§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It is a privilege and a pleasure for me to be able to present the Bill. It is a pleasure I express on behalf of all the sponsors of the Bill and those who have given it support, even if their names are not officially recorded as sponsors.
Inevitably, however, today's debate will be tinged with sadness and a feeling of regret that one of the hon. Members who was a sponsor of the Bill is not with us, as a result of his tragic death yesterday. I refer, as you did, Mr. Speaker, to Mr. Tom Price.
I believe that I speak on behalf of all hon. Members when I say that Torn Price was a friend of every hon. Member. This friendship went across party lines. I speak personally when I say how much I appreciated his kindess and thoughtfulness towards me, not only in respect of the Bill but on all occasions. This feeling will be echoed by all hon. Members who either knew him as I did, unfortunately not well enough, having entered the House at the 1970 General Election, or had known him for many years and were able to recall his distinguished career. He was a great friend. A personal example of his outstanding thoughtfulness was a message I received from him only yesterday saying how sorry he was that he would not be able to be present today for the Second Reading of the Bill.
I regard the Bill as very important. It enunciates the important proposition that the sponsors and I feel that the time has come to consider further necessary action for the protection of the environment from the continued growth of the numbers of heavy commercial vehicles on roads throughout the country. At the same time, anyone wishing to present a Bill of this nature must remember all the conflicting considerations that may 1787 arise and all the important factors in this highly complicated subject. It is not a simple subject, and it is one that we can easily become very emotional about. We can agree that action against heavy commercial vehicles is necessary and long overdue, without yet considering the detailed ways in which such radical action needs to be initiated.
Like the other sponsors of the Bill on both sides of the House, I have been struck by the enormous support for it both in the House, for which the sponsors are collectively appreciative, and throughout the country. Support has come from interest groups of one kind or another, from those organisations increasingly concerned by the depredations of our environment of one facet of modern society or another—those that are immobile, like the redevelopment of town centres, against which a feeling of resistance is growing day by day when the schemes are wrong, and the mobile manifestations of the dangers to the environment in an overcrowded society which arise from vehicles, the increasing traffic generally and, in particular, heavy commercial vehicles.
Support has also come from individuals, those who suffer most from the extremely wearing effects, indeed debilitating effects, of heavy traffic passing by their homes, in the North and the South and in those areas afflicted particularly with the coastal ports, where traffic has been increasing at a staggering rate every year.
Clear and unequivocal support has also come from the organised groups. We have been greatly encouraged throughout by the tremendous support of such organisations as the Civic Trust, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the other environment-protecting societies. It is a fascinating indication of the public's concern for this topic, which is not confined only to heavy lorries, that membership of groups outside the House has increased tremendously, as has their geographic spread throughout the country.
There is a public demand for new measures of a radical and rational kind. No one can at one fell swoop say "I feel emotional about heavy lorries. We all dislike juggernauts thundering past 1788 our homes offices or factories. They must be stopped." That is an impossibility in Great Britain in 1972. We are a modern advanced industrial society. Therefore, the debate has inevitably to centre around the ways in which the worst effects of the movement and the parking of heavy commercial vehicles can be curbed, limited or mitigated by a set of measures, many of which are contained within the Bill.
We must recognise the natural, obvious and evident rôle of heavy commercial vehicles in an industrialised society. I pay tribute to road hauliers, who have expanded their business to the benefit of the general economy. I pay tribute to the lorry drivers of this country, the majority of whom are reasonable people. But, at the same time, let us have a rational discussion on the measures which are contained within this Bill and on the detailed ways in which curbs need to be introduced.
There are those who say—I do not believe that there are many—that the problem is grotesquely exaggerated and that there is not the kind of problem which the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) has talked about repeatedly in the House. They question the existence of problems that my hon. Friends have described. I refer, in particular, to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). It is said that the problem is grotesquely exaggerated. Of course, there is an emotional reaction which must be restrained. If it is not, people will feel that the measures are not sufficiently severe.
The profile of the problem shows that urgent action throughout the country is necessary of a kind which will ensure that in future heavy lorries do not park and do not move in areas that are manifestly unsuitable for such vehicles. I do not need to go into the details or the statistics today. They will be familiar to many hon. Members.
It is a fact that since 1956 the total traffic growth in terms of the numbers of vehicles has approximately doubled when one considers private motor vehicles. At the heaviest end of the heavy commercial vehicle range there has been a fantastic growth in the number of these vehicles going up and down the 1789 country, excluding the foreign vehicles which are coming more and more into Great Britain from various other countries. The entry of those vehicles highlights the problem. There has been about an eightfold increase in the number of lorries of over 8 tons unladen weight since 1956. There has been about a fourfold increase in the number of lorries over 5 tons unladen weight since 1956. The total number of commercial vehicles and goods vehicles, however, has not really significantly increased during that period.
The technology of the high-technology heavy lorry and the increase in gross weights and sizes has allowed a larger amount of goods to be carried per unit. That has meant that the total freight transportation on the roads has been able to increase significantly and at an accelerating rate. None the less, the total number of vehicles has not significantly increased. That is not an argument for those who wish to see no change in the road haulage industry and who wish to resist any change. They should not use that argument to seek to answer some of the sensible and moderate proposals that those who wish to see environment-protecting measures introduced wish to put forward in public debate.
At the same time it must be acknowledged that a great amount of work has been done in recent years to begin to tackle not merely the frontiers of the problem but some of the fundamentals. I unhesitatingly pay tribute to the work in recent years of the Department of the Environment, which has sought to bring in new measures. A lot has been done, and the Bill will enable some of the obvious existing gaps to be closed. It will enable a comprehensive addition to be made to the existing provisions for the control of the characteristics and the movement of heavy lorries.
The Bill provides a rational complement to all that has been done so far. I shall not go into the many details. However, an enormous amount of research has been done both in the Department and outside in the Transport and Road Research Laboratory and so on into the behavioural characteristics of lorries. The heavier the lorry the more peculiar are some 1790 of its characteristics. That has been borne out by recent research. We are now beginning to realise that when a lorry jack-knifes when going round a roundabout, for example, and crushes a car the driver should not always be blamed. There are behavioural characteristics attached to lorries which we are only beginning to realise.
The Government, and the last Labour Government, began to stiffen some of the controls and regulations. There was wide applause at the end of last year when the Minister for Transport Industries resisted the European Community's proposals for higher maximum weights and sizes. There has been an accelerating road building programme, which must be an essential part of the debate.
There is also the fact, and it should be acknowledged, that several local authorities have tried to do something at their end. There has been an increase in the number of local control schemes of one kind or another. Such powers exist in present legislation. However, it is because the sponsors of the Bill feel that those powers are insufficient that they are putting forward the Bill which it is hoped will lead to a whole range of local controls. Many hon. Members will have direct experience of such controls.
For example, Newbury is now closed to vehicles over 3 tons. East Sussex has promulgated a voluntary scheme covering 74 per cent. of the roads in the county. An official spokesman, speaking about a voluntary scheme, said that if the scheme did not work the council would need stiffer legislation in future. York has restricted heavy lorries in certain parts of the city. Gloucester and Cheltenham have restrictions. Night parking is not allowed in Glasgow.
The borough of Haringey in the Greater London area took the initiative by pressing its own Bill in this House. It was passed into law, and Haringey was enabled to bring in parking controls at certain times of the day and at weekends. The Greater London Council in recent weeks came out with a plan to prohibit movement of heavy commercial vehicles. That prohibition is still to be defined in the central zone of the central area of London. Of course, there are those who will be worried about the effect on the frontiers of such areas. There will be 1791 those who say that other areas of London should be included. There will be those who say that it is unsatisfactory if one part of London brings in its own legislative proposals and there is no co-ordination between that borough and other boroughs.
In 1971 the House passed the Foreign Vehicles Act. The Act sought to put certain sensible restrictions on the size, the unloading, the movement and the admission of foreign vehicles into the United Kingdom. I am perturbed that day after day, week after week and month after month Manuel Garcia is permitted to leave Valencia and drive an enormous vehicle to the United Kingdom and then up to Scotland. I believe that the Spanish, French and British railways together might be able to do the job as well. This is an open question and more research is needed. As long as the debate is unresolved we shall continue to have increasing hordes of Manuel Garcias coming in from Valencia every day—drivers who do not speak English, who may wish to take their lorries to Piccadilly to see the sights, and many of whom have no knowledge of our construction and use regulations, weight restrictions, where they can go, and all the rest.
The problem is urgent, and we all know that there is great concern among the public. The concern in this House is shown by the attendance this morning. I have had many apologies from hon. Members who are unable to be here today but have told me that they support the Bill's proposals. The public now look to Parliament to take further action in a sensible manner to deal with some of these difficulties. The Bill will go a long way to deal with some of the immediate as well as the long-term problems.
The hon. Member for Islington, South-West in an Adjournment debate on 30th July 1971 referred to the unbearable nature of the increasing environmental effects of heavy lorries in the wrong places. There is a grave problem in Islington, and the Greater London Council has power to deal with it. But, despite the good intentions of the GLC, there is no indication that it will use its power in a concerted and comprehensive approach to the problems which the Bill seeks to solve.
1792 I should like to pay tribute to the work done by the hon. Member for Islington, South-West and for the research which he has undertaken. In the Adjournment debate to which I referred he said: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.I pay tribute to the fact that the hon. Gentleman rises so early, which is not necessarily a feature of a Member of Parliament's life.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
The hon. Member had probably just got back from a late sitting in the House.
§ Mr. Dykes
My right hon. and learned Friend is probably not far wrong. The hon. Gentleman continued: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July 1971; Vol. 822, c. 1036.]That comment draws attention to one of the simpler manifestations of heavy lorries being allowed to go where they like, without sensible control. This is not merely having a detrimental effect in a light-hearted way but is affecting our health and our environmental conditions and causing many children to lose sleep, as certainly happens in the port areas. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Money) hopes to tell the House about the critical conditions in his area and the effect on a town's infrastructure when these enormous vehicles are allowed to enter old-fashioned streets. Parliament has a duty to do something about the problem, and action is overdue. This Bill gives us an opportunity to improve the situation.
The days of free lorry movements anywhere and everywhere should be ended. It may take several years to bring in a comprehensive national scheme, but these provisions at least will assist the problem in the interim. Time will be required for the meticulous preparation that is needed for an overall plan. The decision with which the Bill presents the House today is a fundamental one, on the lines of the important decision over a decade 1793 ago when yellow lines prevented traffic parking in our streets for long periods.
There are some important gaps in the Bill. Its elements can be divided into two parts. Clauses 1 to 3 relate to the proposal to set up machinery for a comprehensive examination of the problem in an all-embracing set of proposals which need to be made in due course to bring in zonal control schemes.
Clauses 4 to 7—subsidiary clauses but still vitally important—fill some of the gaps in the road traffic laws. Although much has been achieved by earlier legislation, Parliament must now try to produce a sensible legislative framework to fill the glaring gaps which still remain.
What is the rationale of Clauses 1 to 3? The Bill's sponsors sincerely believe that we need a catalyst or agency through which advice can be sifted in examining the environmental depredations which can occur through the onset of heavy vehicles in residential areas and in the centre of cities. We need to see the total national picture so that we may take appropriate action. We must have research to discover the repercussions which flow from heavy lorries rolling off from the docks in Manchester or Dover on to our roads. We have all seen the effect of the vast increase in heavy commercial traffic, not least in the port areas.
The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, which is the principal Act to which this Bill refers, and the Transport Act 1968 were steps in the right direction, but we believe that that legislation is not sufficient to deal with the environmental pressures and public demand for Parliament to take action on this growing and urgent problem.
The Bill seeks to set up a national advisory council for the control of heavy commercial vehicles which would have the task of making a comprehensive set of proposals in those areas where such an exercise is deemed to be necessary for the zonal control of heavy commercial vehicles. The more flexible the structure, the easier it will be for the experts who are entrusted, through the creation of this agency, with the legislative authority to formulate the sensible proposals which are needed.
1794 Some anxieties have been expressed to me on this measure by the occasional road haulier or lorry driver, but they are the exceptions. It must be said that many sensible road hauliers and drivers are in favour of controls on heavy commercial vehicles—so long as they are not oppressive and will not affect employment in the transport industry. The advisory commission would have the task of proposing to the Secretary of State that there should be zonal controls in certain areas where practicable.
