S.45 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 shall be amended as follows:—
After sub-section (5) insert a new sub—section:
No Local Authority may issue an order under sub-section (1) which designates any parking place on a highway for use by buses or coaches capable of carrying more than twelve passengers.".'.—[Mr. Maples.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.9.52 am
New Clause 3—Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1984
'S.45 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 shall be amended as follows:—
After sub-section (7) insert a new sub-section:
Where any designated Residents Parking Scheme is in operation the relevant local authority may refuse to issue Residents' permits in respect of vehicles other than cars.".'.
New clause 4—Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1984
'S.45 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 add a new clause:—
Where parking in a public street is considered to seriously restrict the flow of traffic, the relevant Local Authority may make orders prohibiting parking for the purpose of commercial deliveries at specified times.".'.
New clause 5—Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1984 (No. 5)—
'S.42 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 shall be amended by adding a new sub-section (5):—
(5) Local Authority shall provide off-street parking facilities for buses and coaches.".'.
New clause 7—Coach parking places—
'The following section shall be inserted after section 63—
"Coach parking places
63A.—(1) Any parking place within the meaning of this part of this act may be designated as a coach parking place, after consultation between the local authority and the police, and it shall be an offence to park a coach otherwise than at a place so designated.
(2) Any offence under this section shall be punishable by a fine on level 5 of the standard scale and by the forfeiture of the vehicle's licence for such period as a court may determine or by both such fine and such forfeiture.".'.
§ Mr. Maples
It is a long time since I spoke in the House on a Friday morning. In fact, I think that the last time was when I made my maiden speech. Friday morning is a good time to make a maiden speech because one can have a good lunch afterwards rather than skipping lunch before.
As I was coming here this morning, I could not help reflecting that while Mr. Gorbachev will, I expect, be addressing the world in his Guildhall speech in an hour or so, the House of Commons has chosen to debate parking. I suppose that there are cavillers who would say that that is appropriate for the role that the House of Commons has 476 chosen for itself, but I choose to believe that there are days on which those roles will be reversed, when we shall be discussing international events and world statesmen will discuss parking.
Although parking is a mundane problem, it is far from being unimportant. It is intimately tied up with many of the transport problems that many cities and especially London face.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) on getting his Bill this far. I suspect that this must be the fastest time on record for getting a Bill to Report. He had a formal Second Reading and an uncontroversial hour and a quarter in Committee. Perhaps he expected to get his Third Reading by 10 o'clock. I am sorry to disappoint him on that, but this is a serious matter and other matters should be considered with it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East described the Bill in Committee as a modest measure. I suspect that his reluctance to incorporate more controversial provisions in it may have had something to do with the timetable with which he was faced, but nevertheless those matters should be discussed. As I said, my hon. Friend is to be congratulated on having got his Bill this far this quickly. To get a Bill to Report with an hour and a quarter of debate is pretty good. Perhaps the Government should have put my hon. Friend in charge of the Water Bill—it might have taken rather less than the 200 hours that it has taken.
The Parking Bill allows for charging by non-cash means in local authority car parks. That is obviously a laudable objective and I am amazed that primary legislation is needed to achieve it. I understand that a similar Bill was introduced a couple of years ago which did the same for on-street parking although I have not noticed the benefits of that in practice. Perhaps that is one of the few instances where technology has not caught up with Parliament, rather than the other way round.
My hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic said in Committee that this is a Benthamite Bill in that there are no losers, only gainers. While that may be true in respect of the limited effect of the Bill, it is certainly not true of parking in general. It is worth spending a little time looking at the problem of parking in the context of transport policy as a whole and that is the end to which my new clauses are directed.
I shall speak primarily about London because it is the area that I know best and I have a London constituency. I suspect that without being unduly parochial it is true to say that London is where most of the problems are at their most obvious. We clearly have problems with commuter transport by train into London, with the Tube and buses and, of course, with cars getting around London.
My hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues in the Department of Transport have produced some interesting studies recently. There has been the central London rail study and the Department's statement on transport plans for London. I believe that the Department is soon to produce an east London rail study, which will be of considerable interest to myself and my constituents in Lewisham. I understand also that it is in the process of conducting four London assessment studies and two others, one on the Heathrow area and one on the western environmental improvement route. One of those is extremely relevant to Lewisham as it concerns part of the 477 south circular road which goes through the constituency. London Regional Transport is also engaged on a fairly major programme to improve the Tube.
The relevance of parking is recognised in the "Transport in London" statement issued by the Department of Transport. The section on London's roads states:Increasing the capacity of the road network means making better use of existing roads—dealing with bottlenecks caused by narrow stretches of road or awkward junctions, using new technology to improve the flow of traffic, and tackling the problems caused by anti-social parking.That last point is crucial. The report then discusses parking in rather more detail, stating:Sensible parking policies can make a significant contribution to tackling the problem of congestion. A single badly parked vehicle can halve the capacity of a road junction, reduce a dual carriageway to a single lane, or even block a road completely. London, particularly central London, cannot afford to see scarce road space squandered in this way … There is more to sensible parking policies than enforcing the law. It is also important to make the right provision of parking facilities. … There is seldom a case for subsidising parking".That passage put the relevance of parking rather well. If one looks at the transport problems that London faces, one finds that parking is relevant to many of them.
I suspect that the major problem is commuter traffic coming into London. We should encourage the use of public transport and discourage the use of cars. To some extent we are seeing that trend established; commuting into central London by car accounts for only 170,000 journeys on the average day, whereas rail transport accounts for 390,000 and the Underground for 340,000. The percentage of commuters coming into London by rail and Underground has risen while the use of other modes of transport—primarily cars—has fallen. However, although we are starting to see that trend, we need to reinforce it. Many of us who use London's roads during the rush hour are fully aware of the problems and of the fact that reinforcing the trend towards the use of public transport is important.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
My hon. Friend read out some statistics about the ways in which people make their journeys into work in the capital. Will he remind the House of the date on which those statistics were compiled? How confident is he that those statistics are more accurate than the statistics that we receive relating to, for example, the balance of trade? The Chancellor told the House yesterday that those figures were subject to a dramatic margin of error. What is the margin of error in my hon. Friend's figures?
§ Mr. Maples
I have, unfortunately, no reason to say that the statistics are more accurate. However, I am sure that, if my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer were put in charge of those too, we could rely on their accuracy to a far greater extent.
The first statistic on modes of travel into central London is eight years out of date. I imagine that it is the most recent or the Department would not have used it. The second figure, on the percentage of people coming in and out of London, was a trend from 1982 to 1987. I believe that that firmly shows that the proportion using British Rail has risen from 38 to 40 per cent., and the proportion using the Underground has risen from 28 to 36 per cent. 478 The use of other modes of transport has fallen from 33 to 24 per cent. The more up-to-date statistic, in fact, reflects the same trend.
§ 10 am
§ The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Peter Bottomley)
I confirm the source that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) has given for the statistics, but my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) has raised an interesting point. Perhaps I could advertise that the Bottomley cup has still not been claimed. It is available to any academic, journalist or politician who in 1982 gave anything like a reasonably accurate forecast of how the use of the different modes of transport in London would change between 1982 and 1987. The facts are now available and are reasonably accepted, give or take the Chancellor's influence on them. Although the advertisement has been out in the open for months, so far no politician, academic or journalist has claimed the prize. Therefore, the cup is tarnished. If my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne could show that he made a reasonably accurate prediction in 1982, he may be the first person to be considered for the cup.
§ Mr. Maples
I believe that my hon. Friend can safely extend the offer of his award into other areas of academic endeavour, because academics have made wrong forecasts on a greater range of matters, not least of which was the performance of the economy. I seem to remember that 365 academics wrote to The Times saying that the British economy would never grow on the policies that the Government were expounding. We then proceeded to enter eight years of continuous and regular growth. I should have thought that my hon. Friend could extend his offer much more widely without any risk of being parted from his bottle of champagne.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)
As my hon. Friend has rightly drawn our attention to the problems of London's traffic relating to road and rail commuting, will he contemplate the following two points? London Regional Transport and British Rail are required to supply their own police forces, while the taxpayers and the ratepayers of London, and, indeed, the rest of the country, pay for policing.
I received a letter only yesterday from the Secretary of State for Transport that indicated that the Department estimates that a mere 7 per cent. of police time is spent on road traffic matters. Will my hon. Friend agree that in London, with its traffic and parking problems, it would be hard to find any policeman who spends only 7 per cent. of his day dealing with matters related to the internal combustion engine?
Secondly, will my hon. Friend contemplate the proposition that British Rail's Snow Hill tunnel that takes commuters through London from north to south cost £1 million, while the M25, primarily designed for stockbroker belt commuters in the rush hour, cost us £2 billion and will cost an indefinite sum for an indefinite future?
§ Mr. Maples
My hon. Friend has made some good points which he will no doubt develop later. In defence of motorists I would say that I believe that they pay far more in taxation through the road fund licence and tax on petrol than they get back in terms of roads.
My hon. Friend made an interesting point about the fact that roads are publicly financed—we accept that—and 479 that for other modes of transport we look to the user of the facility to pay more directly. That poses an interesting question. I believe that there are cases where public transport investment warrants a public contribution over and above what the users pay, because it takes pressure off public expenditure in other areas.
We should reinforce the trend of discouraging commuters coming into London by car. We appear to have various items built into our system that encourage people to use cars. One is the provision of cars as a fairly standard part of many people's employment; considerable tax advantage accrues from that. I am glad that in the last two Budgets the Chancellor has begun to remove that advantage by making that car benefit subject to a much fuller tax charge. However, there is still a long way to go.
On the other side of the question, many employers complain that they must provide cars for employees when they would much rather pay them the money to buy their own cars. The sooner we ensure that the car benefit is fully taxed, the less people will be encouraged to use their cars to get to work.
There is also the question of the provision of parking spaces for people when they get to work. I know that that is a touchy subject for us, because we have parking spaces provided. I believe that we can—perhaps not entirely objectively—claim that we are a special case. We are often kept here late at night by the likes of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), when most of us on the Government side would be happy to go home by Tube at 6 o'clock. I believe that the provision of parking spaces in such places as the City and the west end as part of a person's employment package encourages commuting by car, as do meters and car parks.
There are things that we can do to encourage commuters not to use their cars to go to work.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
As it is a question of trying to set examples, would it not be better, for instance, if the Prime Minister—whom the hon. Gentleman knows better than I do—were to use British Rail? I know that she has to gallivant about in one of those posh cars provided by the taxpayer. Yesterday I think she was in a Zil and making herself available to Gorbachev, in the well-chosen words of the Leader of the House. If the right hon. Lady were to use British Rail more often—I do not think she has used it since she has been Prime Minister——
§ Mr. Skinner
The Minister says that she has used it once. If she were to use British Rail a little more often, that would set an example to others. As the hon. Gentleman's argument will be that he believes in not restricting people to any great degree and he would like to stop London and the other large cities being congested, would it not be a good idea if she were to use public transport more often? Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will also make some necessary changes. Why is it, for instance, that Ministers can have all these cars just waiting for them day in and day out? Every hour, one sees the place here full of chauffeurs waiting to drive Ministers from one oak-panelled study to the next. If we want to set examples, let us start from the top.
