inside and outside London.

I hope that, before very long, the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with the results at Tower Hamlets, and there will be opportunities for extending the scheme to other parts of London, though this is a matter for the G.L.C. I hope, too, that steps can be taken to solve a problem which causes a great deal of distress, and which is likely to cause even more as the months and years go by.

3.25 p.m.

Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

I must apologise for not being present to hear the beginning of the debate. I wish merely to point out that this problem is becoming more and more acute in Wembley, and I am grateful for my hon. Friend's remarks.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-five minutes past Three o'clock.