We have, therefore, to tailor all the ideas that will flow from the creation of this agency and its work into the fact that we still do not have adequate roads in some areas to do this kind of zone control system, into the fact that heavy commercial vehicles are an important part of the economy, into the fact that the need for access is vital and that one cannot close off access as a concept and as a reality overnight by bureaucratic rules which pay no heed to the economic realities of the movement of freight, and into the fact that enforcement will be a very difficult problem to consider and elaborate. But the problem of enforcement does not detract from the need for parking restrictions and traffic controls which exists now. That is an important point to put.
I shall not go into the Bill clause by clause. There is a more suitable occasion for that, if, as I hope, and as other hon. Members hope, the Bill is given a Second Reading and is allowed to go into Committee upstairs, but it is nevertheless important to refer to several aspects of the proposals and explain them, although I shall do so as quickly as I can.
First, it is vital to confirm that all along the theme of practicality would be the main feature of any work done by the advisory council. Secondly, the council itself would make suggestions to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State would be empowered to adopt or modify the suggestions and issue orders to local authorities if local authorities themselves were, for unreasonable reasons, not willing to issue the necessary orders.
But the generic character of the traffic regulation orders which could be issued would be different from and stronger than 1795 the orders which local authorities can issue under the existing Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967. This is important because, apart from the gaps filled in by subsidiary clauses, which are also very important, we see evidence again and again that some local authorities are not prepared to issue traffic regulation orders which are tough enough in the worst and most difficult environmental areas—which include tiny villages as much as historic town centres—while others are not prepared to issue any orders whatever. But they do have justification when they say that they want guidance from the Government about what should be done. For example, a local authority may claim that it is difficult to do something because the neighbouring local authority will complain about the effects on its area. This takes us back to the powerful argument for a national look at the problem.
The Bill envisages that the advisory council would issue recommendations covering the whole country or only particular areas. Since the road building programme is not at that stage of finalisation which it is planned to reach by the 1980s, when we expect a much better road system to be available, it may well be right for the advisory council to begin with a mild, moderate and light set of proposals at the end of 1976. Here I refer to the understandable anxieties of local authorities. Under the Local Government Act 1972 new and larger local authority units have been created. They will be getting into their stride over the next two or three years, which is another important reason why the council would not be empowered to present its suggestions until the end of 1976.
These new local authorities are understandably anxious, since they are to be transport authorities in their own right, that suddenly, if the Bill were to become law, they would find that they had a new body, set up by legislation, dictating to them what they should do in their own areas. Therefore, the proposal for an advisory council is more important as a catalyst, as a suggestion for a piece of machinery, than as a dogmatic adherence to the idea that this function should be removed from the larger local authorities, because I believe that at the same time there is an equally good argument on the other side that larger local 1796 authority units would perhaps be the right ones for this work. They themselves would need to consider the ways in which they as units were to co-ordinate their proposals in one area or in several areas, and not merely with the adjacent area. This is an essential aspect. It is an important point to make, and it may well be that other hon. Members will have suggestions to make about it.
The subsidiary clauses fill some important gaps. For example, the parking of heavy commercial vehicles on pavements would be prohibited. It seems extraordinary that whilst the movement of heavy commercial vehicles on the pavement is an offence under the law, punishable with certain minimum and maximum fines, and so on, the parking of a lorry on the pavement is not an offence. It is not enough for the road hauliers and the drivers to say that this would be an unwarranted restriction of their freedom of action. Hon. Members can all recount tale after tale of cracked pavements, damage to street furniture, damage to drains—all the things which citizens pay for through rates or taxes. In such circumstances, people are justified in saying that they want the Government to take action on this anomaly.
Other anomalies are dealt with by other clauses and would make a considerable contribution to getting the overall package that we need to deal with this increasingly urgent problem. With that in mind, together with the fact that the definition of heavy commercial vehicles is itself in need of updating—indeed, we are in Europe currently engaged in discussion about the weight of vehicles—I say in conclusion that road hauliers who wish to see no change at all have lost all sight of the political, social and environmental realities of one of the most overcrowded countries in the world. Britain has more traffic, including more freight traffic, per mile than any other large country in Europe, and the country manifestly demands action in this vital area.
§ 11.39 a.m.
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
I compliment the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) on introducing the Bill and all those who are co-sponsors and have helped to draw it up. But I think that Government legislation also in this field is necessary. I believe that the Bill 1797 goes as far as a Private Member's Bill can go. I hope that the Government will use all the powers that the Bill gives them, but I am certain that other powers and other action will also be necessary if this problem is to be faced.
I take the view that we have to limit these juggernauts to the use of motorways and certain classified roads which are agreed by the Department as being suitable for their use. That means, in effect, that we shall have to move to the concept of liner lorries, rather like liner trains. By this concept these large lorries would travel along motorways or other suitable roads and there would be unloading or distribution points at which smaller lorries could take aboard the goods for transport to villages, town centres and other areas unsuitable for large lorries. Those points should be partly created by the hauliers. If there is legislation which forces them to do this, they will obey it. Local authorities and the Ministry should be involved and there should be Government assistance in creating such points. There should be a planned system to link the motorways with these distribution points and an effective working out of the whole policy of liner lorries.
It is bound to come. It will require a good deal of money from hauliers and Government Departments and will also need comprehensive planning. The Freight Transport Association strongly resists any such proposals. It makes the point, correctly, that 85 per cent. of goods traffic goes by road. It is a far higher figure than for any other industrial country, well beyond any country in Western Europe. The alternatives to road transport need to be considered seriously and Government assistance given to attempts to divert traffic from the roads to other forms of transport. The necessary financial assistance should be provided.
The use of liner trains has been growing fairly slowly. In 1971 the revenue from goods carried was £6.2 million. The figure for the year before was £5.8 million. About 25,000 more containers were carried in the last year for which we have figures than in the previous year. There should be more positive assistance and encouragement given by the Government to the development of liner trains and to the use of rail generally. We will never be able to use the canals in the 1798 same way as Continental countries but developments in that direction would be a big help. The small canals are not likely to be used for other than amenity purposes. Improvement of the canals in the Sheffield area and from the Liverpool area, bringing them up to commercial standards, would greatly assist. This would allow larger barges to move down river to the mouths of estuaries where docks now are and to transport goods deep into the country.
There is already much use of this system at Brentford where firms such as Nestle bring their coffee inland. It is only a small example but it should be encouraged and developed as an alternative to road transport, particularly where there are large industrial areas and it is desirable to remove some traffic from the roads. Government action here is important if we are to remove the menace of these large lorries.
There is also the question of overnight parking which is a big problem in my constituency. There are many council house estates, many people have cars and there are few places in which to park them. A great many drivers bring their lorries to their homes in the evenings so that they can start early in the morning or else they drive in late at night and save the overnight lodging fee which they have been given. They wake up the people in the area. There should be much stronger rules forbidding lorry parking in built-up areas. Any control on lorry driving and parking in city areas has to take into account the possible effect of pushing lorries into suburban areas.
It is important that the Government tighten up some of the safety regulations. A recent report shows that heavy lorries are among the biggest killers on the roads. The death and serious accident rate of lorries of less than 3 tons and for cars is about the same but the figures for lorries over 3 tons are about three times as great. One type of accident which is happening much more frequently with these heavy lorries, particularly on motorways, involves private cars running underneath the lorry. Safety belts are no use at all in such crashes. It is necessary to have safety regulations requiring large under-run bumpers at the back of these lorries to prevent this sort of accident.
1799 Penalties must be stiffened. The only effective way of dealing with overloading and similar offences is to remove the haulier's licence. That is much more effective than any kind of fine because frequently the return on large cargoes being carried more than offsets the fine. It is only by the removal of licences that effective control can be exercised. I hope that the Bill will go through, that the Government will accept and operate the powers in it and that they will introduce further follow-up legislation on the points I have raised.
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I begin by associating myself with the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dyke) about the late Mr. Tom Price. He was also a sponsor of my Bill, the Export of Animals (Control) Bill, which was down on the Order Paper for consideration today but which I have deferred in response to the decision made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture yesterday. Tom Price was a much loved and highly respected Member and I am sure we shall all miss him very greatly indeed.
I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East on presenting his Bill and express the hope that the Government will accept it. It is a much-needed measure. The advisory council which my hon. Friend proposes should be set up would be a valuable asset to the Ministry. It has a precedent of which we ought to take note. There was a London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee in existence from about 1924 to 1960. I had the privilege of serving on it for six years when I was a member of the then London County Council.
That advisory committee did a lot of pioneering work. Some of the traffic management schemes in the London area today, certainly one-way streets and no right turns, and other improvements which have come into effect in recent years flow from its work. The proposed advisory council is to include representatives of various interests connected with road haulage and road traffic. I am sure that it will be most valuable to the Minister if he sees fit to support the Bill.
I want to refer to north-west London in this context of heavy lorries. This matter 1800 concerns my hon. Friend and myself in particular as well as other hon. Members. I understand from my constituents that in the last year there has been a terrific increase in the number of heavy lorries going through the area from M1 to M4 and vice versa. They come off the M1 at junction 4, through part of Stanmore in my hon. Friend's constituency, turn down Marsh Lane, along Honeypot Lane, the Mall, Preston Hill and Preston Road, into Wembley Hill Road, then Harrow Road and then turn right on to the North Circular Road towards the M4. This is not an easy route for such lorries. In some places it is narrow and hilly. I know of three hills and the lorries grind up them at a slow speed, delaying following traffic.
I do not know what the answer is in north-west London. Originally we were to have a north orbital road which would have taken the traffic off the M1 further out of London so that it would go round to the other side of Harrow to the A40 and so down to the M4 via a route certainly much more rural than the present route which lorries use. It was abandoned not long ago, and so we are left with this route. I do not know how we are now to get round this problem, which will plainly get more serious as time goes on, but I hope that attention will be given to this matter in an endeavour to ease the burden of heavy lorries in an area of north-west London which is already congested.
The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) referred to the parking of lorries. It is a great problem in north-west London too. I believe that the police have powers to designate certain roads for parking. If they do not, I hope that the Minister will take them at some time so as to ban other roads from use for lorry parking. I gather that the police will not take action unless there is a lorry park somewhere near to which the lorry drivers can be directed. That is understandable, but it does not solve a problem that requires urgent attention from the Government.
The enforcement of whatever regulations are made in this respect will impose a heavy burden on the police. Could there not be an extension of the traffic warden system, or more use of special constables, to help the police in this respect so that the law may be more closely 1801 enforced? As I do not wish to detain the House and as other hon. Members wish to speak, I conclude by saying that I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will feel able to welcome the Bill.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ Mr. John Horam (Gateshead, West)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) on his speech. It was both an eloquent and a precise delineation of the problems that we face in this subject. He said that the Bill commanded widespread support among the public, and I believe that to be an accurate statement of the position. I know from my own constituency experience of the problems of heavy lorries. Gateshead lies athwart the Al and we have to put up with the problems of the juggernauts and the problems of the overnight parking of lorries, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker). I believe that the House is likely to give the Bill strong support. The view of the House was reflected some time ago in a debate on an Opposition motion about heavier and larger lorries and the Government supported the motion.
However, I should like to make a number of suggestions for consideration by those sponsoring the Bill, and one of them would involve an amendment. The first concerns the paramount need for consultations with lorry drivers and their trade union representatives. So often I have seen schemes by local authorities for the control and regulation of parking or routing where this consultation has not taken place and they have generally resulted in disaster. The schemes have proved to be impracticable or have aroused instant hostility and not worked for that reason.
It will be accepted that the lorry driver's job is difficult, and the Bill may make it more difficult in some respects. We should attempt to minimise the difficulties and to enlist the lorry driver's support and his experience of having to operate within the framework of the regulations involved in making such schemes work. I should like to see it specifically provided in the Bill that the trade union representatives of the lorry drivers should be consulted. Such an amendment could be made in Clause 2(2) which at the moment is fairly general. 1802 Similarly the schedule establishes the membership of an advisory council and I should like it to say specifically that trade union representatives should be among that membership. As the Bill stands, the council is to have 18 members apart from the chairman.