§ Mr. Maples
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to talk to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who I believe has a car and driver provided at Government expense, and encourage him to set that example and start a trend. I suspect that the problem looks slightly different from the Ministers' point of view, as all things do when they affect personally. For some Ministers there will be the problem of security. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, however, that whenever I have to go to Birmingham, Sheffield or anywhere to which there is an Inter-City service, it is much more convenient to take the train than to drive. It is a much more pleasant journey, one can read the newspaper or work and one arrives in a reasonable frame of mind rather than being frazzled. The hon. Gentleman is right that travel by train is to be encouraged.
Another problem in London is through traffic. We really want to keep it out of London altogether. That is what the M25 is for and what I believe the east river crossing will help. [Interruption.] The M25 must be helpful. I do not know exactly what the statistical evidence is, but it is difficult to believe that all the traffic on the M25 was generated by the motorway. It must be helping through-London traffic. If it is not helping, we should perhaps expand it or double-deck it. We are building a new east river crossing presumably to contribute to solving the problem of keeping through traffic out of London.
The new rail links that are suggested from east to west and north to south in the central London rail study will probably help, because people will no longer need to use surface transport to get from Paddington to Liverpool Street. The Department of Transport has recently let it be known that it is looking at other methods of linking up motorways and major roads outside London in an effort to ease congestion on the M25.
We need to get out of London all road traffic that does not need to be in London. Through traffic should never be in inner London.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
Is not the reality that we are inevitably coming inexorably closer to having restrictions of one kind or another on private motor vehicles in city centres? That, therefore, should transcend the political spectrum and not be regarded as an anathema to Conservative Members. Be they electronic devices, number plate systems, day allocation systems, or the various experiments in Italian cities, restrictions are inevitable, especially when one considers how many passengers can be carried by two double-decker buses in comparison with private cars with only one driver in each. That is an absurd situation and we must grasp the nettle.
§ Mr. Maples
My hon. Friend may be right and certainly some of the experiments in Italian cities have been interesting. Although the concept of road pricing and electronic devices on cars may be intellecutally attractive to my hon. Friends, if not to others, it is fraught with political difficulties. I would prefer that the solutions did not involve telling people that they cannot use their cars in central London. We must strive to make it more convenient for them to use other modes of transport and leave it to them to make the choice.
If we adopted the measures proposed by my hon. Friend we would first need to ensure that we expanded the alternative means of transport available. We would need more park and ride facilities and a better commuter service on Network SouthEast, and the cross-London links 481 envisaged by the central London rail study would need to have been built. I hope that further expansion will also be suggested by the east London rail study.
The third problem relates to intra-traffic, which starts and ends its journey within London. Such vehicles are used for commercial purposes and for pleasure. Essentially that traffic is local, whether on road, rail or bus. The London roads should serve such traffic, which represents a great deal of the traffic in London.
The Department of Transport publication "Transport in London" states—I am sorry to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) that there is no date on the statistics—that 67 per cent. of the traffic entering and leaving central London are private cars; 76 per cent. of the vehicles entering and leaving inner London are private cars and 79 per cent. of the vehicles entering and leaving outer London are private cars. Therefore it is logical to assume that the vast majority of intra-London traffic is represented by private cars. For those drivers there is often no ready alternative means of transport. Most of our rail links are radial and although buses represent a viable alternative, trains do not.
The problems have been brought home to me in my constituency through which the south circular road passes. The majority of traffic on that road is local; most journeys start and end in south London. We could improve the journey times on the south circular by upgrading the road. An enormous amount of congestion could be relieved if it were turned into something similar to the north circular. The same people who would gain the advantage, however, would suffer the environmental penalty of having a four-lane highway driven through their neighbourhood.
Intra-London traffic represents a local problem and the solutions should suit local people. Where the majority of traffic on a road is local, the solution lies in considering the local difficulties rather than the commuting difficulties in general. The inescapable conclusion is that roads create traffic. That conclusion is mirrored in the "Transport in London" publication which states:It is simply not possible to provide sufficient road capacity to handle every journey that could be made to or within central London. Indeed, it seems clear that there is already 'suppressed demand' for transport by car into central London … There is no point in building new roads into central and inner London if their main effect would be to cause commuters to switch from road to rail … the Government has consistently stressed that it does not see a case for driving major new roads into central London.There is a great deal of evidence to support that argument. If we provide more roads or more parking we are likely to produce more commuters and more through-London traffic. If we built more roads we would be in serious danger of ruining London—we have already seen that happen in other cities. The motorways that have been driven through the centre of Birmingham have considerably detracted from that city's attractiveness. For a time I lived in Boston in the United States, which is a lovely old city with some neighbourhoods of great architectural beauty. That city is bisected by two huge motorways, the south-east expressway and the Massachussets turnpike. Those motorways have created a Berlin wall between sectors of the city. We must not let that happen to our cities, particularly to central London. The environmental price for such a road network is not worth it.
We will probably never provide enough road space to satisfy the existing suppressed demand.
Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton)
I must leave the Chamber for a short time but before I do, will the hon. Gentleman consider the problem of parking larger vehicles, such as buses and coaches, which bring young people to London to see the House of Commons, Westminster Abbey and the other surrounding historic places? Those young people may come from Liverpool, Birmingham or wherever, and such coach trips are often the only way they can afford to visit London. I do not disagree with most of the hon. Gentleman's arguments, but how does he intend to deal with the parking problems of coaches and buses? Will barriers be erected so that youngsters will be unable to visit the House of Commons? Will there be no place for those vehicles to park? The new clause says that no parking facilities will be provided for coaches or buses:carrying more than twelve passengersThat is absurd. There are problems, but the solutions should not be nonsensical.
I encourage young people to visit the House of Commons and I like them to know about the democratic process and about our history. If the parking of coaches and buses is restricted, young people will be discouraged from visiting this place. Much of what the hon. Gentleman has said is sensible, but he should consider alternatives to new clause 1.
§ Mr. Maples
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point, but perhaps he has not paid as much attention to new clause 5 as he has to new clause 1. New clause 5 states that aLocal Authority shall provide off-street parking facilities for buses and coaches.Anyone who travels along the Embankment will know that about 30 per cent. of it is used as a car park for buses and coaches, which is an incredibly uneconomic use of such scarce and valuable road space. Far more people can be carried in a bus—they use less road space than private cars—and it is important that off-street parking is provided. We should encourage the use of buses and coaches as they utilise the roads much better than cars.
I do not want major new highways driven through the centre of our cities, particularly London. We need to reduce the amount of traffic on our roads and make better use of them. The provision of parking space and more sensible parking regulations will help to achieve that goal. It is important to provide alternative means of transport before we start thinking about banning people from using their cars or imposing special pricing to restrict the use of private cars in central London.
A great deal of investment is needed in all forms of public transport—rail and Tube transport are obvious candidates for such necessary investment. Primarily the users should be asked to pay. The financial trade-off to the average commuter would be extremely good. If one's return journey by car is 50 miles a day that costs nearly £4,000 a year, one's employer may pay part of that cost because the car may be provided on a tax break as part or the employment package. The average season ticket to cover that distance costs nothing like that sum. The trade-off for people using private cars would be enough for them to finance at least part of the new investment needed for public transport development. They would pay less to travel, but the revenue accruing to the public transport 483 systems would increase and might be sufficient to finance a large part of the extra necessary investment in public transport development.
It is also important that the taxpayer rather than the user also finances investment. We are all affected by the pollution that extra traffic on the roads creates. I am aware of the damage done to neighbourhoods by enormous amounts of traffic. The south circular road damages the environment of those who live close to it and also creates rat-runs through neighbouring residential streets. Public investment in public transport will also mean that it is not necessary to provide so much public investment in roads, and there will be a trade-off there.
There are three factors: the environment, the resistance to traffic taking over residential neighbourhoods and obviating the need for increased investment in roads. Those are three reasons why public investment can properly be made and economically justified in public transport. I agree that, generally, users should pay—the trade-off for the commuter is extremely advantageous.
How can we make better use of existing roads? The answer is parking. Selfish and inadequate parking or parking at inappropriate times can, as the Department of Transport's publication pointed out, reduce four-lane roads to two, and two lanes to one—this always seems to be in the rush hour. I drive to work and am therefore partly guilty but I use the Tube for many of my journeys once I have arrived in London. My drive takes me down one of London's main streets which is normally a six-lane highway but is nearly always reduced to four because vehicles are parked on each side of it. It does not need many cars to block a complete lane of the road through Knightsbridge in the morning—one mail van on one side and a car inconsiderately parked on the other reduces the six-lane road to four lanes and reduces the volume of traffic on that road by one third.
Police and traffic wardens should pay more attention to this problem in the rush hour because better use of existing roads could be made if there were tougher parking regulations and enforcement. My hon. Friend the Minister should consider the point made in one of my new clauses about deliveries. The introduction of a three yellow line offence should be considered. That would be parking on three yellow lines at particular times, notably the morning and evening rush hours. The fines incurred should not be £5 and £10 but should be serious penalties because the costs of the motorist's inconsiderate parking are far in excess of the benefits that he will accrue from delivering or parking at his convenience. The cost of reducing the capacity of major roads by one third or a half is greater than the cost incurred by those who park inconveniently, and that will never be compensated by £10 or £20 fines, as we know from our own experience.
I used to find that the £4 or £5 penalty for leaving my car on the meter for too long in the West End or the City was cheap—probably cheaper than leaving my car in the NCP car park. When the penalty was increased and meant that my car was towed away, causing inevitable inconvenience and costing me £50 to retrieve, or when it was clamped, which was more inconvenient and cost slightly less—£20 or £30 to retrieve—I stopped doing it. I suspect that most people make a cost-benefit analysis of the risks of illegally parking. We need severe penalties to 484 stop inconsiderate and selfish parking in the rush hour on main roads. Such penalties might include losing one's licence and should certainly include having one's vehicle towed away instantly. The financial penalties must be heavy. Most of the problems are created by commercial vehicles delivering goods and, at present, the trade-off in their favour—paying a parking ticket and delivering when it is convenient—is overwhelming. We must alter that, so that the trade-off for companies will be better if they delivered outside rush hours, or in ways and at times which did not reduce the capacity of main roads by one third or a half.
§ Mr. Maples
To some extent I agree with my hon. Friend, but not entirely. Penalties for the kind of parking that I am talking about are not severe enough. If we want to discourage commercial vehicles from delivering in Knightsbridge or Piccadilly, or main roads in the City, in rush hours, penalties must be severe. In such cases businesses pay the fines and £10 or £20 is no contest for the convenience. Most of the time the offenders are not caught anyway. Fines must be raised to provide a financial incentive for deliveries to be made outside rush hours.
In other cases, the police merely annoy motorists, as those of us who live in central London in places with residents parking zones, return home at 11 o'clock in the evening, park on a single yellow line and are fined, will know. I live in a square which does not have a main road through it. Only people who live there drive through it. However, often at 8.30 in the morning, traffic wardens give tickets to people with residents parking stickers who have left their vehicles on meters or yellow lines. They would be much better employed on main roads giving tickets to motorists who are disrupting traffic flow. Far more discretion should be exercised by the police and traffic wardens.