Similarly, I am unhappy about the concept of a red zone in which there would be a total ban on lorries. It may prove impracticable, particularly when it is linked to the weight of lorries: 3 tons unladen. That goes a long way down the scale and enforcement may be simply impracticable. It may result in a great deal of trans-shipment from larger to smaller lorries and that itself might add to the level of congestion. It is a proposal that needs to be played very carefully.
Finally, there is the problem of what I call environmental equality. It is likely that one of the first groups to seize on the Bill will be those who wish to protect their already rather nice neighbourhoods. One of the consequences of such action is often that traffic, including heavy lorries, is pushed to the rather less nice neighbourhoods in which so many people have to live. While we cannot do much about that in this Bill as it stands, I should like the sponsor of the Bill to say something about it so that we may establish in this short debate the feeling of Parliament on the subject as a guide to the legislators and the operators of the Bill when it is put into effect.
§ 11.56 a.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
Perhaps with your gracious permission, Mr. Speaker, as one of the older Members of the House, before I come to my observations on the Bill I may be allowed to associate myself with what was so fittingly and feelingly said by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Mr. Dykes) about the loss of our friend Tom Price. I knew him from the date of his entry to the House more than 20 years ago and I had my last conversation with him only the day before he died. During all that more than two decades I looked on him with affection as a friend and with respect as a Member. We shall sadly miss his cheerful presence on the Front Bench below the Gangway. There is a keen sense of deprivation on these occasions but also, perhaps, a reminder of the 1803 friendships we form in this place irrespective of party and that for those of us who serve the House the things that unite us are more lasting and more important than those that divide us.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East on his initiative on bringing forward the Bill. It may be more complex than some Private Members' Bills. This is because it is to operate by way of addition and improvement to the elaborate structure of existing road traffic law, and consequently it involves, in what my hon. Friend called its subsidiary clauses, a good deal of legislation by reference. But these necessary defects of form are fully compensated for by the importance of the subject matter.
My hon. Friend seeks to bring an improvement in a sensitive area of our national life. His theme of more effective regulation and restriction of heavy lorries echoes the sentiments and will command the support of millions of our fellow citizens. There can, I suppose, be few hon. Members whose constituencies arc not affected by this problem and few whose constituents have not from time to time made representations to them about it. Certainly I am not one of those few, if indeed they exist.
In my constituency we are well aware of this problem. We are disquieted by the injury caused to the amenities by heavy lorries and apprehensive of its increase. Indeed we have reason to be. In East Hertfordshire we have trunk roads running north from the London Docks carrying heavy lorries, with all their noise, turbulent presence and insistent and offensive charisma, along the A10 and A 11 trunk roads through the heart of my constituency disturbing with their din what was once the rural quiet of our towns and villages—Broxbourne, Hoddesdon, Ware, Puckeridge, Buntingford and more besides. In addition we have heavy lorries bearing their great loads from the East Coast ports of Ipswich and Felixstowe along the A414 disturbing the natural peace of Stanstead Abbots, St. Margarets and other villages.
My constituents do not accept, and no thinking person will accept, the inevitability of such intrusion, carrying as it does the probability and perhaps near certainty of aggravation and intensification. We therefore seek ways and means 1804 of mitigating this injury to the countryside and restraining this threat to the peace of our towns and villages.
For a quarter of a century or so I have been concerned with the provision of bypasses and road improvements in East Hertfordshire. We have substantial progress to show, especially in the welcome extension of the dual carriageway on the A10. In the pipeline we have, or expect to have, the construction of the M11, the Hoddesdon-Ware bypass, the Puckeridge bypass, the Bishop's Stortford east-west bypass, the Buntingford bypass, the Stanstead Abbots bypass and other improvements. But—and here is the rub—appetite grows with what it feeds on. The provision of road improvements without an accompanying reasonable regulation and restriction of road user may be an incentive to the intensification of road user, especially by heavy commercial vehicles, and thereby an aggravation of injury to amenity.
Therefore, what is required in my view is a two-pronged attack on this problem. What is needed is a combination of road improvement with a reasonable regulation and restriction of road user imposed in the interests of amenity and the lives of the residents. It is with the second aspect that the Bill is concerned. The question arises, as with any other measure, whether the Bill is a reasonable and proper means of achieving what is clearly a desirable end. That is a challenge which my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East has successfully met. It is not enough to identify a problem and assume from that the propriety of any proposed solution. Our task is to see whether the solution proposed in the Bill is reasonable by what I might call general town planning and environmental standards.
The whole operation of town planning and environmental safeguards in this small and crowded island is, and must be, as my hon. Friend fairly agreed, a balance. We are inevitably a commercial people. We cannot subordinate all our economic interests to amenity considerations, powerful as they undoubtedly are. We cannot afford to be starry-eyed about these matters. We must acknowledge that some price must be paid for mechanisation and for the advances in the material standards of life which it brings to our people. We 1805 cannot in this context, any more than we can in any other aspect of life, accept all the credits and shrug off the debits. Town planning is, in effect, the pursuit of the highest common factor of what is at once socially and aesthetically desirable and economically practicable. We must consider the matter of road user in that context.
Applying those proper tests, the Bill comes satisfactorily out of them. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East, in moving the Second Reading so clearly, eloquently and persuasively, referred to it as a radical proposal. It is certainly a constructive proposal and not a revolutionary proposal. It complies with the criteria I have suggested. It fits, and is designed to fit, into the existing statutory pattern but to strengthen and improve it where required.
There is already a code for traffic regulation orders in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 as amended by the Transport Act 1968. Those dates may suggest that these matters have been recently under careful consideration and review by the legislature. That is not wholly correct because the 1967 Act was a consolidating measure; in other words, it did not represent the up-to-date, new thinking of Parliament. It merely represented the aggregate of what had been done in preceding years. Therefore, it is proper that we should consider the matter again. We should do so in conformity with our practice in this country, in the broad context of town planning and environmental matters, of evolving our procedures and protections, fashioning them pragmatically to meet our needs as they arise and safeguarding ourselves against dangers as they manifest themselves.
Even in the six years since 1967 the problem has been greatly intensified and the presence of heavy commercial vehicles on our roads has become an increasing menace, as the statistics of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East show. The time is ripe, therefore, for the improvement of our pattern of protection and to strengthen it from the amenity standpoint. The time is ripe because of the greater threat to amenity 1806 from the intensification of road user by heavy lorries, and especially taking account of the implications of the position in the European Economic Community, of which we are now members and by whose regulations we are bound.
But the time is ripe for another reason referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East, namely, that we are on the eve of a new era in local government, making possible, we hope, easier and more effective co-ordination in this as in other respects.
The Bill retains the existing mechanism of the transport regulation order—the main mechanism for the control of vehicle user on our roads—but provides means whereby this instrument can become keener and more effective. The advisory council should act as a help and spur to the Secretary of State to take effective action in the exercise of his direct powers in regard to trunk roads which he holds under the 1967 Act. But, perhaps even more important, the Bill will add to his existing reserve powers over county roads. Under the Bill he will, if he approves the considered proposals of the advisory council, be under an express statutory duty to direct the making of a traffic regulation order. This procedure may seem a little drastic. Nevertheless it will help to ensure, first. that all roads are kept under consideration by an informed and objective body and, secondly, that the advisory council's proposals will not be allowed to suffer the fate of the proposals of so many well-meaning advisory bodies and be relegated to some academic limbo.
The Bill is a practical one. It sets out a clear path and a prescribed route along which appropriate proposals will become effective and executive orders. Perhaps not least important in the context of regulation and restriction of road user, the Bill emphasises the importance, in the criteria of judgment, of amenity considerations, and introduces the zonal or area approach.
For all these reasons I warmly support this measure. All in all I am satisfied that it is a good Bill. It is a Bill which any hon. Member might properly be proud to introduce to this House. It will be a credit to the Statute Book, and I wish it a fair wind.
§ 12.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Tope (Sutton and Cheam)
I begin by tendering apologies on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), who is a co-sponsor of the Bill. Unfortunately, he has an important constituency engagement in Scotland and cannot be here today. Speaking on his behalf and on behalf of my party, I welcome this Bill wholeheartedly and congratulate the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) on his initiative in introducing it.
I believe I am right in saying that my party was the first to incorporate into its official policy the need for some restriction on heavy lorry routes and a ban on any further increase in lorry weights. Nevertheless, I recognise that we have no monopoly in this feeling and that the Bill is an all-party measure. I welcome this, of course.
We accept also that the heavy lorry, rightly or wrongly, is here to stay and that it is necessary for our life as a commercial nation. Nevertheless, it cannot have an unrestricted right to travel wherever it wishes in our closely packed island.
One of the problems of urban areas is that, although there are many roads, most of them are residential roads built before the last war or even before the First World War. They were never meant to take heavy lorries. Their foundations are not suitable for them. In my constituency, like many others, there are roads where water and gas mains are fractured because of the increasing use of them by heavy lorries. The foundations of houses are shaken to bits and windows rattle constantly as lorries thunder by. They are not main roads. They are private residential roads which are often used as short cuts by heavy Continental lorries which are an increasing feature, especially in the south-east of England.
Residential roads are not the places for heavy lorries. Life is becoming intolerable for residents in those roads, especially in the poorer residential roads where the front rooms of houses are so much nearer the carriageway than is the case in richer areas——
§ Mr. Tope
Sutton and Cheam is by no means a rich area. In Sutton and Cheam heavy lorries go through the poorer areas, and many roads in my constituency have heavy lorries thundering within 10 feet of people's front rooms. It is one of the main problems in my constituency, and there is tremendous public support for this Bill.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have a village in my constituency where heavy lorries thunder by within 18 inches of people's front rooms?
§ Mr. Tope
I appreciate the problems in Bridge to which the hon. Gentleman refers. However, I do not want to become involved in an argument about how near a heavy lorry ought to go to someone's front room.
The social and environmental costs of unrestricted lorry routes throught the country far outweigh the increased economic cost of restricting heavy lorries to clearly defined routes where roads are properly built to carry them. Some local authorities have recognised this already but they are far too few in number. We need action on a national basis. I hope that this Bill will be able to do that and that the advisory council which is proposed will be able to advise the Secretary of State for the Environment on how to implement these proposals.
I also support the proposed amendment that there should be some trade union representation on the advisory council. Its absence from the Bill is a grave omission, and I hope that the hon. Member for Harrow, East will comment on it later.
Hon. Members have referred already to the tremendous public support that there is for this measure. This is certainly the case in my constituency. We need new legislation like this to give impetus to the public demand. I am pleased to support the Bill, and I hope that other hon. Members will do so.
§ 12.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Berry (Southgate)
I am very pleased to be able to speak in support of the Bill, especially because it gives me the opportunity, after two years of enforced silence on the subject, to take part in a transport debate once again.
1809 Times have changed. In earlier debates I do not remember seeing quite so many nods of approval from right hon. and hon. Members opposite as there have been today. It is good to see that we are so agreed about this Bill.
I give my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) my support. I admired the way in which he presented his Bill. He took us through the clauses in a helpful and interesting manner, and he seems to have the support of all shades of opinion in the House.
In recent months "lorry" has become almost a nasty word. When we think of lorries we have in mind those which travel down the M1 at excessive speeds, possibly in fog, although we know that the very large majority of lorry drivers are amongst the best in the country. We think also of narrow roads in constituencies like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and of lorries coming up from the Kent coast and passing through narrow village streets. We think of lorries parking in areas where they should not, causing loss of amenity to those living in the roads affected.
The very fact that hardly a newspaper story appears without lorries being referred to as "juggernauts" shows the emotive feeling that there is on the subject. In this connection I praise my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries. He is putting up a tremendous battle in Europe in support of our refusal to allow lorries of a greater axle weight to come into the country. We wish him good fortune in his further discussions.
I am sure that many hon. Members have received letters about this Bill. A great many of those which I have had have attempted to solve the entire problem by advocating that all goods should be sent by rail. Probably Mr. Marsh would like that to happen because it would solve his financial problems overnight. But we know that it is hardly possible. In many cases the railways are not in the right places for goods to be sent from A to B. We must also remember that for historical reasons many railway stations are situated in the centres of our cities and towns and that even if goods were sent by rail there would still be the need for lorry journeys to and 1810 from stations at both ends, which would hardly solve the problem.
The same applies to our ports. In the past our road planners were happy to build what was considered to be a reasonable main road. But having got it to the outside of a town they considered that their job was done and thought nothing about the problem of how cars and lorries were to get from the outside of the town through the streets to the port, the railway centre, and so on. I welcome the new policy being adopted by the Government to ensure that in future roads will go through to the ports.
I welcome the setting up of lorry areas outside towns, particularly on the new motorways, where big lorries are unloaded into smaller lorries and thereby cause less disturbance in the areas through which they have to travel. This follows very much a recommendation in a paper given by the Director of the Paris Institution of Research, in which he said that it is vital to organise freight transport efficiently, particularly the physical deliveries of goods in urban areas. I think that we all appreciate that today.
The recent GLC ban on the parking of lorries in certain parts of London is to be welcomed. I am sure that before too long that ban will be extended to other areas.
Inevitably, as has been demonstrated in earlier speeches, we all have constituency problems. I certainly have. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East referred to the ban which Haringey has instituted in its area. I admire it for doing so. It has been extremely enterprising in getting this private law passed giving it powers to ban lorries parking in its streets at night. However, I have slightly mixed feelings as my borough of Enfield, particularly Southgate, borders on Haringey. We are concerned lest the lorries which are no longer allowed to park in Haringey will come over the border and park in our streets. So far this has not been happening. Of course, the answer will be for the ban to be extended into my borough. I hope that will happen before too long.
If we ban the parking of lorries in streets we must provide lorry parks. Lorry drivers, like other people, must spend the night somewhere, so we must provide parks for their lorries.
1811 The North Circular Road at one of its narrowest points passes through my constituency. Along that road, which is used a great deal by lorries, there are cafés, and so on, where lorry drivers like to stop and sometimes spend the night, but there are no parks nearby for their lorries although the borough and the GLC are having talks with a view to trying to provide some. Inevitably, lorries are parked in residential streets off the main road. I understand that the problem in Southgate is small compared with that in other parts of the borough, particularly Enfield, East where there is a large industrial estate. The percentage may be small, but it needs only a few lorries to make the area unpleasant at night. Therefore, I am pressing hard for parks to be provided.
We also have the problem of roads being used as through routes for lorries, particularly those coming from the north and the Midlands towards the docks. One particular route is Chase Side-Bourne Hill, and so on, which is used by lorries heading towards the Great Cambridge Road roundabout. Althought the new Ringway 3 is under construction, I fear that that will continue to happen.
Another problem in my constituency involves a narrow road which is used regularly by British Rail lorries on a coal run. The situation is better now. I hope that Clause 4 will cover this point. The shortest distance between two points should not be the only criterion by which journeys are planned. They should also take into account the roads used and even if it means going a mile or more extra along other wider and more suitable roads, those roads should, where possible, be used.
I welcome the idea of the advisory council and the role which local authorities will play. I appreciate the point made by the hon. Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) about trade union representations. My experience on transport Bills is that writing in particular categories of people makes things more difficult. However, it is a good point and I hope it will be considered.
There are other reasons why we should support the Bill. First, there is the question of noise. A recent survey showed that one-third of the people interviewed 1812 considered noise the most adverse environmental hazard. The noise of lorries going through narrow streets and towns and particularly starting up early in the morning before many of us get up must be extremely disturbing to those living nearby.
There is also the question of traffic as a whole. We should take serious note that it is now 10 years since Prof. Buchanan, in his very important report, "Traffic in Towns", published in 1963, said:Traffic which does not start or end its journey in a town should not be allowed to pass through its sreets.We still have not learned that lesson. I hope that in future Bills of this kind we shall make considerable progress in that regard.
Historic buildings also come into this matter. I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend has included the point about amenities. A recent Civic Trust report referred to the dangers created by heavy lorries for both old buildings and the roads in which they are situated. These are areas through which, under the Bill, lorries will no longer be able to pass.
The problem of town centres is serious. Before the recent United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, four working parties were set up to prepare papers for the British delegation. One of them, under Lady Dartmouth's chairmanship, in its report, "How do you want to live", made the comment:Local authorities should not allow town centres to be used as through roads to traffic.We ought to take this matter very seriously indeed.
From Greek and Roman times and throughout the centuries since, all our towns have been planned basically not to have traffic in their centres. Times have changed and that is no longer possible, but I believe that the Bill will provide powers to bring this about again.
In supporting the Bill I am conscious of the point that has been made that lorries tend to go more to areas of bad environment than to good areas. However, when driving here yesterday evening I saw four of the largest foreign lorries I have ever seen parked in Bel-grave Square, which is not covered by the GLC ban, but perhaps it soon will be.
1813 The Bill is opportune. The time is certainly ripe for the Government to take serious note of the points which have been made. I hope that they will support the Bill and allow it to go to Committee and become the law.
In 1971 I went to the NATO Conference on Urban Cities in Indianapolis. The president, Mr. Irwin Miller, when opening that conference, said: "Do not judge cities just by their buildings and their roads. Ask yourself whether your city is a good place in which to be born and to live." Because I believe the Bill will improve our cities and make them better places in which to be born and to live I give it my support.
§ 12.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
My contribution will be brief because we have some very important business to follow this Bill and I do not wish to impede its progress. Neither do I wish to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry) because I cannot help admiring his complete change-round since our days on the 1968 Transport Bill Committee.
I welcome the Bill not so much for what it provides precisely in its clauses but for the way it has been introduced. The moderate introduction of the Bill and the moderate sentences supplied with it by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) certainly set the tone and pattern in which I should like this measure to be discussed.
I believe that in many ways this could be the last chance for the road haulage industry to show that it is willing to cooperate. If we cannot get some sensible round-the-table discussion about the Bill, the road haulage industry must face the prospect of more Draconian regulations and restrictions.
In this context I am pleased to see the research that has already been carried out into this problem by bodies like the Freight Transport Association in its studies in Watford and Swindon. I hope that this kind of detailed research into exactly what we can do with vehicles like heavy lorries which must have access to towns will be extended. It is in that spirit that I hope that the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association will treat the Bill.
1814 I cannot help feeling that hon. Members on both sides have failed to get the problem into proper perspective. All too often we neglect the convenient fact that 88 per cent. of freight now goes by road. Only 5 per cent. of the total freight receipts in this country accrue to British Rail. In other words, road transport is a very major partner indeed.
I normally accord the hon. Member for Harrow, East a great deal of respect where figures are concerned but he has them slightly wrong in this case. Since 1966 there has been a drop in the numbers of heavy vehicles—those over 8 tons unladen or 16 tons gross, which is the important category. Once the licensing of operators gets into full swing and we achieve the sort of flexibility for which it was intended, I foresee an even greater drop. So we are dealing with less than 2 per cent. of the heavy commercial vehicle population. Nevertheless, to the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) and even the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope), that 2 per cent. is crucial.
We are not talking about total opposition to the lorry. I think that most hon. Members so far have recognised that we must have the lorry in some form. We are arguing about where the lorry should be allowed to go. I hope that in Committee, and I believe that it will be a worthwhile Committee stage, we shall be talking not about imposing a total ban on lorries but of putting restrictions on the places where lorries, for environmental and amenity reasons and for reasons related to our standard of living, shall not go.
Many hon. Members will talk about shifting traffic back to the railways. I was intrigued to hear the hon. Member for Southgate say that his constituents were being disturbed by railway lorries. That shows that putting the freight back on the railways is not perhaps the answer.
§ Mr. Huckfield
I was about to make that precise point. If we are now to shift more traffic on to the railways it will be necessary to expand the activities of the National Freight Corporation. 1815 which includes National Carriers, and, I hope, to provide for further nationalisation of private road haulage. That is the way sensibly to move traffic back on to the railways.
The advisory council will be perhaps the most useful vehicle ultimately to emanate from the Bill. Speaking as a member of the Transport and General Workers Union and, indeed, as a onetime lorry driver, I hope we shall not have just union participation but lorry driver union participation on the council. It is important to get the opinions of the men who have to handle 32 tons gross because, if my conclusions are correct, handling 32 tons gross round many of the diversions which have been posted in some of our cities is difficult. One of the reasons why some heavy lorry drivers may not be using designated diversions is simply that one cannot handle anything much over 22 tons gross round some of the diversions. That applies to some TIR routes across France and Italy. It may be that after leaving the autoroute it is impossible to follow some of the designated TIR routes to the Mont Blanc Tunnel, and the only excuse the lorry driver can give for not using them is to plead to the police that lie does not understand them.
I want the council to be meaningful, consisting of people who know what the job is on the road, not just in theoretical environmental terms. Of course, the whole of this hinges on enforcement, and the logic of effective enforcement is transshipment. If there is to be the GLC ban on 40-footers, like the ban on heavy vehicles in the centre of Oxford, the logic is to have trans-shipment and transshipment depôts. But there is a cost to trans-shipment. It probably works out at more than £2 a ton, and I wonder whether some of those who are advocating environmental improvements realise who will have to pay for the increased food costs and the increased distribution costs. I cannot help feeling that many of the people who will be benefiting from the improved amenities will not be those most affected by the increased food costs.
So, while I recognise that effective enforcement means trans-shipment, I hope that hon. Members realise that it can be costly and it may not be automatically beneficial to the environment because it 1816 will mean larger numbers of smaller lorries—a dubious benefit. I hope that in Committee, therefore, the hon. Member for Harrow, East will reconsider the proposal for red zones and banning everything over 3 tons gross, because that involves about 450,000 vehicles, including dust carts, lorries which carry milk churns, and all sorts of small vehicles which are vital to our way of life and the standard of living to which we have become accustomed.
I know that both the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association feel strongly on this matter. I do not necessarily advocate all of their case, but they have a strong argument about making exceptions. It is a big jump to move from the relevant provisions of the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1967 to the amenity provisions of Clauses 4 and 5. In the 1967 Act there is reference to banning vehicles because of the possible danger that a building might fall down. The Bill proposes banning vehicles because the building exists. I know that the hon. Member for Harrow, East is conscious of the point, and I hope that everyone will realise what a big jump is involved from the sections of the 1967 Act to the Bill.
On the provisions relating to verges and overnight parking, I hope that the hon. Member recognises that the logic of banning parking on verges and pavements—I fully support him in that—is to have better hauliers' premises, better lorry parks and, above all, better overnight accommodation. I hope that the hon. Member will be just as stringent in insisting that no lorry driver in this country shall be required to tolerate sleeper cabs. As soon as the bans come into effect, if they ever come into effect, the result will be that large numbers of TIR wagons and even some of our big boys will be parking up and kipping up outside the towns in their sleeper cabs. So the corollary of what the hon. Member is seeking to do is to make sure that the driver has a place to sleep and that that place is not in his cab. That is most important, apart from which I hope that such persons will be fined more than £50 because with some of the cargoes that they carry it is worth being fined £50 to be able to park the lorry.
1817 If we are to tighten up on those who break the law—there are still too many pirates and cowboys about—we must not reintroduce quantity licensing but, rather, tighten up the procedure for applications for operators' licences. We are still at the stage when any Tom. Dick or Harry with £100 and a company registration—one can find them in the London Gazette month by month and week by week—who fancies that he wants to do a bit of haulage on the side can do so without difficulty.
We must ensure that everyone who applies for an operator's licence is stringently screened, and, if he gets his licence, is told that if he does not behave himself it can be taken away. If there are persistent offences against some of the proposals in the Bill, I hope that these in themselves will be taken as ground for withdrawing an operator's licence.
I end as I began. I welcome the Bill not so much for its precise content, for I believe that in many ways, on enforcement, on the exceptions, and on other matters, it will be difficult to work, but because I regard it as a vehicle for discussion, and I look forward to an invigorating Committee stage.
§ 12.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
I also am much saddened by the news of the death of Tom Price. One of the most pleasant places in this building is the chess room, and I have had the good fortune to spend a number of hours with Tom Price in that room. He was always extremely friendly to me. I know that I speak for all right hon. and hon. Members when I say that we shall deeply miss his presence in this place.
§ Mr. Awdry
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) on raising this important issue and I support the Bill with enthusiasm. If there is one issue in these controversial times on which we all agree, it is that the heavy lorry and the motor car pose profound problems which deeply affect the lives of all. The annual report of the Transport and Road Research Laboratory tells us that in 1969 there were 148 million vehicles licensed in Great Britain. In 1980 there will be 23 million, 1818 an increase of 55 per cent., and it seems that by the year 2010, if we ever get there, the number will have risen to 36 million, an increase of 144 per cent. over 1969. What is more, by the year 2010 the number of heavy and medium-size goods vehicles, so it seems, will have increased by 100 per cent.