§ Mr. Heffer
I shall underline the hon. Gentleman's point with two examples. I never park illegally but once I returned to my flat from the House of Commons at 2 o'clock in the morning when it was dark and parked within the white lines as I was perfectly entitled. However, apparently there was a little notice on the wall that I did not see at that time of the morning which said that parking was not allowed in that place for a temporary period. I did not notice it. I wrote to the authority and said that I was sorry but I had not seen the notice because I had come home from the House at 2 o'clock in the morning. I was still fined and I was not happy.
On another occasion I came home at about the same time and again parked in the white lines but one third of the car was over the white line. I was fined again, and I wrote to the authority but I was still fined. I was not happy with that because at 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock in the morning I had tried to find an appropriate space in the residents' parking zone, for which we have to pay. Discretion should be used.
I underline the point made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) that it is vital that vehicles should not be illegally parked on main roads and no discretion should be used there. However, in a side road or 485 a square, some discretion could be exercised. Sometimes, unnecessary antagonism develops between the motorist and the parking authority and that does not help to ensure strict parking regulations where they are required.
§ Mr. Maples
The hon. Gentleman is right. I share his experience. I was not fined, but my car was towed away because I did not see one of those little notices. I agree that that is annoying and I am interested to hear what my hon. Friend the Minister will say about police and traffic wardens, who could be more effective if they used greater discretion. Harassing residents at 8.30 in the morning when main roads are blocked by inconsiderate parking is a wholly inappropriate use of their resources. Not only does it fail to remove congestion but it aggravates the average, law-abiding citizen.
§ Mr. Skinner
I wonder if there is anything to be learnt from the Spanish experience and whether we could check how parking limitations are operated there. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) should have a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Heddle) who is well versed in these matters. The incident might be sub judice in Spanish terms so he must be careful how he phrases his remarks.
§ Mr. Skinner
Is it? It sounds like Subbuteo. The hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire may have some valuable experience to relate to the House. It is a pity that he is not here. Has he been fetched back? The Spanish experience may help us.
§ Mr. Maples
The experiences of other countries are interesting and no doubt the hon. Member for Bolsover in his contribution will bring to bear his vast international experience of parking regulations in other countries.
Reducing congestion on roads would also speed up bus times. I do not wish to exaggerate, as I understand that most bus delays are not caused by traffic jams but many of them are. My hon. Friend the Minister can correct me if I am wrong. One sees buses stuck in jams and they would be a quicker and more effective means of transport if they could be released from jams. The average traffic speed in central London during the day is about 11 mph and the average speed of a bus must be about half that. If buses could be speeded up, they would become a more attractive means of transport.
New clauses 1 and 5 deal with buses and coaches, which should not be parked on roads but in local authority car parks. I have already mentioned the chaos that these vehicles cause on the Embankment. They do not pay for the economic cost of the road space that they use or the congestion that they cause. New clause 1 would reduce their numbers and have a real effect on London traffic.
I am also worried about the vast size of some of the coaches on London's roads—they are becoming as big as the average EEC lorry. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Minister plans to conduct any battles about them in Brussels. Perhaps this is the selfish attitude of a London resident, but I cannot help questioning whether we need to go on promoting tourism in central London in the summer, when London seems to become the preserve of the tourists and their coaches. Perhaps promoting tourism to other parts of the United Kingdom or laying off 486 promoting it in London would be good for the tourists and for those of us who live here, and it would relieve a little of the extra congestion that tourism adds. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) has tabled his own new clause, which may provide a better solution than mine to this problem. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say. We must deal with it.
New clause 4 deals with deliveries, which constitute a large part of anti-social parking. They cause many of the major problems on main roads in the rush hour, turning six-lane roads into four lanes and reducing four lanes to two. I have suggested that three yellow line offences might be appropriate for limited periods, with heavy fines to discourage such deliveries.
The combination of new clauses 1, 4 and 5 would substantially increase the sensible use of our road space at virtually negligible cost. The cost to the public sector and the average motorist would be zero; to the extent that there is a cost, it would be externalised and passed on to buses, coaches and delivery vehicles. It is an appropriate use of public policies in these circumstances to make people bear the costs of the congestion that they cause by using the roads as car parks.
New clause 2 is selected for debate in a separate group. I am not sure why: I should have been happy to discuss it with this group. Perhaps it is House protocol to defer to diplomats, and perhaps we need a Foreign Office Minister to reply to the debate—I know not.
New clause 3 is a pet peeve of mine. Perhaps one is allowed a peeve on a Friday morning. I think that commercial vehicles in residents' parking areas are inappropriate. They spoil the environment for the residents and are another encroachment on some of the few remaining pleasant areas of London. Perhaps most importantly, it encourages the use of commercial vehicles for commuting—they are almost always used to take people to work and back. It is inappropriate that they should be allowed residents' parking spaces; they take up space and encourage more traffic.
To summarise, we face many serious transport problems in London. We cannot solve them by building more roads, which merely encourage more traffic. We must encourage traffic to come off the roads and we must make better use of the roads. Parking is crucial. We must get coaches off the streets and into special car parks and stop peak hour deliveries in main streets. Then we shall have achieved a low-cost way of obtaining greater utilisation of our roads.
§ Mr. Adley
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) on his Bill, on the speed with which he has been able to bring it before the House, and on providing the House with an important and invaluable opportunity to discuss transport and related matters. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) on his perspicacious new clauses. My new clause follows the theme set out by my hon. Friends
The problems of parking in London are well known, but this is a national Bill that does not deal with London alone. It would be wrong to assume that what happens here does not happen elsewhere, too—[Interruption.] Does my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) want to intervene? He seemed to be talking about 487 something, and as his comments are usually so interesting—probably more so than my speech—I tried to catch what he was saying.
I want to take up one or two points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West about commuting to London. He said that many people commuted from 25 miles away and had to pay their own substantial costs. What he did not say, and perhaps should have said, was that that is certainly true of those who use some public transport—particularly the railways—but people who use their own cars to commute to central London, and especially those who use the new breed of commuter coaches, pay nothing like the cost. Most of their costs are borne by the taxpayer and by London ratepayers. I shall come on in a moment to explain the relevance of that to the proposition we are debating.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West to make a point about this. On this rare occasion I believe that I can carry the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) with me. It is absolute nonsense to imagine that we can solve the traffic problems in this country without planning. Equally, it is nonsense to pretend that the Government's recent legislation has not been partly responsible for some of the present problems in our towns and cities. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister does not like my saying this, but some of the deregulation measures have undoubtedly exacerbated the problem of congestion. The fact is that public transport and party political dogma are uneasy bedfellows—whether the dogma is of the Left or the Right.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West said that we all paid a great deal of money for our road fund tax and that it should be spent on roads. Hypothecation of that sort has never been followed by any Government. It is a pet theory of the AA and the RAC. Before we allow ourselves to be seduced by such an argument we should realise that hypothecation of this sort is ludicrous. If hypothecation of taxation were seriously considered, the money raised from the betting tax would presumably have to be spent on building more casinos, an idea that would not attract many in the House or in the country.
Originally, the Bill's title was the Road Traffic Regulation (Parking) Bill. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East on sensibly reducing the length of the title, but the original title was certainly rather more descriptive of the Bill's contents. Nevertheless, "Parking" makes a nice short title.
I turn now to new clause 7 and I want to speak about the Government's deregulation legislation and its effect on some of the traffic and parking problems from which we now suffer. My hon. Friend the Minister did not attend, but I recall a meeting myself, my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General, my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Mr. Wheeler), the chief executive of the Westminster city council, the Secretary of State for Transport, and the predecessor of my hon. Friend the Minister. It was held well over a year ago and it was to discuss, frankly, the effect of Government legislation on London's traffic problems——
§ Mr. Skinner
I am referring to Gorby's friend—so-called. That is the flavour of the month. Did the Prime Minister know about this little clandestine arrangement? Was she made aware of what could be called a sort of pseudo-kitchen cabinet which was trying to undermine the free market,. enterprise culture philosphy? I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has come out with this information; it means that this little group can be the next target. She cannot unseat the Minister—his star has been rising, but it will suddenly wane as a result of what has taken place. The hon. Gentleman should reveal all.
§ Mr. Adley
I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. The meeting took place in the office of the Secretary of State for Transport and was attended by civil servants. I never made any secret of the meeting and I am delighted again to have the opportunity to emphasise that my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General, in his capacity as a first-class constituency Member, overcame his reticence at being seen in a meeting with one of his ministerial colleagues to discuss a matter that is of concern to his constituents even though that might have implied slight criticism of certain Government policies.
As I am sure the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) knows, the Conservative party is a broad church. When he spoke about a lady he might have been alluding to the fact that Mr. Rodney Brooke, the former chief executive of Westminster city council, might have had more trouble with his erstwhile boss than my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General has had with his boss. Unfortunately, Mr. Rodney Brooke is no longer able to pursue his duties as chief executive of Westminster city council. However, I would be out of order if I were to discuss the fate of certain London cemeteries and I have no intention of so doing.
Government legislation has removed the rights and duties of local authorities, especially London local authorities, to designate coach routes. As a result, coaches are flying hither and thither and parking hither and thither all over London, and that is undoubtedly a significant factor in the creation of London's traffic problems. Vehicles cannot park where they are not allowed to go and, conversely, do park where they do go. If we remove the restrictions on the routes that coaches may take, they will use every route that suits them, regardless of the social consequences and the interests of other road users and residents. In this debate, therefore, we cannot sensibly separate where they park from how they get there.
Coach routes are a material factor in the debate and in that context my first quotation is from the leader of the Kensington and Chelsea council when he referred to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to which this Bill is related. In a letter to me as long ago as 5 January 1987 he said of licences that the council used to be able to issue:These licences prescribe the routes which those coaches have to take and coaches can stop only at prescribed stopping places. The positive control which has existed hitherto was carried out by the Metropolitan Police Traffic Commissioner and proved generally effective. Coaches for the most part stuck to the prescribed route as failure to do so could affect the renewal of the licence. Certainly this Council, and I dare say Westminster as well, will certainly use what powers we have. Our complaint is, however, that they simply are not as satisfactory as the form of regulation which applied before.489 The two major central London local authorities, both firmly Conservative-controlled, are frank in their criticism that that legislation has had a serious effect on traffic congestion and parking in London.
The whole question of deregulation causes me concern because at the last general election I occasionally addressed my constituents from an open-topped bus. I used to pass little minibuses that had sprung up as a result of deregulation. They were called "Charlie's cars" and I used to bellow through my loudspeaker, "Charlie's cars, Conservative transport policy in action." I cannot use that phrase in the next general election, because Charlie's cars have gone bankrupt.
The problem with parking is that one man's convenience is another man's pollution. I am prepared to plead guilty to an obsession with matters such as pollution and congestion. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, and perhaps the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East may recall that in 1979 on the Merchant Shipping Bill I persuaded the Committee to accept a new clause that made the owner, rather than the carrier, of oil responsible for pollution at sea. The then Minister, Mr. Stanley Clinton Davis, in the Labour Government resisted my new clause, as did the spokesman for the Conservative party. However, the other members of the Committee accepted it, it was written into the legislation at that stage and the oil companies went berserk. It is a pity that the Americans did not have such legislation on their statute book to cover happenings in the last month.