If that were not enough, on top of all this we are told that the number of visitors who will come to this country—at present, the figure is 5 million a year—will rise to 25 million a year by the end of the century. Many of these people will bring motor cars and many will go about in coaches. All this will greatly add to the problem of congestion.
Every aspect of our national life is bound to be affected by this vast increase in traffic. It will alter the character of all our towns and villages. It will change the face of the countryside. It will destroy some homes. It will destroy health and destroy amenity. That is no exaggeration. In this connection I quote from a debate in the other place in June last year, in which the Bishop of Chester said—the quotation is quite short but well worthy of attention——
§ Mr. Awdry
I certainly may. He said:What is going to determine man's fate? Is he going to control the machines which he has invented or are the machines going to control him? There is an unlimited number of motor cars and vast areas of motorway. Is this the kind of life we want, and, if we want it, is it the kind of life we ought to have? I hold that the motor car can be a great blessing or a great curse. If it is not controlled it will gradually but ruthlessly destroy the things in life which we value most greatly. I believe that man can control a machine which he has made and that he ought to do so. But I believe also that we are at a moment in history when, if we do not act swiftly, we may very well lose the battle."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, House of Lords, 14th June 1972; Vol 331, c. 991.]Are we acting swiftly enough? I realise that today we are discussing heavy lorries, not the problem of the motor car, but the two problems are closely linked. I was interested to read the report of the Expenditure Committee on urban transport planning which was recently published. Several very interesting proposals are made in that report.
I have come to the conclusion that in due course we shall have to accept a 1819 method of road pricing in our cities so that the private motorist will bear the true cost of using the roads.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
May I put the matter of procedure right? I did not want to stop the hon. Gentleman while he was in the middle of his quotation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Come off it."] I am sorry to take up a moment or two, but it is the rule that one may not quote the words of a Member of the other place unless he is a Minister. That is all.
§ Mr. Awdry
I am greatly obliged to the hon. Gentleman. If he reads HANSARD tomorrow he will find the quotation there, and I am glad that I gave it because I consider that it puts the problem in the right perspective. This is a vital issue for all of us, including the hon. Gentleman, and I am sure he appreciates that it is of greater importance than a procedural point, although, as I say, I am grateful to him for drawing my attention to the rule of the House.
I was talking about road pricing. I realise that this will be a difficult political decision for any Government to take, and I share the Expenditure Committee's view that more research is necessary. However, the time is fast approaching when motorists and the general public will accept severe restrictions on the motorist because a situation of total chaos is fast developing in our towns and cities. I am sure that all hon. Members present will agree with that. However, the time is not fast approaching when the general public resent the intrusion of the heavy lorry in our towns and villages. That time has already arrived. The public regard it as an affront and they are genuinely angry about it. I imagine that all hon. Members will be able to illustrate that from their own constituencies.
It certainly makes me very distressed and anxious when I see large lorries shaking an old town such as Malmesbury to its very foundations. I am lucky in having a number of beautiful Wiltshire villages in my constituency and there, too, the quiet and peace has been shattered in recent years. I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East and I know that he will have the support and good will of millions throughout the country.
1820 It would not be altogether fair to the haulage industry, however—the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) referred to this—if we did not point out one or two basic facts which may well have been overlooked by the general public. At present, over 85 per cent.—that is the figure I have; I think that the hon. Member for Nuneaton said 80 per cent.—of freight is carried by road, and there is no practical alternative. The railways are able to deal with long hauls and certain bulk commodities, but lorries have to make deliveries to individual factories, commercial premises, warehouses and shops.
It follows, therefore, that lorries will have to continue to use many very narrow, often residential, restricted roads which are unsuitable for them. But without the lorries there would be no goods in the shops, and without the lorries there would be no jobs in the factories. For some years, therefore, there will be no alternative to allowing heavy lorries to use some unsuitable roads, although the road building programme is year by year bringing constant improvement.
I am convinced nevertheless that it should be an aim of the highest priority for both national and local government to try to ensure that heavy lorries, whether British or Continental, whether 20 tons, 30 tons or more, should be totally excluded from any road or any place where they ought not to be. I know that those concerned in the road haulage industry, who are very responsible people, agree with that, and they are co-operating with the Government and the local authorities on experimental schemes to deal with the problem.
For that reason I support Clauses 4 to 7 of the Bill which I am sure will make a useful contribution towards solving the problem. I welcome in particular Clause 6 which will help to prevent the parking of lorries on verges. At times, though not always, lorries are parked with some discourtesy and a lack of understanding for people's feelings, and in addition they cause damage to footpaths and verges.
I am a little less happy about Clauses 1 to 3, which will set up the advisory council. There is today a tendency to set up a growing number of bodies of this kind. It is interesting that all the local government associations, apparently, do not welcome this part of the Bill, and 1821 neither does the Road Haulage Association. I do not see the need for creating this new machine, which I believe would be expensive, cumbersome and not particularly democratic.
The prime responsibility for urban transport must rest with the local authorities. Under local government reorganisation they should be better equipped to handle the problem. I am very glad that the Department of the Environment is carrying out a comprehensive study of ways to restrict routes by local authorities. In the end, however, the decisions will have to be taken by the new local authorities themselves.
The great cry throughout the country is for more participation in national and local government. That is why so many protest groups come to the House and march about with placards. We need to find a way in which the whole community can share in the shaping of our future. People today are far more interested in the quality of life than ever before. No subject interests our constituents more than transport. The problems we are discussing will be live and urgent issues for the new local authorities and a great challenge to their ingenuity and determination.
Therefore, I think that the Bill will be a useful and helpful measure, but in the end it will not be the national Government but the local councils, urged on by local protests and pressure groups, that will have to solve this difficult problem.
§ 12.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I join hon. Members on both sides in paying a sincere tribute to the late Tom Price. I was very fortunate in knowing him intimately for some 25 years, as a trade union official before he entered the House and sitting here with him day by day on the same bench. We all knew him as a most forthright, honest, sincere man, not afraid to say what he believed but never offending or upsetting anyone when he said it. We all know that when Tom was on his feet shouting, he genuinely believed what he said.
The tragedy is even greater because he was here quite recently and we were all laughing and joking with him. It is a great tragedy to those he has left behind, but they can say that they were fortunate in knowing a really great man.
1822 I am pleased to support the Bill. Like some hon. Members on both sides, I foresaw the problem for years and years before it reached its present proportions and I tried to have action taken. I am not making a party political point, because I originally took up this matter when the first post-war Labour Government were in power. I found then and since that each Department and each authority shoves its head ostrich-like into the sand and does nothing. The authorities say that the problem is not yet severe. They see it coming but they shut their eyes. As we used to say in the Army, they pass the buck. Therefore, over a period of years a deliberate build-up of the problem has been allowed by the neglect and maladministration of various Departments and Ministers under both Governments.
A problem that has not been mentioned is one that affects the port areas and the industrial and working-class areas such as mine in the older cities. I represent Stratford in the East End of London where we have narrow roads and streets. In places the road is no wider than the distance between the two Front Benches in the House. The front doors of the houses are only 4 or 5 yards apart. Lorries are parked right outside, not outside the driver's own street door but outside someone else's. Because the road is so narrow the drivers park fully on the pavement, with the result that people often cannot get in and out of their front door and can see no light through their front window.
My complaint is that action is often not taken over obstruction because it is claimed, with some degree of truth, that the police are overstretched and undermanned and cannot give the matter the attention that they would probably like to give to it. The problem is serious, because in many roads and streets in my constituency public service vehicles such as ambulances and fire engines are prevented from getting in and out by the parked lorries
When we take the matter up with the police they say "We do our best, but what can we do?" But the strange thing is that it does not happen in Parliament Square, the Mall, outside Buckingham Palace or in Whitehall. When the authorities want to take action, 1823 they can and do take it. I was surprised to hear my Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry), speaking about Belgrave Square. We are progressing if we find that Belgrave Square has lorries parked in the street. I have never seen them. Something must have gone wrong, because usually the salubrious neighbourhoods are free from that sort of trouble.
One point of criticism I have of the Bill concerns enforcement. There are now about 2,500 rules and regulations affecting all types of vehicles. I challenge any hon. Member to know what they are, let alone give some idea how they operate. How many hon. Members have been stopped, and how frequently, for a check of their tyres, their lights, the height of the lights and the bumpers, and for compliance with a hundred and one other regulations? Very rarely are the regulations enforced. I have been told by a high-ranking police official that usually the police wait until there is an accident or until another law has been broken before making a check. That is like shutting the stable door after the horse has gone.
What is needed is a special police enforcement division, probably made up of retired police officers or officers who have become physically unfit for normal police duties. Their job would be to deal with all aspects of road transport, including checking whether vehicles are insured, whether the tyres are bald and so on. Unless something like that is done, there will be the same lack of enforcement of the Bill. I have asked every authority concerned to take action on unlicensed and uninsured vehicles, vehicles having dangerous parts or pieces jutting out, and so on. The only time we get any action is if someone "blows his top".
It is a pity that the Prime Minister does not blow his top more often. If he did we might get action. However, within a few weeks of the Prime Minister blowing his top the GLC comes forward and says that it will do something. Apparently Sir Desmond Plummer wants more rules, regulations and more legislative power. But the fact is that he is not using the power which he now has. Therefore, I am not sure whether I can agree to his having further power.
1824 My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) mentioned the problem of lorry drivers sleeping in the cabs of their lorries. I have tried to get that matter dealt with. In my constituency, at Wanstead Flats near Epping Forest, lorry drivers who are not local people park their lorries and sleep in the cabs. The streets are their toilets. The Wanstead Flats and the area where the kiddies play are the places which are abused. The matter has been taken up with all and sundry. The local health people say that they have no power because the lorries are road vehicles. The police say that they have no power. If the practice were made illegal, that would go some way towards easing the problem. I hope that there will be a tightening up of the registration of vehicles in order to deal with dumping.
I should like consideration to be given to ways of preventing the juggernauts coming here. What will be the position if we lose the day at Brussels and we cannot get our way with restrictions on heavy lorries and juggernauts? We have lost on everything else for which we have negotiated. We have lost on bacon, eggs and apples. We were told that the cost of living and of this, that and the other would not go up. In fact, it has all happened.
We are told that we will not accept the juggernauts, but we may lose the day on that issue as well. As I understand it, we can use our veto only if we can claim that what we are opposing is against our national interests. However, all the countries of the Common Market have these juggernauts. Therefore they can logically claim that as they are adversely affected we shall be no more adversely affected. If the Bill is passed and we bring in regulations which specify stringent and enforceable measures, can I be assured that Brussels will not be able to upset that?
I understand that we are not allowed to do anything in this House which might conflict with what Brussels eventually decides. We may find ourselves in the stupid position of having every hon. Member saying that he is in favour of the Bill, supporting it in Committee, and then finding Brussels telling us "We are sorry but you will have to change all that. We are not accepting it as it conflicts with the Brussels position."
1825 I ask for an assurance that if we pass the Bill there can be no question of Brussels telling us what we can or cannot do.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
I join in the tributes to the late Tom Price. I remember in June 1970, when I first entered this House, that I was approached by a gentleman whom I did not know who turned out to be Tom Price. He introduced himself as the only other old boy of the Salford grammar school along with myself. He extended a welcome to me, and, as with every other new hon. Member, he extended a friendship which went beyond party. He will be missed and will prove difficult to replace.
I warmly welcome the Bill for all the reasons so eloquently expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). I quarrel with my hon. Friend on only one small point, a peccadillo, when he made reference to the parking of heavy lorries on the pavements. He said that there were regulations to prevent driving on pavements but not parking on pavements. I am not sure how it is possible to park on a pavement without first driving on to it and subsequently driving off it. However, I am happy to join him in the prohibition of parking on pavements if that is necessary in addition to the present regulations.
I pay tribute to the fertility of the imagination of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). The hon. Member managed to make reference to the EEC and the difficulty which we might face because we cannot pass legislation in this House which will be subsequently vetoed by future Common Market legislation. As I understand it, we are proscribed from passing Bills or Acts in this House which conflict with existing Common Market regulations. However, since the problem we are discussing is common throughout the eight other countries in the partnership of the Nine, I would be delighted, if we pass the Bill, to see it pursued in the other eight countries.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
We know that there are discussions now going on regarding juggernauts. Fortunately, our 1826 Minister is putting up a strong fight and he has postponed it for the time being. If we are to bring in some legislation to prevent juggernauts coming into the country and later the EEC agrees that juggernauts should be allowed in, we would, as I understand it, have to give way.
§ Mr. Fidler
I take the point which has been raised but it misses the mark. We are dealing not with the entry of juggernauts into this country or their use on the main highways, but with regulations restricting the use of juggernauts on certain roads. That is rather different.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North said that there are many reguiations already in force, and, as so many are not enforced, there does not seem to be much purpose in introducing new legislation and restrictions which may not be maintained. From my experience as a magistrate in North-West England, which may be a little different from the hon. Gentleman's experience in the great metropolis, many cases have come before me concerning dangerous parts of vehicles and breaches of other regulations to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. Even if there are insufficient prosecutions of that nature, I make so bold as to suggest that there are a great number, and far more than has been suggested by the hon. Gentleman. We have no reason for not pressing on with these regulations if, as indeed they are, they are important.
We have dealt mainly in this excellent debate with the problems on the highways. I do not want to go deeply into what has already been discussed about the clogging of the centres of our towns, especially the not-so-large towns and cities throughout the country, and the snarling-up of traffic and the dreadful inconveniences caused by heavy vehicles. I am concerned more with the by-ways than with the highways. I have a problem in my constituency which I expect is being experienced in many constituencies, if not every other constituency. Off the main road from Manchester to Bury there is a small road called Heaton Fold.
§ Mr. Fidler
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will wish to raise it in Committee, but I am raising this matter to illustrate a general point. This road running off the main road has alongside it on one side a row of terraced houses occupied by people of modest means. The other side of the road contains the back gardens of large houses on the main road. Unhappily, there operates in that road a provision merchant——
§ Mr. Fidler
I am quite capable of making my speech in my own way, but if the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) wishes to be offensive I shall not descend to his level but shall accommodate him by making an even lengthier speech.
As I was saying, the provision dealer to whom I have referred appears to have been in business from days before it was necessary to obtain approval from the local planning authority. In recent years the local residents have seen a great increase in the number of large vehicles that deliver goods at these premises. They are the lorries and vans calling at those premises from sugar dealers, provision merchants, flour wholesalers and the like. I have received complaints from all the residents that the vehicles are damaging the streets and pavements alongside the houses, and, indeed, are damaging the very houses themselves, their roofs, foundations and walls. This is not merely a parking problem but is causing physical damage to the properties.
I called a round table conference this week to discuss these matters. We discovered from the discussions that the local authority's powers are too limited to deal with the problem. There has been a proposal to ban all parking on this stretch of road, which will deprive residents of their undoubted right to park in front of their own premises. Consideration is being given to the alternative of banning parking between the hours of 8.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. so that during that time heavy lorries will not be allowed to park, nor, incidentally, will local residents.
This proposal has been opposed by the transport users as impracticable. How are we to deal with the difficulties faced by 1828 people who live in by-ways off main roads and whose properties suffer physical damage and consequent loss of amenity, and when local authorities are powerless to deal with the problem?
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
This problem could be dealt with now, because the police have general powers to stop obstruction. We all know that they have powers to stop demonstrators in Whitehall and in the Mall, but they do not use the powers which they undoubtedly have to take similar action in respect of obstruction in local areas.
§ Mr. Fidler
I am grateful for that intervention, but the situation is not that simple. The police can remove offenders and the local authority can ban parking completely, but this affects the undoubted rights of residents to park in front of their premises.
I was delighted to read the following passage in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill:In addition the Bill makes provision for the prohibition of heavy commercial vehicles from parking on verges and footways and enables drivers of overloaded heavy commercial vehicles to be required to remove the vehicles to a suitable place where they can be unloaded.I believe that the Bill, if enacted, will mean that residents will no longer be deprived of their rights and that their peace of mind will be restored because of the absence of heavy vehicles. There will be no damage to their houses and they will be able to obtain access to their own properties, even if it means that commercial operators in the area will have to find alternative premises.
I support the Bill because my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East has sought to deal with a problem which affects many thousands of my constituents and, I am sure, many other people in the country. I hope that if the Bill goes into Committee attention will be paid to the importance of local authorities using the powers given to them under the Bill. Too often local authorities tend not to offend local susceptibilities and perhaps to consider the interests of commercial operators rather than the overriding interests of residents, or vice versa. One of the most attractive features of the Bill is that it will remove from local authorities the dilemma of 1829 having to decide between opposing interests, and will make it possible to bring peace of mind to those who seriously deserve it.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Bradley (Leicester, North-East)
I hope that at the outset I shall be allowed to express my sense of profound sorrow at the passing of Mr. Tom Price. We shall miss him very much and also his many engaging interventions which enlivened many a debate in this House. We have all suffered a severe loss by his passing.
The House will welcome this opportunity of discussing one of the great social and environmental issues of today. We are grateful to the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) for having drawn attention to this important topic and for the lucid manner in which he outlined the difficult provisions of a tricky Bill.
On both sides we have made common cause recently in reflecting public anxiety over the increasing number of heavier and larger lorries on our roads. The prospect of even weightier vehicles arriving from the Continent has alarmed all those who care for amenity values and decent standards. We wish the Minister for Transport Industries well in his discussions in Brussels and hope that he will arrive home with a sensible solution to the juggernaut problem.
There is overwhelming evidence that a vast number of villages and small towns suffer from noise, pollution, vibration and congestion, to say nothing of personal injury arising from the mounting commercial traffic in our highways. The problems of inner London are well known and few will quarrel with the recent decision by the Greater London Council to ban 40 feet lorries in the centre of London. This decision was based on a comprehensive vehicle study which discovered that 85 per cent. of vehicles that were watched had no business at all in London. Only 15 per cent. of these lorries had proper commercial interests in the centre of the city; the others were merely passing through. Clearly the GLC is approaching the matter in the right manner with a view to restrictions.
The damage that is being done to our environment and the centre of our cities 1830 has been recognised by the Department. In its evidence to the Expenditure Committee which considered urban transport planning the Department said:Goods vehicles add to congestion, both when moving and when delivering at the kerb. Heavy goods vehicles contribute substantially to traffic noise and visible exhaust pollution, they are intrusive on the urban scene (particularly when parked or moving in residential streets) and they can cause problems through vibration, particularly to historic buildingsHaving considered the evidence of not only the Department of the Environment but many other interested parties, as part of its recommendations the Committee added its own powerful support to the principles underlying the Bill by saying:We therefore recommend that local authorities should be further required to lay down specific routes for heavy lorries to follow and should be encouraged to establish special parks for the overnight garaging of heavy vehicles in their areasI am sure, therefore, that it is right that the House should welcome the basic idea of the Bill and impose restrictions where appropriate. But we must not be misled by generalisations which, if adopted, would lead us into immense practical difficulties carrying serious repercussions for remote areas depending on roadborne supplies.
I was interested in the description by the hon. Member for Harrow, East of the centrepiece of the Bill's administrative mechanism—the suggestion that an advisory council be set up with the various duties which have been outlined. He seemed to recognise that his chosen instrument for achieving the objectives, to which we all subscribe, would not be well received in some traffic management circles. I think he is absolutely right to sense that response, particularly from local authorities.
The hon. Member went on to play down the role and the possible impact of his suggested advisory council and its relationships with local authorities. Certainly local authorities will need convincing that there is good purpose in interposing such an advisory council between them and the Secretary of State. Their freedom of action could well be circumscribed by such a body. The suggestion in the Bill that there should be zoning, and the phrase issuch parts of Great Britainas the Council "thinks fit", for prohibiting the entry of vehicles could certainly 1831 be useful for national parks, but I am certain the hon. Member will appreciate that it could also lead to serious practical difficulties in some remoter rural areas, leading inevitably to exemptions and perhaps to sheer unworkability. No one would object to through-traffic restrictions being imposed; they could well be acceptable. But the Bill suggests a total ban. We shall need to look at that closely in Committee.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that conflict between the advisory council and local authorities could emerge. As many of us feel that the latter know best precisely where their problems are in this connection, it seems unfortunate that in the schedule the local authorities are not specified as a group able to become members of the advisory council. It seems to add insult to injury when part II of the schedule suggests that local authorities should pay for the activities of the council itself, although they are not to be allowed, apparently, to appoint members to it.
I much appreciate and take immediately the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) that if we are looking at the composition of the advisory council there needs to be proper authorised trade union representation, because nobody's view is more valuable in matters of this kind than that of the lorry driver himself. In further examination of these matters we may well find that adequate powers already exist to improve the situation vis-à-vis local authorities. The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 outlines a number of them. The difficulty lies in the exercising and enforcement of existing powers.
We have all had experience of our own local authorities being reluctant to be stern with the overnight parking of lorries in residential areas. I get a considerable correspondence from my constituents about this abominable nuisance in the part of Leicester that I represent and the authority there seems to rely principally on persuasion to arrive at a satisfactory result rather than on the more vigorous use of existing powers. Clearly, we shall want to give our attention to this matter. The Expenditure Committee itself formed the conclusion that local authorities had been slow to implement their powers. It said 1832 specifically that it believed that this was a major problem and that Parliament should be required to empower authorities to lay down specific routes for heavy lorries and establish special parks for the overnight garaging of heavy vehicles.
In Committee the Opposition will assist in every way we can to provide such additional powers as may be needed to achieve the objectives. But, whatever the local attempts, there is a national need to develop a network of specific routes for lorries. The discussions understood to be taking place between the Department and interested parties should proceed as urgently as possible.
I remind the Minister that we already have a system of special heavy goods traffic routes in this country—and we call it the railway. On that network 1,000-ton juggernauts move about without inconveniencing anybody or worsening the environment. This system offers one of the ways in which we could provide a more sensible solution to our congestion problems and the distribution of the transport resources. The railway system already exists. It is under-used. Its capacity could be developed without any major upheaval and with a considerable saving to the taxpayer.
Irrespective of the Bill's merits or demerits of detail—and we all acknowledge that it has some of those—the Minister could shift some traffic from road to rail forthwith by invoking the quantity licensing provisions of the 1968 Transport Act which his Government, for the most doctrinaire reasons, as early as July 1970, one month after taking office, said they would not implement. The Government have reversed many of their doctrines since taking office, and this is one of the few bits remaining. The removal of the prohibition on the quantity licensing provisions from the 1968 Act would help enormously in removing some of the offensive, large, inconvenient, cumbrous loads from road to rail. A great opportunity exists for the Under-Secretary to announce the acceptance of a principle which, though it would shift only a tiny fraction from the roads, would nevertheless substantially improve the budgeting prospects and the financial results of British Railways.
I am sure, too, that, inside or outside the scope of the Bill, the Minister must be disturbed about the series of near 1833 disastrous tanker accidents that we have recently had, involving oil, chemicals and other dangerous liquids and substances. A survey conducted by the Association of River Authorities from the middle of 1969 to the end of 1970 recorded no fewer than 200 accidents causing or threatening river pollution. The consequences of that pollution were limited by prompt and effective action by the river authorities, but there are serious risks. It may not always be possible to take such action. Accidents can, clearly, happen at specially dangerous points such as bridges or the elevated sections of urban motorways.
What are the Government doing to promote preventive action in that respect? Does the Bill provide part of the answer in pointing to designated lorry routes, or does the answer lie in vehicle design or in the transference of these loads to the rail rather than their continuing conveyancing by road? If we cannot have the answer to these problems from the Minister today, we will use every opportunity that presents itself in Committee to pursue these matters constructively, positively and, I hope, helpfully.
This is an important subject. There is a strong case for reasonable restrictions on lorry parking and routing. There are, clearly, serious practical problems with a Bill which could affect the disposition of no fewer than 450,000 assorted vehicles, including dustcarts, road sweepers and mobile shops. There will need to be radical amendments to the propositions which have been put forward, as the hon. Member for Harrow, East has acknowledged. Given good will, we ought to be able to make a valuable contribution to the improvement of this admittedly difficult situation.
§ 1.32 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Keith Speed)
It might be helpful if I were to intervene at this point.