We are beginning to accept the phrase, "The polluter pays." I do not want to digress but I hope that the National Rivers Authority set up by the Water Bill will take that point on board. Parking is a form of pollution and at the moment the people who cause the problem in London are not paying for it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell) when he was Minister for Public Transport wrote to me on 4 December 1987 about the Transport Act 1985. He said:our objective in the Transport Act 1985 was to free operators of local bus services from the dead weight of restrictions imposed by the former route licensing system—in the same way as we deregulated long distance coach services back in 1980.The quotation from the leader of the Kensington and Chelsea council, and other quotations which I shall use, show that the social and pollution costs of congestion as a result of that deregulation have been far too high for us to allow the situation to continue for much longer.
I want to say one thing firmly and clearly in praise of my hon. Friend the Minister and the Government, and it is about the arrangement in the Budget to increase the road fund tax on coaches. That is directly relevant to what we are discussing. For years, coaches were the only form of transport that was not paying its track costs. If the Minister gets any complaints from coach operators about now having to pay their track costs, he will be perfectly entitled to blame me as much as he likes for obsessively pursuing the matter for years. I am grateful to the Chancellor and to the Ministers at the Department of Transport for accepting my proposals, but there is a great deal more to do. I hope that the Bill will do a little more to restore the balance between people and the environment 490 of the cities in which they live, because our cities are adversely affected by pollution, especially coach pollution resulting from some of the deregulation measures.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West allowed me to intervene in his speech. In that intervention I said that the Secretary of State for Transport told me in a letter only yesterday that only 7 per cent. of police time is allocated by the Department in its assessment of the police contribution to the assessed track costs of the internal combustion engine. The police do not just attend accidents and control traffic. We must also consider traffic wardens, court time and the cost of running the driver and vehicle licensing establishment at Swansea. I simply do not believe that a mere 7 per cent. of the cost of police time is an accurate assessment of the real track costs.
In the same letter my right hon. Friend mentioned the costs of accidents. About 5,000 people a year are killed on our roads and my hon. Friend the Minister had made a valuable contribution to reducing that figure. However, we are still talking about 5,000 people being killed and 250,000 being maimed on our roads every year. The costs of hospitalisation, hospital treatment and Department of Social Security payments as a result of accidents are not included in the assessment of track costs when assessing submissions in connection with road versus rail investment.
Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will allow me to make a specific suggestion. In this country we need something which we have never had before: we need a highway patrol. We need a completely separate police force dealing with road traffic matters. It should have a separate budget so that the police can deal with criminal matters while the highway patrol can deal with road traffic problems. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West that London and most of our major cities do not need huge new motorways. We have micro problems that are causing major congestion. These problems will not and should not be solved by driving six-lane motorways through our cities.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
I am grateful for the chance to repeat what I, what the Secretary of State and what my predecessor at the Department of Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), who is now the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, have said—that the Government have no plans to drive new motorways into London. The problem is that some people persist in issuing leaflets stating the opposite. Having whispered it now on the Floor of the House, I hope that it will be taken as a leak, rather like a document found on a photocopier. I hope that people will stop saying that we have any proposals for new motorways for London.
§ Mr. Adley
My hon. Friend has made a very important statement. My elder son Simon, who has a flat in Battersea, an area which is thought to be blighted by the threat of a new road—and I am sure that the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) will share my enthusiasm for my hon. Friend the Minister's comments—will be absolutely delighted. I am sure that my son will not do anything so stupid or so silly as to listen to my speech, let alone read it, so I will tell him at the weekend what my hon. Friend the Minister has said. My estimable secretary, who has been responsible for coping with my obsession with these matters over the years, lives in Barnes and she will also be delighted by my hon. Friend's comments.
491 We nearly all agree that the solution to the traffic problems in our major cities is not to drive more roads through them, but to deal with the micro problems. Coaches represent one of the serious micro problems and that is why my new clause concentrates on them. We need tighter controls, not endless motorway construction.
I want to thank the officers of Westminster city council for the time and trouble that they have taken in dealing with my numerous inquiries into these matters over the years. I am sure that they would share my enthusiasm for my new clause which relates to the duties of local authorities and of police forces. In a letter to me dated 1 February this year, Mr. Rodney Brooke, the now sadly former chief executive of the council, said:The vexed issue of coaches requires the joint consideration of both the City Council and the Metropolitan Police to achieve a sound strategy.I hope that that will encourage my hon. Friend the Minister to accept new clause 7.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West referred to the beneficiaries of the Government's deregulation policies. With regard to London's traffic and the coach parking problem, it seems to me that the main beneficiaries have been stockbroker belt commuters from Reading, Oxford and parts of Kent. Coaches carry those commuters roaring into London on roads provided by the taxpayer. Many of the coaches park in the centre of London, often all day long, and they pay nothing for parking. If we look around Parliament square we can easily see what my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West meant when he said that selfish parking often cuts road space by 50 per cent. The Embankment is reduced from two lanes to one. Outside this building in New Palace Yard two lanes are reduced to one and similarly two lanes are reduced to one on Westminster bridge.
While tourist coaches are partly responsible for the problem, the commuter coaches which inevitably use the roads during the rush hours because of the very nature of their job, are a major cause of congestion in London.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West referred to the beneficiaries of deregulation. I want to refer to the losers. Road users have lost as a result of added congestion. Pedestrians have lost because of increased fumes and ratepayers are losing through the cost of an endless supply of "No Coach Parking" signs and through the endless supply of new cast iron bollards which the central London local authorities are required to provide.
§ Mr. Adley
Yes, but the cyclists are not a charge on the ratepayer. How much does this cost? It must be a jolly good business for the manufacturers of cast iron bollards. Because local authorities have lost powers as a result of Government legislation, they have to buy huge quantities of cast iron bollards and then instal them on street corners to try to prevent coaches from using unsuitable roads.
With regard to the relationship between track costs of road versus rail, it seems that while commuter coaches park in central London and pay nothing, British Rail must pay £42 million in rates. New clause 5 refers to an obligation on local authorities to provide parking spaces for coaches. The obligation may well be on local authorities, but the coach operators should pay. There is 492 no earthly reason why ratepayers should pay. The commuter coach and tourist coach operators should pay fo coach parking facilities.
In the large coach park on what was until recently British Rail land in Battersea, coaches are paying 50p a day to park. That land I believe has just been sold for £49 million. If we relate the size of a coach to the value of the land which has just changed hands, instead of paying 50p a day, coaches should be paying at least £10 a day to park there.
§ Mr. Adley
I do not think that it was the Al-Fayeds. I believe it was bought by an anonymous Swiss property company, but I am sure the information could readily be made available to the hon. Member for Bolsover. However, I do not know whether that is particularly relevant to this debate.
My new clause is concerned with coaches parking in London. I have received a letter from the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police. His comments about the effect of Government legislation on the Metropolitan police are devastating. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West perhaps tended to criticise the police for not doing enough to deter people who park illegally. However, by allowing some of this legislation through, we have been partly guilty of placing a huge additional burden on the police by exacerbating the problem.
On 15 January 1987 Deputy Assistant Commissioner Innes wrote:You will be aware of the fact that in the Central Area problems with coaches are quite horrendous. We have to balance the proper desire of the tourist boards to attract visitors to London alongside the vastly increased use of coaches for commuting purposes, all in streets designed for horses and carts.Similarly, the British Railways Board wrote to me about the effect of legislation on its business. On 11 December the board's parliamentary affairs manager wrote:We can't hope to match their cost structure, as they pay a nominal track cost, and nothing for terminals, using the street both as a pick-up point and, in many cases, for parking.To their credit, the Government have begun to deal with the track cost problem. However, my new clause seeks to deal with the other aspects of parking and road use problems, particularly in London.
I referred a moment ago to bollards. On 26 August 1988 I received a letter from the assistant divisional director responsible for highways and environmental design at Westminster city council who stated:heavy duty cast iron bollards are to replace those formerly in-situ. These should prove more of a deterrent to coaches than those previously in use, which were knocked over on at least three occasions.So the anti-social behaviour of coach drivers in London includes deliberately knocking over bollards erected to keep coaches away from certain roads and streets. Those bollards have to be used because of legislation passed by the House, which removed from local authorities their powers to regulate the movement of coaches.
493 11 am
When my hon. Friend the Member replies, I hope that he will refer to the Bus and Coach Council's code of practice. In a Department of Transport press notice dated 2 March 1988, my hon. Friend in his enthusiasm said that that code of practice wasa breakthrough, especially for Londoners".
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am very reluctant to pursue a matter that has already been gone into, but I request that when considering the matter next Monday and Tuesday, Mr. Speaker takes into account the broadcast made by the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) on "The World at One" yesterday, when he made important statements about how the Government and the House might conduct themselves. It is my simple request that Mr. Speaker listens to a recording of that six-mintue interview before making any further rulings.
Madam Deputy Speaker
Mr. Speaker carefully studies the Official Report and he will certainly read the hon. Gentleman's remarks.
§ Mr. Adley
Before that intervention, I was referring to the Department of Transport's press notice No. 93 of 2 March 1988 relating to the Bus and Coach Council's code of practice. Its four recommendations were to use only designated coach parking areas, to ensure that coaches stopped only as long as necessary when setting down and picking up passengers, to avoid driving coaches down narrow residential streets, and not to keep engines running when coaches were parked near to houses unless it was necessary. My hon. Friend the Minister described that asa breakthrough, especially for Londoners".From 2 March 1988 until today is one of the longest and slowest breakthroughs in history. It has not happened yet. In the realms of wishful thinking, that press notice must rate high on the Richter scale.
As long ago as 1 August 1985, my hon. Friend's predecessor, writing to me about coach parking in London, observed:On a wider front we have by no means been idle.There is encouragement for us all. He also mentionedan urgent review of the scope for making use of publicly owned land for short and longer term parking for coaches, in order to relieve the problems caused by on-street parking".That urgent review was supposed to have taken place four years ago. I do not know what has happened in the four years since. Perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to tell me. My hon. Friend the Minister himself gave a written reply in which he recognised the problems of pollution. He stated:The question of avoidable pollution from parked coaches in London has been raised at the coaches working party chaired by Westminster city council. We shall urgently consider any recommendations that they make to deal with this question."—[Official Report, 10 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 152.]The word "urgency" is used frequently but subsequent action is barely discernible. Over the past few years, legislation has exacerbated the situation. There have been many words recognising the difficulties but precious little action.
The head of administration, territorial operations, Scotland Yard, Mr. B. Arnold, wrote to me on 2 March 1987—these things always seem to happen on my birthday. He commented: 494Regrettably, the overall situation has not improved. This is certainly the case regarding provision of suitable off-street parking facilities, and is not likely to get better until a large enough replacement for Victoria Coach Station is found. Any solution will also need to provide for the large number of commuter coaches which daily use the central area.Making reference to the resources at his disposal, Mr. Arnold deals with the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West that we have placed a huge additional burden on police forces by creating, through transport legislation, problems of the kind that we are now debating.