Before dealing with the Bill, may I on behalf of the Government express our sense of loss and sorrow at the death of Toni Price. I had many dealings with him on the Local Government Bill, where he was a great champion of a number of problems in his Lancashire constituency, which I know well because I contested 1834 the St. Helen's seat, not far away. It is tragic that on the day before this important Bill was to be debated he, as one of its sponsors and someone interested in road transport matters, should have died so suddenly. He was a very independent-minded man. We all feel a sense of loss.
I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) and his fellow sponsors upon introducing a Bill on a subject which, as hon. Members have said, is of such considerable consequence to the preservation of the environment in our towns and countryside. I am particularly glad that hon. Members have not so far concentrated exclusively on towns, because there are many problems in villages connected with this Bill.
My hon. Friend has spoken eloquently, moderately and constructively. This is an issue in which it is easy for emotion to take over, and when that happens reason sometimes gets lost. My hon. Friend talked about the conflicting considerations, and this is certainly true. Before I speak directly about the machinery and the provisions of the Bill I want to remind the House of the present framework of law under which heavy lorry traffic is regulated and the policies which the Government are pursuing, so that the House may form a clearer judgment on the legislative changes which would be involved if the Bill became law.
The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 is the main statute which embodies most of the powers which are relevant to our purposes today. The Act already gives local authorities wide powers to restrict the use of roads in their area by vehicles of any class. But it constrains them in using those powers to have regard to the reasonable needs of access to premises. It provides that, where a restriction on traffic would have the effect of denying access to premises for more than eight hours in 24, such regulations may be made only for the defined purposes of safety or the improvement of traffic flow, and shall require the consent of the Secretary of State. Thus, a balance is struck between the legitimate needs of the owners of premises to be serviced by heavy lorries and the pressures that may develop on behalf of the community as a whole to curtail the intrusion of heavy lorry traffic into unsuitable areas.
1835 It is the Government's view that any disturbance of this balance should be approached with great caution. There is a tendency in some quarters to take a somewhat emotional view of the heavy lorry—"the juggernaut" as it is called. It is said it should be confined to a strait jacket of prescribed routes, ideally, I suspect, routes which do not impinge on any human habitation. As many hon. Members have pointed out, this is an unrealistic view. Heavy lorries are essential to the life of the community. There has been a difference of opinion about figures. Mine show that more than 85 per cent. of all goods travel by road. The average length of journey is no more than 30 miles from door to door, which shows at once the limited scope for transfer of road freight to rail in the road/rail argument. Even if rail had the capacity to accept substantial transfers, lorry traffic would still be required to and from the railhead. I am sure the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) will not be surprised if I do not respond to the invitation he extended.
Constraints on the routing of lorries are bound to affect in some degree the efficiency and competitiveness of industry, and so ultimately the price to the consumer and the living standards of us all, as the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) reminded us. This applies not only to distribution of goods in towns. Those who demand that heavy lorries be banned from country lanes and our attractive villages forget the needs of modern farming for heavy machinery, feed stuffs, milk tankers and refrigerated vehicles, the servicing of local industries, and the extractive workings of stone quarries and gravel pits, to mention only a few of the vehicles which have a legitimate reason for travelling on totally inadequate roads in the countryside. Often the answer is not to widen a road to make it suitable for the relatively few but important vehicles which must use it because in so doing we completely destroy the character of the countryside and the villages.
Building and construction industries of all kinds need the services of the heavy lorries in all areas. There is scarcely a householder in the country who does not at some time need the help of a refuse collection lorry or a large furniture removal van.
1836 If we cannot live without the heavy lorry, it seems that we have to try to learn how best to live with it. Perhaps I could mention a point raised by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) when talking about accidents. It is fair to point out that an accident involving a heavy lorry is far more likely to be a serious one, for some of the reasons he mentioned. The accident rate for heavy lorries is, however, very much better than that for other classes of vehicles. That ought to be put on the record.
We have taken as our first priority the development of a comprehensive motorway and primary road network that will take the heavy lorry as far as possible where it needs to go without damaging the more sensitive environmental areas. The plan is that by the early 1980s there will be a network of 3,500 miles of high quality trunk road, including motorways, linking major towns and ports. Towns of over 250,000 population will be directly linked to this network and towns of 80,000 population or more will be within easy reach, about 10 miles. The links with major ports and airports will be completed by the mid-1970s.
Over the next decade towns and villages on trunk roads which need protection will increasingly be bypassed. Various hon. Members have mentioned bypasses, and they will know of the strides that we are taking here.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)
When does my hon. Friend expect to complete the new motorway which will take the heavy traffic from the Midlands through to the East Coast ports? A lot of it is coming through my constituency.
§ Mr. Speed
My hon. Friend is probably referring to the feasibility study on the M1 link. The A45 is the principal trunk road from the Midlands to the East Coast ports, particularly Felixstowe and Ipswich. It is scheduled for major improvement to first-class trunk road standard through to Ipswich and Felixstowe by the late 1970s. A major part of it will have been completed by 1975–76. There are still feasibility studies going on in connection with the motorway, and I cannot answer that part of my hon. Friend's question.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
Is my hon. Friend aware that we have had three plans for bypassing Gosforth, where I live, all of which have been found to be impractical? Is he not, perhaps, thinking that the planners are a little better than they sometimes are?
§ Mr. Speed
I am well aware of this, because my hon. Friend has written to me at some length, and most cogently. I am conscious of my name, and I hope that I shall be able to apply the attributes of my name to solving this problem.
This spring will see the introduction of advisory lorry routes, aimed at guiding through traffic—particularly foreign lorries at the ports—on to the primary route network, a scheme agreed between the Government, local authorities and the industry. Work has started on a £10 million programme to provide strategically-sited lorry parks as an alternative to haphazard overnight parking.
Those who advocate that such an advisory route should be made compulsory tend to think solely in terms of through traffic and to forget the many and various destinations within towns and even villages where lorries may need to pick up or unload—not just factories and warehouses, but shops, offices, schools, hospitals, garages, construction sites, farms, and so on. The essence of the problem lies in devising an appropriate framework of law under which heavy through traffic may be confined to the most suitable routes, while access restrictions outside those routes are not so severe that the social and commercial life of local communities is unreasonably damaged.
Moreover, the system adopted must be capable of enforcement at a practical level. That is why the Government have set in train a programme of research to learn more about the implications of possible alternatives to the problems of goods movement in towns. We need to know much more about that. We also need to know the factors which affect the location and planning of traffic generators, such as shops and warehouses.
Street surveys are being carried out to investigate the impact of goods movements in streets. These will provide quantitative information on what kinds of nuisance occur and how great it is. As hon. Members have mentioned, a large 1838 survey in Swindon is getting under way. It is designed to obtain detailed information about the origin and destination of freight, its pattern of movement and all the basic data which, hopefully, will enable a model to be constructed showing how freight movement would be likely to respond to different types of action by central or local government. The Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association are also collaborating with the Government in extracting from existing survey material data on quantities of freight passing through a large selection of towns.
All this material will take time to collect and analyse in the various schemes. We shall not get all the answers tomorrow. Until we have all the answers it would be undesirable—this is the sense of the House—to introduce Draconian measures of restriction in the cause of environmental protection which might result in severe damage to the economy.
It is against this background that I should like to extend, on behalf of the Government, a qualified welcome to the Bill. It is qualified because the Government are in sympathy with its aims but have reservations about its proposed machinery and are concerned to ensure that any legislative changes in this field are carefully worked out to take account of all the complex problems which I have mentioned.
First, I refer to the question of machinery. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) put this matter very cogently and it was followed up by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East. We have the most severe reservations about the proposed advisory council. I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East for saying that he appreciated there might be an alternative and equally effective way of dealing with the problem rather than through the means of an advisory council.
In the Government's view the machinery proposed in the Bill has one severe disadvantage: it would remove the responsibility for initiating measures of control in this important sphere of traffic regulation from those on whose shoulders the responsibility should properly lie, namely the local authorities, just at the time when, under the Local Government Act 1972, the new and powerful county 1839 authorities are being set up with strategic control over highways, transport and traffic regulation in their areas.
The formulation of the new counties' transportation policies would be hampered by the transfer of one essential ingredient out of their hands into the care of the advisory council whose establishment, indoctrination and survey of these complex problems throughout the country would of necessity require a prolonged period of settling down before it could hope to embark on productive work. I go so far as to say that such a diversion of responsibility would run seriously counter to the whole spirit of the reorganisation of local government on which we all pin so much hope for the future and would detract considerably from the new comprehensive transportation and traffic powers we are giving to the counties.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
This matter is of such importance that there should be a national policy. Should not the responsibility of it fall on the shoulders of the Secretary of State and not be left with individual regional authorities?
§ Mr. Speed
If my hon. Friend will allow me to develop the point, he will see what I am getting at. The Secretary of State must have a rôle.
I appreciate the feelings of the sponsors of the Bill and of the House that there should be a definite timetable for progress in coming to grips with the environmental problems posed by the heavy lorry. They do not want matters to slide because of inertia. I believe that their aspirations can be met by alternative proposals involving less drastic changes to existing machinery but at the same time setting a statutory timetable for progress towards more comprehensive control of heavy lorries on the lines advocated in the Bill.
The essence of such proposals would be to place a duty on the new county authorities and the Greater London Council from 1st April 1974—and one year later in Scotland because the Bill on Scottish local government reorganisation is passing through the House now—after appropriate consultation, to formulate proposals for the regulation of heavy lorries in the way envisaged in the Bill and to publish draft traffic regulation orders in the time scale 1840 set out in the Bill—1st January 1977 for England and Wales and 1st January 1978 for Scotland—as the means of carrying their proposals into effect. At the same time the new counties will be formulating their transportation proposals and, if the House approves, it is more than likely that there will be new methods of transport block grants and of financing transport proposals so that they can look for the first time in a comprehensive way at transport problems. These provisions will be an essential part of the survey which they must make anyway.
There might be an obligation on the Secretary of State, on the lines in the Bill, to use the powers of direction in Section 84A of the 1967 Act to ensure that the traffic regulations were brought into effect, if necessary with modifications, without undue delay. It would also be necessary to provide a regulatory power for the Secretary of State to define classes of exemptions in particular circumstances to meet essential needs in restricted areas, not only for emergency vehicles and statutory undertakers but also for refuse collection and so on.
Those procedural provisions would take the place of the proposed advisory council machinery set out in Clause 1 and the schedule to the Bill and at the same time would make use of the new powers and machinery available to the new counties from 1st April next year.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Are we correct in understanding from what my hon. Friend has said that he proposes to issue new regulations to replace the Local Authorities Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations of 1969 to specify consultation with amenity and other organisations? My hon. Friend will be aware that consultation with organisations representing people who use the roads is expressly provided for now, but the only other category is the very general one of organisations and persons likely to be otherwise affected by the order. Will the amenity organisations be brought within the statutory ambit of consultation?
§ Mr. Speed
The new counties will in many cases be much bigger than existing counties, in as much as the present county boroughs are going. They will be covering large urban as well as more rural areas. Again, we do not know what arrangements may arise out of the proposals of the Constitutional Commission.
When it comes to transportation proposals for the new counties and regional planning, my Department and its regional offices, which now have much greater power and authority than before, already act in a major way as co-ordinators of different local authorities. For example, one sees this now on the question of the green belt provision in the West Midlands in dealing with the planning aspect. I speak of that from personal constituency knowledge, and I know the major rôle which our regional offices play in co-ordinating local authorities in the area in transportation policies and studies. I hope and expect that, since this advice will be freely available to local authorities for transportation plans and programmes, it will, in effect, be a coordinating rôle. The bigger local authorities will be given a great deal of advice and information by our regional offices.
But perhaps we can go further into this aspect at a later stage. The detailed effects of Clauses 4 to 7 of the Bill could also perhaps best be explored and discused in the more leisured process of the Committee stage.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) spoke at some length about heavy lorries in the European context and about the discussions which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries is having with our Common Market partners. The hon. Gentleman will understand that I wish to say nothing today that would make my right hon. Friend's job any more difficult in the negotiations. All I can say is that this is a Second Reading debate and we do not know how the Bill will turn out as an Act. But my advice is that the Bill is not likely to conflict as such with 1842 Community legislation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not go into the realm of hypothesis as to whether my right hon. Friend will succeed in the negotiations. The House knows my right hon. Friend's views.