I do not want to weary the House, but I have done a lot of work on this subject over the past few years. I discussed the matter of coach deregulation with Sir Keith Bright, former chairman and chief executive of London Regional Transport. He wrote to me on 17 November 1987, stating:These increases in coach services have placed pressure on the limited space for terminating and parking coaches in Central London and have increased the problem of inappropriate coach routings through London …The 1980 Transport Act has also led to increased use of coaches for daily commuting and although these provide a lower cost alternative to the railways they do add to traffic congestion on busy inner and central London roads. Perhaps more important is the accumulation of coaches, found at such places as the Embankment, setting down in the morning and waiting to leave in the evening. This can cause severe local traffic congestion which acts to the detriment of bus services when they are particularly busy. LRT is not opposed to commuter coach operations but believes that stricter controls over their stopping on the highway are needed.I call in aid the comments of my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, who, writing to me on 22 December 1986, commented:Where coaches are illegally parked and left unattended. enforcement action is taken, although consideration has to be given to the possibility of perhaps fifty or more passengers being stranded if a coach is removed or wheelclamped. The problems of illegal parking are most acute during the early evening peak period, when the police concentrate their resources on maintaining traffic flow on the main radial routes out of London.How much more evidence does my hon. Friend the Minister need? The police, Home Office, London Regional Transport, British Rail and local authorities in London are all telling him the same story. However, all we see are press releases making frequent use of the word "urgency" and precious little happening. A policy of clamping coaches may be inconvenient for the 50 passengers affected, but are we to condone illegality by coach companies because to do otherwise may be to inconvenience their customers? if carried to its extreme, that proposition would have horrendous consequences.
Picking up on a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West, I suggest that the Department should do a deal with British Rail, which should be permitted to develop a rail loading bay at somewhere like Olympia, to which illegally parked coaches could be towed and then transported to the nethermost points of the kingdom. Those of Scottish Coaches could be taken to St. Ives in Cornwall, and of Western National to Thurso or Wick. They would then have to return at their own expense. I suspect that that would quickly solve the problem.
My final comment is about the additional pollution caused by parked coaches whose drivers keep their engines running. That horrendous practice forces diesel fumes into the nostrils of pedestrians, cyclists, and people living nearby. It is an anti-social and wholly unacceptable practice that is willingly practised by coach companies all 495 the time. The managing director of Southend Transport Ltd., writing to me on 3 February 1988, indicated that he was quite happy for his coaches to park on double yellow lines at Hyde park corner. He further writes:The road west of Hyde Park Corner is part of the Company's registered X1 route to and from Heathrow Airport. The vehicle would, therefore, have been in service between the Airport and Southend. It would have been waiting time to operate as per the public timetable. It is not the practice to turn off engines in such a situation.That practice is disgraceful and deliberately creates pollution. It is, of course, contrary to the Bus and Coach Council Code of Practice. The Government should take immediate action to make it illegal. A former Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West, in a letter to me, commented:The Road Vehicle (Constructon and Use) Regulations 1986 make it an offence to leave the engine running if the driver is not in the cab.We all know what goes on. The drivers are not in their cabs but sit with other staff, very often for two or three hours at a time, playing cards, taking their meals, or sleeping in their coaches.
§ Mr. Skinner
The problem does not only apply to coaches. I have noticed it outside the House of Lords. As the hon. Gentleman knows, their lordships need only come in, nod to the bobby, get signed in and pick up their £40 or £50 a day tax free. Sometimes when they do not want to stay but just want to clock in for the money, the chauffeurs keep their engines running. If hon. Members have a look any day at 2.30 they will see a car with the engine running and the lord trotting out—well, not really trotting—knowing that he will be in the place for only about three minutes. We could do with some decent statistics on that, seasonally adjusted.
§ Mr. Adley
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. As he says, vehicles waiting for people—sometimes for three minutes, but in the case of coaches often for two or three hours—with their engines running are a serious cause of pollution, particularly large diesel vehicles.
On the Embankment 10, 15 or sometimes 20 coaches park for hours on end. One driver stays to look after all the coaches. If the clamping man or the parking meter man comes along, the "duty driver" can get into whichever coach the man is looking at and say, "Look, I am on board. You cannot possibly do anything to me, because the vehicle is not unattended." That is part of the abuse —day in, day out—that is perpetrated by coach operators. Parked coaches are pouring diesel fumes all over our towns and cities.
In a Sunday Times article last week, Colin Dryden, referring to the 1984 Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, reported that smoke from diesel vehicles wasin many circumstances at an unacceptable level … the vehicles themselves have got bigger and more powerful. We all know that to be true. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West did not use the phrase "tower blocks on wheels" to describe some of the coaches that are polluting our cities today, so I shall do so now. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has rightly pointed out that they are responsible for intimidatory driving.
496 I cannot always find it in my heart to praise the Americans, but, as the Sunday Times article rightly says,American requirements are far tougher, particularly for buses, on the grounds that they put health more at risk through operating in cities.I have reserved the last word for Deputy Assistant Commissioner Innes of the Metropolitan police. In one simple sentence he sums up what has been going on in London, and the problems created by recent legislation. After all, we have Mr. Gorbachev here today. He will be gone tomorrow, but transport problems, like the poor, are for ever with us and will get steadily worse. My hon. Friend the Minister must know that transport will be a major issue in the next general election.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Innes says:You will be aware that in the Central Area problems with coaches are quite horrendous.They are indeed. My little new clause tries to deal with them, and I hope that my hon. Friend will find it acceptable.
§ Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)
I am sure that all hon. Members who have listened to the debate will congratulate the hon. Members for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) and for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) on their interesting speeches, which provided plenty of statistics and plenty of food for thought. I support the new clauses, especially new clause 5, which requires that aLocal Authority shall provide off-street parking facilities for buses and coaches.That is long overdue.
The hon. Member for Christchurch rightly cited the problems in this area and adjacent to this building. Coaches used to come into London in great numbers only in the spring and summer months, but they now do so throughout the year. Because of the lack of proper parking facilities they park as far away as Lambeth and Wandsworth for hours on end, causing traffic chaos in those areas. Residents would no doubt welcome the proposals in the new clause, and progressive-thinking local authorities would probably consider the provision of such facilities to be one of their responsibilities.
Traffic problems are getting worse not only in London but in all our major cities. We hear a good deal from the Department of Transport in the form of press releases and so on but there is precious little hard evidence of real improvement to back it up. Today's debate has highlighted the absence of a proper integrated transport system, not only in London but in the whole country. Although it may be unpopular with some motorists, there is an urgent need for us to consider the requirements of the country and especially those of people who live in areas that suffer hour by hour, day by day, from the problems caused by all kinds of traffic.
When I hear statements from the Department of Transport followed by statements from the Department of the Environment, I sometimes wonder just how much co-ordination there is of the thinking of those Departments on issues in which both are involved. Judging by correspondence that I receive from my constituents, there is virtually none.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, West made some telling points about parking, which are also touched on in his new clauses. He mentioned the problems caused by commercial vehicles, but many of the problems that I have observed are caused by private cars, especially when they 497 are parked in residential areas. I can speak only for London, but this may also apply in many other parts of the country. More and more private motor cars are double parked throughout the day and night. They are often not lit, and they cause enormous annoyance to residents as well as potential dangers. There seems, however, to be no policy on the matter. The police in my area say, "Well, sir, it is very difficult. What do we tell them to do?"
To a large extent I go along with the view of the hon. Member for Lewisham, West that penalties for illegal parking are not high enough and do not deter. Regrettably, however, throughout London—and, again, possibly in other major cities—there simply are not sufficient parking facilities, and matters will get worse as more and more cars come on to the roads. Until the problem is tackled, perhaps by the Department of Transport in co-operation with local authorities, indiscriminate parking will undoubtedly continue.
§ Mr. Dykes
The hon. Gentleman's remarks on the scourge of double parking will be welcomed by every sensible listener. Does he agree that the disease of recent years is becoming a scandal which must be dealt with as soon as possible? Should not double parking be made an absolute offence which should be prohibited full stop, except of course in the case of public service vehicles dealing with an emergency? Could we not also follow the example of Tokyo—albeit with a different street pattern —and require developers building new flats and blocks of flats to provide off-street parking spaces? Usually they do not bother, and, as with the coach problem, ratepayers, suffering residents and local authorities are left to pick up the tab.
§ Mr. Cox
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. All hon. Members will endorse his comments. He referred to property development. Those hon. Members with inner London constituencies know that there has been a great increase in the number of property conversions. Five or 10 years ago large houses were occupied by one family. Three or four families now live in them. Each family has a motor car and there are insufficient parking facilities. That issue must be tackled. If people say, "To hell with the regulations, I'm going to park here" that should be made an offence. People should lose points for doing that. Their cars are a potential danger to those who live in the area and to other motorists.
The Tooting Broadway area of my constituency used to be one of the most profitable commercial areas in Wandsworth. Putney, Clapham Junction and Balham were all popular but the money-making area was Tooting Broadway. It is fast going into a decline. The quality of the shops has not declined, but people no longer shop there because there are no parking facilities in the area.
The Underground station at Tooting Broadway and other underground stations in the area service the Northern line. Many commuters park their cars there between 7 and 8 o'clock in the morning and leave them there until 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening. Local residents who want to use the facilities in the area in which they live and in which they are ratepayers are unable to do so because they can find nowhere to park. If they park on the highway, a traffic warden slaps a parking ticket on the car. Residents therefore say that they cannot run that risk. My area—and, I am sure, many other areas in London—is suffering as a consequence.
498 Big shopping developments have also caused problems. At Colliers Wood, the Savacentre has parking facilities. for about 2,000 cars. There is no charge for parking cars there. The result is that long-established, thriving commercial areas are suffering because of the lack of parking facilities. Has any thought been given to that problem? I have taken up the matter with Wandsworth council. It has told me that it will think about it. It has been thinking about it for the past four years, but has done absolutely nothing about it. It is another example of uncontrolled traffic problems in London becoming a great menace.
When the hon. Member for Christchurch referred to motorways the Minister intervened. He criticised the scare stories that are being put about by various pressure groups and local authorities, such as Wandsworth and other south London boroughs, about major road development proposals. We may differ about whether they are motorway development proposals, but even the Minister must agree that they are major road development proposals that will affect areas such as Lambeth, Wandsworth, Fulham and Hammersmith and Richmond.
There have been a number of public meetings in the London borough of Wandsworth, which is Conservative controlled. I do not exaggerate when I say that hundreds of people attended those meetings. I chaired a meeting in my constituency on Wednesday of this week—one of the worst evenings that we have had so far this year—which was attended by over 300 people. They were there simply because of their serious worry about what they understand may happen in the area. I am referring to the western environmental improvement route.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
I am fascinated by the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I hope that we shall eventually return to parking. If the western environmental improvement route goes ahead, it will create two lanes of traffic towards the north end of Wandsworth bridge. The national taxpayer has paid half the cost of the York road improvement that has created four lanes coming in from Wandsworth Town station and two lanes coming in past the heliport from the other side. A degree of modesty by Wandsworth would appeal to those who are trying to solve the casualty and the environmental problems and who are trying to build in the economic advantages that may come from separating through traffic from those who live and work around the present Earl's Court one-way system that carries 100,000 vehicles a day—a greater volume of traffic than on some parts of the M25 and the M1.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
Will the hon. Gentleman, then, say how many pedestrian casualties are created by the Earl's Court one-way system? Has Wandsworth given him that figure?
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
Until he knows, I suggest that the hon. Gentleman leaves it there and gets back to parking.