I have indicated our general attitude to the Bill and the ways in which we feel that, with some modification, it would represent a valuable addition to the present statutes governing traffic regulation. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East has now been persuaded that we should look seriously at the question of the advisory council. If, as I hope and feel, he and the other sponsors would be willing to amend the Bill in the ways I have described, I would feel it right to advise the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 1.53 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I will be very brief, but the House must appreciate that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State must have a very distinct dislike of the advisory council, because if the Bill became law and the advisory council were in action it could offer the advice that a red line should be drawn on the whole road from Dover to Canterbury, since that would have to be a red zone. All villages in that area in the last few weeks have been put in the zone in which heavy vehicles are to be banned because they are little more than country lanes.
I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) that this Bill would be a useful instrument in our pattern of protection, that it would act as a help and spur to the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State spoke very reasonably, but, recognising fully that we have our economic problems, he must also remember the title of his Department—the Department of the Environment. There is too much outside pressure sometimes coming for protection of the environment. Too often we rely on public pressure to produce protection of our amenities, the protection of the country we want to live in.
I hope that my hon. Friend, reflecting as he does his concern both for the economy and its progress and for the protection of our environment, will give 1843 the Bill a fair passage. I hope also that after what I have said he will use his red marker on that road from Dover to Canterbury.
§ 1.55 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington. South-West)
No one could be more interested in making a long speech about the Bill than I, because of my constituency interest and because I am one of the sponsors of the Bill, by kind invitation of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), whom I congratulate.
I rise to make an appeal to hon. Members opposite who wanted to speak to forgo their wish to take part in the debate. I appreciate that we are all concerned with many constituency problems in this context, but next on the Order Paper is a Bill on which the House must bring itself to a decision.
It will not be understood outside, or even inside, if hon. Members, including one or two who have not been here throughout the debate, as I have, insist on speaking when not one single voice has been expressed against the Bill and the Under-Secretary of State has given it. the Government's approval. All the points we want to make can be made in Committee.
I therefore, with great respect, make a plea to hon. Members that we should agree not to speak further in this debate. The Bill is to get a Second Reading, and we can raise various points in Committee. Let us not make a fool of the House by talking on so that the second item on the Order Paper, which is very important for our society, cannot be debated. Otherwise, it will seem to the country that we are taking a semidetached attitude. I plead with hon. Members to forgo their speeches on this Bill, as I am doing.
§ 1.57 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hunt (Bromley)
As a sponsor of the Bill and as one who has been sitting here since eleven o'clock, I intend to make a brief speech. I say to the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) that when those who are supporting the next Bill on the Order Paper win top place in the ballot they will have their chance as first order in the day and the opportunity to put 1844 their point of view. Whether we all agree or not, I think that as a Member of Parliament I am entitled to put the views of my constituents.
§ Mr. Hunt
That is what I am proposing to do, but I have no wish to obstruct business, and I shall speak for only a reasonably short time. It is my right to do so, and I do not intend to be silenced by any lobby, be it male or female.
I add my voice to the chorus of congratulations already extended to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) on his initiative in bringing forward this timely and much needed measure. If, as I expect, the Bill receives its Second Reading, I know that his health will be drunk in many homes and hostelries in my constituency tonight.
The purpose of the Bill is to control and contain one of the fastest growing and most menacing of many threats to our environment. Like my hon. Friend, I represent a constituency in outer London which is suffering severely from noise, fumes and vibration from heavy lorries, articulated monsters which travel often at excessively high speeds along residential roads which were never designed to carry this weight and volume of traffic. Additionally, of course, they represent real danger to the elderly and to young children who have the misfortune to live on these lorry routes.
Feelings are undeniably running very high, especially in the Hayes area, in my constituency, where the situation has become progressively and markedly worse over recent months. The every-growing escalation of heavy traffic in the area has led to the formation of the Hayes Lane and Mead Way Heavy Vehicle Residents' Group, which is now campaigning vigorously for action at both national and local level to deal with the menace.
The Bill goes some way to meet the fears of residents in this matter. A somewhat burdensome feature of their campaign has been the despatch of hard-hitting letters to their Member of Parliament. Of the scores that I have received and answered in recent weeks I shall quote from only one. It comes from a lady living in Mead Way, Hayes, which 1845 is a minor unclassified, wholly residential road. She writes:I am sick and tired and driven to distraction by tankers, lorries, containers etc. continually thundering through the road in which I live. There is no peace day or night. I am awakened in the morning, usually about 5 a.m., by the din of lorries and the same sound continues throughout the day being the last sound I hear at night before going to sleep. There is no escape from it.I submit that that is an indication of the nightmare conditions currently being endured by many of my constituents and by those of other hon. Members who, hour after hour, have these giant tankers, 10- and 12-wheeled trailer trucks, trundling past their very doorsteps. It is a situation which is repeated in countless thousands of streets in towns and villages throughout the country.
Until today the unfortunate residents of these areas have felt powerless and despairing in face of this continuous disruption of their daily and nightly lives. Now my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East has brought a glimmer of hope and the prospect of some alleviation and relief. His action has rightly been acclaimed by individuals, ratepayers and residents' associations throughout the country, although the reception from the Road Haulage Association has been somewhat less cordial.
In my constituency, the Bromley Residents' Federation tells me that it welcomes the Bill but feels that the time scale is too protracted. The federation would like priority areas delineated well before 1977. Despite the explanations which my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East gave, I believe that the federation has a point in this respect. I have some sympathy with it, and there is no doubt that it is a matter which can be discussed in greater detail in Committee.
Apart from the reservations about the time scale, I am sure that there will be a widespread welcome for the proposal in the Bill to specify red zones from which heavy vehicles will be excluded and to create amber zones within which their movement will be restricted. In this sense, and in this sense only, I hope that most roads in my constituency will be going "red" by 1977.
I am especially glad that the advisory council or the alternative local govern- 1846 ment machinery which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has mentioned will be responsible for widespread consultation. This is important, and all interests should be consulted—local residents' associations, local authorities and, of course, the hauliers. Certainly I have no objection to trade union representation on the advisory council if it is eventually appointed. It is important to show that the advisory council or any other alternative machinery is acting on behalf of the community as a whole.
I also warmly welcome the proposal to prohibit the parking of heavy lorries on road verges——
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Mr. Speaker
As this matter may be raised more than once, I think that I had better explain my position.
Before I became Speaker I was very keen, in the Procedure Committee and elsewhere, on entrusting Mr. Speaker with wide discretions. Since being elected Speaker I have come to the other view. I find these discretions very burdensome. I take them very seriously. But I know that personal feelings and sympathies must not enter into my reasoning. There are precedents based on many years' experience to which I must have regard. I regret that I cannot accept the motion.
§ Mr. Hunt
I object to the discourtesy of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]—in interrupting what is a reasonable speech' from one of the sponsors of the Bill and, incidentally, from one who is not an opponent of the Bill which he is promoting. Members of this House have some rights, and hon. Members who are acting in that way are doing great damage to the cause which they profess to support——
§ Mr. George Cunningham
The hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt) can deal with all these matters in Committee, and better.
§ Mr. Hunt
I welcome the proposal to ban the parking of heavy lorries on 1847 road verges and footways. It will bring great relief to people living in residential roads who at the moment are subjected to intolerable nuisance and inconvenience by the thoughtless parking of heavy lorries outside their homes.
An in all, the Bill offers the prospect of a major breakthrough in the battle against pollution by truck and diesel. For too long the juggernauts have had an unrestricted freedom on our roads. Now at last the "Halt" and "No Entry" signs are going up against them. I wish the Bill every possible success, and I offer my full support in ensuring its speedy passage onto the Statute Book.
§ 2.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis (Carlisle)
Those of us who have been involved in transport for a number of years could speak at great length on this subject. However, as there does not appear to be any difference of opinion between us, I wish merely to echo the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) for a little common sense to prevail and for us to leave the calm waters of a Bill to which we Rive wholehearted support so that my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) may lead us into deeper waters in discussing his Anti-Discrimination (No. 2) Bill.
We appear to be unanimous in our view of the Bill sponsored by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). Let us leave it at that. I suggest that we allow the Bill to go to a Standing Committee and that we now proceed to our next business.
§ 2.8 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
I am very sorry not to respond to the invitation of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) and to that of the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) especially since the latter was a very valuable member of the Expenditure Committee of which I was chairman and which published its report on urban transport planning. However, if I did not intervene briefly my omission would not be understood by those who know the part which the Committee played in making recommendations, of which the Bill is a tangible expression, or by my own constituents the fabric of 1848 whose villages is being shaken to pieces by the passage of heavy traffic through them. I hope that hon. Members on the Opposition side will forgive me if I take a few minutes to make one or two points.
The first concerns the suggestion in the Bill, the purpose and principle of which I welcome, that regulations should be introduced and that the matter should be dealt with by the establishment of an advisory council. I find it difficult to understand the reason for suggesting such an organisation. It should be the responsibility of the appropriate Ministry to draw up the necessary regulations and to make the necessary recommendations to local authorities, without going through the process of setting up a separate organisation which would tend to develop a life of its own and to continue long after the purpose for which it was established had been exhausted. Although I support the Bill in principle. I cannot support the proposals to set up an advisory council.
Many problems are involved in trying to find ways and means by which to divert heavy commercial traffic from built-up areas. The problem of finding alternative routes will mean having a properly phased programme of the necessary bypasses and ring roads in different parts of the country.
If the Minister, either directly or through the encouragement of local authorities, specifies alternative routes which heavy commercial vehicles must follow and that special parks must be provided to prevent them from cluttering up the streets and roads overnight, he must ensure that the regulations are strictly adhered to. We often find that even where bypasses are provided—this is the case in High Wycombe where a bypass has been constructed—heavy vehicle drivers, no doubt for their own good personal reasons, still use the old routes. Therefore we find the same congestion and damage being caused to the fabric of the villages and towns through which they pass. So we must ensure that the routes are followed.
This matter cannot be left solely to the local authorities or the new regional areas which may take their place under the proposed reorganisation. This policy must be laid down nationally by the Secretary of State and he must insist that it is 1849 adhered to throughout the whole country. Otherwise there will be a good deal of confusion in different parts of the country where local authorities may differ in their views on the action that should be taken.
Finally, as I wish to try to meet the Opposition's view about the next Bill, I make one last point. A great deal of research is now going on into ways and means of lessening pollution and noise nuisance caused by heavy vehicles. Research has been carried out in part by the Department's research laboratory. We must pursue that energetically. We must get down noise levels and reduce smoke emission which is a cause of considerable pollution.
We must also investigate other methods for the distribution of goods. Experiments are being carried out in this country and elsewhere. Czechoslovakia, for example, is experimenting with other methods for the distribution of goods by special systems—for example, underground conveyors. We must hasten our research and look into the economic effects of such systems to lessen our reliance upon the heavy goods vehicles which do so much environmental damage.
There are many other points I should like to cover, but in deference to the request so courteously expressed by hon. Members opposite I will leave it at that.
§ 2.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernle Money (Ipswich) rose——
§ Mr. Speaker
In view of the virtual unanimity of opinion which has been expressed on the Bill, may I express the hope that we might come to a speedy decision upon its Second Reading?
§ Mr. Money
I do not propose to speak on the Bill, although I came to the House with the sole purpose of doing so, because I have considerable sympathy with the legislation which is to follow. However, I very much regret that important constituency matters have been cut out by the fairly vociferous attitude of a certain section of the House. I have received more letters on this subject from the female constituents and official female organisations in my constituency than on the next Bill, though I support both.
I simply wish to add my tribute to the late Tom Price. Many people outside 1850 this House do not realise the depths of kindness, friendship and generosity which exist here. As a young Member I found all three virtues in Tom Price. I shall regard his memory always with the keenest affection.
§ 2.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Dykes
With the leave of the House, I will reply briefly.
The suggestion of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that the advisory council machinery should lapse in favour of the alternative of the local authorities in the larger units dealing with this subject is a matter which, if I detect the feeling of the House aright, would be suitable for Committee consideration. Sensing the feeling of the House about an important measure of social reform to be discussed hereafter, I think that all the anxieties over details which are legitimate and perfectly right and sensible, such as red zones, minimum weights, exceptions and exemptions, can be effectively tackled in Committee if the House sees fit to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).