§ Mr. Cox
It is all very well for the Minister to say that I should leave it there and get back to parking but I 499 referred to the western environmental improvement route because it concerns parking, congestion, pollution and the standard of living of the people in the area. It does the Minister's case no good to dismiss the anxieties of my constituents and those in Richmond, Fulham and Hammersmith and Lambeth. If that is his attitude, he is in for a very rough ride from local people. Of course we want road improvements, but we do not want road improvements that lead to traffic from the Earl's Court area coming into Wandsworth and Lambeth. The Minister says, "Let's get the traffic out of Earl's Court. We won't worry too much about the problems that it will cause in Wandsworth and Lambeth."
I refer the Minister to statements by the Conservative controlled Wandsworth council. The Minister may say that he does not care about what Wandsworth council says, but he will start to care about what the residents of the borough are saying. All the evidence proves—it has not been disputed—that thousands and thousands of additional vehicles will come into our area every day, resulting in the problems to which the hon. Member for Lewisham, West referred. The issue will not go away. It is not a party political issue. All the political parties in Wandsworth are united about fighting any attempt to destroy our community. However, in his two interventions the Minister has displayed arrogance about our fears.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
On the day when we announced the result of stage 1 of the assessment studies, I attended a meeting organised by the Wandsworth Society to discuss the proposals. The Wandsworth Society was interested in the northern, rather than the southern, part of the borough, and at that point people were rather keen that risk to local residents, whether north or south of the Thames should be reduced. On the wall of the local library were hung the Wandsworth Society's own tentative plans for taking through traffic out of the main shopping area of Wandsworth.
The hon. Gentleman should try to address the question more quietly, and, if he has any influence with the people of Wandsworth, he should try to persuade them into discussion rather than adopting a somewhat casual attitude both to the environmental impact of existing through traffic and rat—running, and to the Department's proposals. He should do that rather than exaggerating and thus casting a cloud of fear over those who seek improvements that they have failed to achieve in the past few decades.
§ Mr. Cox
I met four members of the Wandsworth Society in the House last night. I understand that they are shortly to meet the Minister. Now that they have examined the proposals in detail, they are very worried about what may happen in the borough. I am sure that the Conservative-controlled borough of Wandsworth will read the Minister's comments with great interest.
Let me deal with another aspect of the matter which, sad to say, has not been dealt with adequately in this debate. We all know the problems that an increased volume of traffic causes. If we are to tackle the problem realistically in London, we must give much more thought to the development of public transport. I believe that in the not-too-distant future we shall have a different pricing 500 policy for motorists coming into London. I think that that will happen, even though it may not be a popular development. We must develop our bus and train services in and out of London and within London in a way that we have not developed them in recent years.
The Northern line, a major Underground line, runs through south London and my constituency. There are enormous problems with that line. We could reduce the volume of traffic greatly if we provided services that the general public wanted to use because they were confident of their punctuality and quality. Then the problems to which hon. Members have referred today would start to decrease.
The new clauses are valid, and I support them, but we must face the fact that we shall have to improve the public transport system in London. At present, people are unhappy about using the services. In my area, one of the great problems is that the escalators often do not work. People say, "I shall not use the Underground because I cannot walk up and down those enormous flights of stairs." There are not sufficient staff at stations to look after passengers, and we all know of the violence that takes place. If we could start to tackle those problems and invest more in public transport and improve public confidence in it, greater use would be made of it. The problems of congestion and pollution referred to today would start to be greatly reduced.
The new clauses are to be welcomed, but, rather than the piecemeal approach that they represent, we need a real attempt by the Department of Transport to produce a coherent policy to tackle the problems of transport in London. The sooner that is done, the better it will be, not only for those who live and work here but for the country as a whole. That is what we should be discussing.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope). He has had the good fortune to come top in the ballot. That could happen to any of us, but my hon. Friend has chosen a matter of the greatest importance and has succeeded in making progress on Second Reading and in Committee in what must almost be record time. It is a tribute to my hon. Friend that there was no debate on Second Reading because there was such broad assent to the Bill. It is a further tribute to my hon. Friend that the Committee stage was completed in 75 minutes.
The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) is well qualified to address the House on this subject. He is a former alderman of the borough of Fulham; he used to represent Wandsworth, and he now represents Tooting. I listened with great attention to what he said.
You will remember vividly, Madam Deputy Speaker, that 49 weeks ago today we celebrated the 87th birthday of the late emperor of Japan. You may remember that date: it was 29 April 1988, and you were in the Chair. Just after you had climbed into the Chair, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department made these immortal comments:We need to know who is in the Chamber."—[Official Report, 29 April 1988; Vol. 132, c. 628.]That is my view, although they were not my words. They were the words of one of Her Majesty's Ministers. That opinion was not challenged by the occupant of the Chair. It was not challenged a year ago by anyone seated on the Opposition Front Bench or even by anyone sitting below the Gangway. It is true that my hon. Friend the Member 501 for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) was not in his place; perhaps he would have dissented from the views then expressed by my hon. Friend.
I wish to follow the advice given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. It is in accordance with that advice, not challenged at the time from any part of the House, that we may legitimately draw your attention, Madam Deputy Speaker, to a phenomenon that is not unknown. At no stage in our proceedings today has there been present a single representative of the Liberal party or a single representative of the Social and Liberal Democrats—not one. I have been vigilant.
The Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household is not in his weekend attire this morning, the only concession made to the fact that it is Friday being the brown shoes upon his feet. My hon. Friend is not always visible——
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
Order. The hon. Gentleman always make a most amusing speech and takes his time with the preamble. I hope that he may be reaching the end of his preamble and that we shall soon hear the fascinating comments that he has to make about the new clauses.
§ Mr. Gow
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) does not dissent from my assertion that not a single representative of both minority parties lhas been present, even though they claim to be champions of the people. Naturally, the Ulster Unionist party has been well represented. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) was present, and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) contributed to our debate. The House will have noted that the hon. Member for Bolsover shares a hobby with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East. Each is a keen player of the ancient game of tennis. The hon. Member for Bolsover may have left the Chamber to play tennis. He cannot be playing with my hon. Friend as my hon. Friend is vigilant and is in his place.
I hope that the new clause will be accepted by my hon. Friend, although I fear that it may not be. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister, whose wife's presence we all deplore——
§ Mr. Bottomley
I went to another place two days ago to listen to a debate on road users and the law. I had an opportunity to hear an interchange between Baroness Masham and her noble kinsman the Earl of Swinton when he was correcting her. I shall not do that today, so one need not wait for a similar occurrence.
§ Mr. Gow
I do not want to be led astray by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East, even though he is seated on the Opposition Front Bench.
We have had an important debate, because parking is of great interest to the people of London. There is a lack of adequate parking facilities in London. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) pointed out in his admirable speech, the lack of parking facilities and the fact that motors must be parked on the roads are major contributory factors in the gradual decline in the speed at which London traffic moves. A most telling point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West. Even a single motor parked in a road can impede traffic flow to an astonishing degree.
My hon. Friend the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household, who has taken time off from his onerous duties overseeing the finances of our Sovereign, will probably have journeyed this morning in a motor from his house to the House of Commons. I shall give way to my hon. Friend so that he can confirm whether that is an accurate observation. We do not hear frequently from my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Gow
I find myself in respectful disagreement with the Chair. I should like to hear more from my hon. Friend. He came to my constituency and made a superb speech of which you would have approved, Madam Deputy Speaker, but he will not speak today. I invited him to speak. I introduced him a fortnight ago today. The hon. Member for Bolsover will be pleased, because my hon. Friend travelled in a railway train. We were not contributing to traffic congestion. We made a journey, each accompanied by the other.
§ Mr. Adley
When the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) referred to one of our hon. Friends, we were at pains to know the Spanish translation for the term "sub judice". As my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel Jones) is fluent in Spanish, he might be able to help us and the Hansard staff.
§ Mr. Gow
My hon. Friend is fluent in Spanish and in many other languages as well, but we do not want to be led astray. We might be rebuked by the Chair if we refer to the brilliantly gifted woman who is married to the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household.
The Government should direct much more attention to parking in London. Mercifully, the Minister is in his place. Mercifully, there are few Ministers whose prospects are more glittering than those of my hon. Friend. He would enhance his prospects for promotion if he were able to speed the flow of traffic. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West spoke about London, but the matter concerns not just London or even England. I say that to my hon. and reverend Friend the Member for Belfast, South. Even in Belfast, a city which my hon. Friend knows better than I do, but even I am a fairly frequent visitor——
§ Mr. Gow
I do not want to stray into that matter. I wish North Down Conservatives well. I will not be led astray. 503 Even my hon. Friend the Minister does not have ministerial responsibility for the city of Belfast. Hon. Members will have noticed the final clause which states that the Billdoes not extend to Northern Ireland.But it should extend to Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East represents one of the great cities of our land. If he catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, he will not tell the House that there is no problem about parking in Leeds. He will not tell the House that the traffic flows rapidly in Leeds. That will not be the burden of his speech. Therefore, the problem is not only in London or in our great cities but in many of our towns. It is a growing problem, partly because of the success of my hon. Friends who are seated on the Treasury Bench.
§ Mr. Gow
My hon. Friend will be able to speak. If he intervenes during my speech, I may speak longer. We do not want that. I want to try to bring my speech to a conclusion. As much as I try, I am not assisted by my hon. Friend if he asks me to give way.
It is because of the success of those who are seated upon the Treasury Bench that more and more of our citizens have motors. The hon. Member for Tooting, who is a former Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, knows about these matters. He was a Minister in the Treasury. He knows what has happened. He knows that more and more of those people who, in the past, would have dreamt of having a motor now have motors. The hon. Gentleman—I almost called him my hon. Friend—is with me when I say that there are families of relatively modest means with two or even three motors, and they are not all minis. Some of them are made overseas. Too many of them are made overseas; not enough are made here. It is because of the growth of motor ownership, achieved through the success of the Government's economic policies.
I know what an enthusiastic supporter of the monetarist cause my hon. Friend is. He is one of the driest of the dries. He is one of those who said, "Let us bear down upon inflation and let us, therefore, having had one great economic success, provide more motors for the people." We are all Thatcherites now. My hon. Friend is a Thatcherite. Because of the economic success and the extent of the ownership of motors, my hon. Friend the Minister has these problems. If we had not been so successful in extending the ownership of motors, my hon. Friend's Bill might not have been necessary.
I fear that even the Minister, as wise as he is on so many matters, may not be wise enough on the new clause. I hope that he will advise the House to agree the new clause, because it will diminish grievous parking problems. We need to provide more space to park motors, and we need to enforce the existing parking regulations much more strictly. We need to impose much heavier penalties on those who defy the law on parking. I welcome the Bill and should have liked to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to address the House.
§ Mr. Timothy Kirkhope (Leeds, North-East)
Listening to the debate, I felt on occasion that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time or was reading the wrong Order 504 Paper. Nevertheless, it has been a most useful debate thus far in which we have discussed not only parking but cruising, walking, cycling and—close to the other place —trotting, and we have certainly said a lot about not moving.
I have been impressed by the industry and ingenuity of my hon. Friends in devising sufficient new clauses to more than double the number that I had in the original Bill. Perhaps naively, I was working at the time on the premise that small is beautiful. I seem to have ended up with a greater number of interests, which I very much welcome, and a debate that has been much broader than I thought it might be. However, it has served to underline the importance of parking and attendant matters relating to traffic movement to the people of this country.
I am worried about the content of the new clauses because, although they may be desirable in their own respective ways, I am not sure that the Bill is the right vehicle—if I may use that word—for them. If the new clauses were accepted, they would increase the scope of the Bill dramatically and radically change its basic nature. Apart from that, they would attract considerable controversy, which I set out to avoid by being modest in my proposals.
There is, of course, the question of pragmatism, practical politics and what one can actually achieve. I think that the Bill, as proposed and as amended in Committee, is a pragmatic measure that will meet with great support from all quarters. Indeed, I have already received considerable evidence that there is support for it. I am pleased that, among other bodies, the Association of District Councils is particularly keen to see the Bill enacted because it believes that it will enhance and give greater flexibility to the powers of local authorities in relation to parking.
The fact that the title of the Bill was changed in Committee has been mentioned. I make no apology for it. It was an amendment that I moved because I believed that it would make the Bill clearer and easier to understand than did the original title, which appeared to have a rather abstract meaning which could be interpreted in many different ways.
Before I deal in detail with new clause 1, I should like to say a few general words about the purpose of the Bill because this is my first opportunity to do so on the Floor of the House. Hon. Members have been kind in their remarks about the speed with which the legislation has gone forward. I hope that it was well considered in Committee—I am sure that it was—and although the Bill has reached this stage quite speedily, it has received attention and has been considered carefully by many hon. Members.
As this is my first opportunity on the Floor of the House, I should like to emphasise that I have deliberately confined the Bill to a single aspect of parking—the method of payment. My main purpose is to increase choice and flexibility in the arrangements that local authorities can make for off-street car parking. As we have heard today, there are many other aspects of parking provision and enforcement. It may well be that in due course other measures should properly follow to take account of the new efficiency that I hope will arise as a result of this legislation. Some of the new clauses have highlighted those other issues, but I am reluctant to widen the scope of the 505 Bill along those lines. I believe that the Bill as it stands will benefit many people and, as far as I can envisage, do nobody any harm.
The Bill does not raise any new issues of principle but clarifies and extends an area of the law on parking controls while—this is terribly important—also allowing much greater opportunity for emerging technology. We hear a lot about technology and I think it important that at every opportunity where technology can be applied without harming people or their freedoms, it should be applied.
I have already mentioned local authorities. I emphasise that the Bill will give them greater powers and greater flexibility. Governments are often criticised for doing things that seem to harm local authorities and their powers. That is not true, but it is often alleged. This small measure will underline the fact that we believe strongly in giving local authorities powers where appropriate and where we believe that they can operate them effectively and efficiently.
It may be helpful if I give the House a little background to the Bill. Many hon. Members have referred to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, which enables local authorities to designate parking places on highways in their areas and to provide off-street car parks. The Act places a duty on authorities to exercise their powers and to secure, among other things, the provision of suitable and adequate parking facilities both on and off the highway. That general duty applies to all vehicles, not just to motor cars. Local authorities must take into account the need to maintain reasonable access to premises, the safety and convenience of the motoring public and other matters including—I emphasise this—preserving local amenity.
Interestingly, although some people would think otherwise, local authorities remain the largest collective providers of off-street car parking in the country, though, clearly, there is increasing scope for involvement by the private sector. Many authorities choose to have a form of unmanned pay-and-display arrangement which puts the motorist on trust to purchase a ticket when he arrives and makes him liable to an extra charge if he fails to pay or if he overstays his time.
The method for enforcing such arrangements is provided by means of parking place orders made by the local authority under the 1984 Act. Breaching the provisions of an order constitutes an offence. Indications displayed by parking equipment can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. The 1984 Act therefore requires parking equipment and the parking devices associated with such equipment to be approved by the Secretary of State. That well-established procedure goes back to the first parking meters in this country. Obviously, it offers a safeguard to the public and ensures that the equipment meets certain minimum standards. That is important, because, I am informed, British standards are being developed as a basis for streamlining the approval process. Clearly, the British standards must be applied to all new parking devices and equipment that might be introduced as a result of my Bill.
That is the background, but why is the Bill needed? Until recently, the Secretary of State could approve the use of coin-operated equipment only. Many people will be somewhat incredulous of the fact that they can use only coin-operated equipment in the late 1980s. The original provisions were drafted before any alternative systems were available, and technology is advancing in this as in other areas. In 1986, the hon. Member for Kingston upon 506 Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) successfully introduced the Road Traffic Regulation (Parking) Act 1986 to allow non coin-operated parking equipment to be approved for use on the street. That extended what had been a London-only provision to apply nationally. It certainly opened up the way for a range of cashless equipment, which includes prepaid tokens, vouchers, magnetic cards and electronic in-car devices.
My Bill will build on that in two specific ways. First, it will allow the Secretary of State to approve for use in off-street car parks the same types of equipment that can now be used legally on the street. Secondly, it anticipates and provides for the introduction of parking equipment on or off street that can accept bank notes and credit and debit cards. While I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North on what he did, the new provision gives manufacturers with such equipment the opportunity to take advantage of the market that will become available and to extend their work in developing new parking devices.
The second provision is essentially a logical development of the first. It is wrong that we should provide for other cashless forms of payment without also widening the current definition to include bank notes and credit and debit cards, as well as coins. That, of course, assumes that parking equipment and control mechanisms develop in the same direction as those for the payment of other goods and services, which we now enjoy in retail outlets throughout the country. I am trying to ensure that my Bill does not get overtaken quickly by technological progress.
The Bill was further improved in Committee. When I was talking about the speed of the legislation, I mentioned that we carefully considered the Bill's four clauses in Committee. In particular, there is now provided in clause 1(3) a power to allow the Secretary of State to amend the definition of a parking device. That is shorthand for any method of paying for parking by prepayment rather than by a coin in the slot. The definition of a parking device is fairly comprehensive, but there is a possibility that technological advances will produce some further variants. We certainly do not want to have primary legislation in the House every time that happens. The amendments, which cover both on and off-street parking, would allow the Secretary of State by order to extend the categories of parking device that local authorities may be permitted to employ.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) referred to the unfortunately large number of imported vehicles. I can tell him that the export potential of manufacturers with this new technology and new parking devices appears to be enormous. They would do well to follow up the opportunity that they are given through my legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) has rightly drawn attention in new clause 1 to the problem of coaches parking on the streets. I do not wish to dispute his facts—I am not able to do so—but clearly my hon. Friend the Minister may wish to do so. As the Minister's constituency is not that far from Lewisham, the particular problems to which my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West referred may also be problems for the Minister. I emphasise that my legislation is of course—with the sad exception of Northern Ireland—national. While the debate on London problems has been most 507 illuminating to me as a northern Member of Parliament, I found that some of the matters discussed were not completely relevant. If they were allowed to proceed, they would probably muddy the waters. They would certainly diminish the impact of the Bill as a small but national piece of legislation.
I hazard a guess that the main problem concerned in new clause 1 is not that caused by coaches parking at designated bays, but that of coaches parking haphazardly or even illegally in other places. Obviously, we would all like to move the problem off the street, but the passengers who use buses and coaches may not be so happy. That may, of course, be the basis of another debate.
§ Mr. Adley
My hon. Friend touched on an important point. We cannot have a situation where we pass legislation in the House, or leave the police to administer the law, and then say to the police "Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we know that they are breaking the law, but if you enforce the law, you will inconvenience a few people." Will my hon. Friend confirm that he agrees that that is a completely unacceptable proposition?
§ Mr. Kirkhope
I agree with my hon. Friend. He was right to mention that point. I am not trying to come down one way or the other, but am merely pointing out what I believe could be genuine difficulties in pursuing new clause 1. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will have more to say on that issue. He is better equipped than I am to remark further on it. However, I thought it right that I should make my views known at this stage.
A decent off-street coach park is expensive to provide, especially in London. Parking is, of course, expensive and taking up the space of a lot of our cities is an expensive operation. It is certainly known that there is little suitable land available for off-street parking in the capital. High land prices tend to rule it out as an easy option, because it is unlikely that a reasonable return could be made on the investment. That is one argument, but there are those who could argue effectively the other way. On that basis, parking charges would have to be high. However, if they were too high, they would obviously drive away customers. It could be argued that that is what we need to do. My hon. Friend the Minister for Lewisham, West suggested that it would be a good idea, especially in London, to drive away some of the customers. It may be the time to consider not allowing so many of these vehicles and their occupants to come here. All round, the argument is for designating a limited number of coach parking places in the areas that need them most, but not elsewhere. Perhaps we should be a little more rigid on that.
I am not sure that the proposed new clause will help the progress of the Bill. However, it is right that it has been proposed. Perhaps it will be useful for the clause to be incorporated in some future legislation that may be more appropriate to it. I should be interested to hear the views of the Minister, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West will not press the new clause.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West for his remarks on new clause 3, but I am still in doubt about what that clause would achieve. My understanding is that the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 allows local authorities to restrict resident parking places to any class of vehicle that they choose. Some 508 residents may choose to drive a car and some may choose to drive a small minibus or van that occupies the same space as a car. Of course, there are widespread permit schemes for residents, which I believe have been generally accepted. I am not aware of any real pressure to discriminate. I question whether it is a good thing to be more restrictive than we are now. We have not taken account, for instance, of residents' motor cycles. What about areas of mixed residential and business use, where there are bound to be some vans and lorries needing space? I am not saying that it would be always right for them to take up residents' space, but I feel that the matter might best be left to the discretion of the local authorities, which take into account local feeling, rather than being legislated for in this manner.
New clause 4 perhaps raises similar issues to the previous new clause. There are flexible provisions in the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 for restrictions on waiting and loading by all kinds of goods vehicles. Those restrictions may apply throughout the day or for any part of the day. Those powers are extensively used already. They may not always, of course, be well enforced, but that is another issue. It is certainly not something that we can put right here and now. I am all for restricting peak hour deliveries, but, if the will is there, that can be achieved under the present law.
New clause 4 would tie the hands of the local authorities unduly. We should be thinking more about giving highway authorities more discretion in parking matters rather than less. Again, it is a matter of retaining as much flexibility in the law as possible. I hope that that my hon. Friend will not press new clause 4.
New clause 5 is, I believe, returning to the theme of new clause 1. It would impose a new duty on local authorities or it would be a more specific variation of their existing general duties to which I referred earlier. Local authorities are already obliged to secure suitable parking provision not just for cars, but for all kinds of vehicles. It does not mean, of course, that they always must provide it themselves at the ratepayers' expense. My hon. Friend the Minister may wish to correct me, but I imagine that, if anyone should be responsible for providing off-street coach and bus parks, it should be the bus and coach operators themselves, if that is possible to achieve.
If I understand the situation correctly, local authorities already have the power to build and operate bus and coach stations and many do so. The need varies from place to place and therefore I am not sure that it would be appropriate to impose a duty on every local authority to provide off-street parking for coaches and buses, especially if it was not required. That extra burden would lead to rigidity rather than flexibility. The power should be given to the local people through their elected representatives.
New clause 7, which is proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, contains an interesting suggestion. Even though it raises important issues to which the Minister should address himself, I am not sure whether it is within the scope of my Bill. I would, however, be interested to learn the Minister's reaction to it. My initial reaction is that the new clause proposes a radical approach that carries a severe penalty. It would have to be considered carefully before it was accepted. I look forward to what the Minister has to say and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch for raising the matter.
§ Mr. Prescott
I can hardly believe that my luck has changed. First, may I apologise on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) who has been invited to attend the Guildhall lunch with Mr. Gorbachev. She will be dealing with broader and more strategic matters while I am left to deal with London parking—so be our allotted roles. Given my hon. Friend's background, I am sure that hon. Members will appreciate that I was only too willing to help to ensure that she attended that lunch.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) on his Bill. I must admit that when the hon. Gentleman was discussing the new clauses that have been tabled by the hon. Members for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) and for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) I got the impression that he was more concerned about his Bill than the arguments put by his colleagues. The Bill enjoys support from both sides of the House and deals with an important matter. Although the arguments put by his hon. Friends were strong, I appreciate that the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East does not want to take controversial baggage on board as the Government might then feel that they could not accept the Bill.
It is somewhat surprising that this important measure has been introduced as a private Member's Bill. It is the role of Government to provide time to introduce such measures. I notice that the Government have said that they cannot find time for such measures, although they welcome their introduction by others. It is funny that the Government could find time, within about 24 hours, to make a statement about the dock labour scheme. There were no problems there and that statement will affect thousands of dockers. I will not go into that matter now, but it demonstrates that the Government have plenty of time to deal with any piece of legislation if they so wish.
The unique claim on behalf of the Bill is that we are all winners and there are no losers. It is important to judge this Bill, however, against the comprehensive problem of parking. Every speaker has said that one cannot simply solve this growing problem of parking by providing better car parking space or computers to deal with paying the parking fees. Parking is a major problem facing urban communities. I often visit Leeds and Yorkshire—I am told that I now live in Humberside, but that is another matter and I will leave it aside—and Leeds suffers from similar problems with lorries and coaches as those in London. Parking is a national problem.
The Government should have provided time for this Bill and, having studied the business statement for next week, I should have thought that that was possible. Legislation could also be introduced as a result of the North report, which is being produced by the other place. The measures in the Bill could, therefore, have been included in other legislation, but it is important to judge the Bill on its own merits. I wish it well, and I hope that it goes through all its stages today.
The arguments advanced by the hon. Members for Christchurch and for Lewisham, West are worthy of support. The hon. Member for Christchurch and I have had more than two exchanges on transport and other issues, but I hope that he will not be embarrassed if I say that I support the arguments he advanced today.
510 12.15 pm
The deregulation of buses has added to the problems. More inter-city buses now operate on the motorways and people exercise their right to choose a cheaper way to travel to London. Buses are cheaper than trains, but that gets us on to the question of fair prices and all sorts of other things. Anybody who is familiar with Westminster and Victoria is well aware of the problems caused by coaches. This morning, as I passed Parliament square, I noted two Italian coaches parked on the square. That is one of the major routes out to the motorways and that incident illustrates the problems associated with parking, in many cases illegal parking. Those problems will not be solved by more technically efficient means of payment for parking.
We must deal with the tremendous input of cars, coaches and buses into our city. That problem will demand that we challenge one of the basic philosophies of the Tory party. The Secretary of State has expressed that philosophy on a number of occasions, even at the Tory party conference. It is claimed that the ownership of the car is the greatest expression of individual freedom. The idea is that people may use their cars for wherever they want to go and that we should try to meet the demands of all those with cars. Even though we have a lower proportion of car ownership in comparison with most other European countries, we cannot continue to build more and more roads and more and more car parks to meet that demand.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, West was right when he said that we should try to manage the existing system much better. I am rather sceptical about the auto-glide system, which we shall discuss shortly. I know that that system does more than tell people where the empty road is, but when I have travelled round London, in all forms of transport, I have always found it difficult to find any empty roads. The M25 is certainly not an empty road.
The Bill has a contribution to make, but we need a much more radical approach. One of the Government's major mistakes is to assume that we can deal with this matter in a departmental manner. I am not laying that charge against this Government alone as the problem has been with us for some time. Colin Buchanan told us more than 20 years ago that we would have to do something about organising traffic in our cities. The choices facing us are whether to ban cars in certain areas or to offer better opportunities for public transport.
The hon. Members for Christchurch and for Lewisham, West were right when they said that we need more public money to fund the public transport system. We cannot allow market prices to determine future developments in public transport. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West was careful not to speak about a subsidy, but that is precisely what we are talking about. Public money must be made available so that choice may be affected.
I remember the arguments advanced by the Greater London council about its "Fares Fair" policy. Whatever the controversy about that policy—I supported it—it led to more people transferring to public transport and fewer people using their cars. It also reduced the number of accidents on our roads. In that regard I must give credit to the Government, and particularly to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, for their efforts to reduce road accidents. The Minister is right to be proud of his record. He is aware that the record for pedestrians is not as good and that we need to do a lot more. We welcome the 511 improvements that have been made and, although I have not said it before, I would like to put it on record that the present safety record is something of which he should be proud. If we save lives, in whatever way, it is a matter for congratulation. Let us hope that we can do more about that.
The Bill also deals with safety to an extent, but it relates mainly to cars. Its main concern is how to pay for those cars once they arrive in the city. We are, after all, in a cashless society. I should have liked to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) who brought in the original legislation. I do not know whether hon. Members know, but my hon. Friend has been ill for a time and I am sure that all of us would want to pass on our best wishes, particularly today, when we are following on from his legislation. It was clear that, as the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East said, the legislation was not comprehensive enough and much of the machinery on street parking that it was suggested should be introduced was not introduced because the manufacturers thought that there was not a big enough market and that this would provide them with greater opportunities.
If we are to deal with the problem in our urban cities, we must recognise that there are too many cars and we cannot merely pursue the policy of providing more car parks. My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) made an interesting point. He was really talking about a park-and-ride system, but it was being used by people taking the Underground to the unfortunate disadvantage of people in the area. Those people were denied the very local car parks that they want for business and shops in their areas, because other people were doing something which we would encourage them to do—using the car park because they could not get into the inner city and it is quicker to use public transport.
The combination of park and ride—of public and private transport—is one way forward. We must realise that cars will stay and play an important part in the transport system. They will not go away; we cannot eliminate them. We should consider how we can ration their use within cities.
Another interesting point is whether we should impose more severe penalties on motorists who park illegally. In London there are problems for ambulances and fire services in gaining access to some of our streets. They are held up because cars are illegally parked. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) suggested that the best way to deter such motorists was to increase fines. That may well have happened to a certain extent. The evidence obtained from the use of the clamp tends to suggest that.
However, the clamp brings the worst of both worlds. It makes it inconvenient for motorists who have parked illegally because the clamped car stays in the road much longer, but, because it does so, the congestion continues for much longer. It deters the motorist from repeating his offence. However, many people who use company cars or who are self-employed and use cars for business seem to think that the only way to operate is to park illegally. A parking fine becomes a business fine—almost a business charge. Even if the fine is £50 or £10, it can be passed on, 512 or one can pay by credit card—they have already arrived in the cashless illegal parking system. Credit cards or cheques are used to pay the fine.
We must think more seriously about the penalties to show our displeasure about motorists who park illegally and the way that they are putting so many people at a disadvantage. We may well have to put point endorsements on licences for parking offences. Often when I talk to drivers in business they say that their company boss has said "You must wait there" or "You must deliver this package and if you get a fine I will pay it". If the driver was then able to say "But it is my licence that will be endorsed, not yours," he would have some defence against the businesses which pressure their employees to park illegally to carry out business. Illegal parking is causing considerable problems in our cities, and we may have to consider taking such action to control the car within the community.
Hon. Members have also mentioned environmental problems. The Minister is well aware of the more controversial London assessment road programmes. History has shown that whichever Ministers come along with watever ideas people find them controversial and they oppose them. Much of the opposition to the Bill is because the local authorities which used to deal with the roads programmes and the GLC contribution have been done away with. The London assessment programmes are not assessed against a public transport system. It is not considered what could best be done to achieve the best contribution from public transport—whether eliminating the obstacles in the bus lane, or providing a cheaper fare system so that people use public transport. The GLC, in what was largely a successful transport policy, was trying to achieve all that. Even the lorry bans were introduced by the GLC. There must be a comprehensive approach to the problems in the urban city.
Even the CBI is now calling for planning and one supreme body, which is remarkable from an organisation that professes to believe mainly in market forces. However, market forces cannot solve the transport problems in our cities. We must have a major contribution from public transport but the Government appear to have set their face against that; they are against public transport systems. However, there will be opportunities next week to debate that.
However, the Government are on the wrong side of the argument and are the only Government probably in western Europe who cannot see a role for intervention and planning in integrating the transport systems, even the fare systems. One question posed today is, where will the money be found for the systems? People say that it should come not from the ratepayer but from the user. However, the taxpayer has a role to play. Every other developed economy believes that the taxpayer must make a greater contribution.
No Government has had a hypothecation policy of using all money raised in that way. However, every other European country spends about 50 per cent. of the road tax raised on roads and transportation. In this country, in 1979, 35 per cent. was spent and now it is 25 per cent. It is not that, in this country the same share of road tax has not been spent on roads, but we have given more and more of the money to the Treasury. The money has not gone into any other form of transportation—whether public passenger revenue support or building more roads. We are spending less as a proportion and less in absolute terms 513 —in case the Minister asks for a comparasion of the two Government records. That is an argument for another time.
There is much to be said for using more of the money raised in road transport taxation, not just on roads but on transport generally and for considering more radical ways of raising transportation tax and how we spend it.
The M25 has at least relieved some of the through traffic. Before London had a circular road around its centre it must have been unique amongst capital cities. A number of political parties were involved and they each must share the political blame. What we have at present is quite inadequate. Although I understand that we cannot have—and would not want—five or six motorways through our cities and must do more to rationalise our use of space within the city areas, we must have a much more effective means of moving around our cities, particularly with the advent of the Channel tunnel, which will have a major effect on transport flows in this country.
All these factors show that many of the Government's present policies—their central rail study, the Channel tunnel and London road assessments—are dealt with separately, instead of being seen as contributions to a whole, as is the case abroad. To do so Government must have an active role and intervene and plan. It is tragic that such language is the language of ideological difference in this country. The hon. Member for Christchurch made that point. There must be other ways of making rational decisions rather than leaving it to the price and the market.
In any civilised developed economy transport must play its part. It is no coincidence that transport is a much more politically sensitive issue now than it was 10 years ago. That is not solely due to recent terrible tragedies; it is because it involves people's daily experience of being stuck on the M25 or being unable to find car park space in a town, or having to pay fines.
Our main criticism of the Government's approach is their lack of an overall transport policy. Nevertheless, I offer my congratulations again to the Bill's promoter and my support on behalf of the Opposition for the Bill. It is a sensible Bill, worthy of our support. I hope that it will be supported generally and that the Government will accept the amendments to it, if not today, then eventually. These problems must be dealt with if we are to solve the problems of transport by car in our urban areas.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
I join previous speakers in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope). There was a time when many would have bet that no private Member's Bill would have reached this stage, but my hon. Friend's quick reactions got the Bill through Second Reading. There was a good debate in Committee—perhaps more closely related to the Bill than some of the issues raised by the new clauses discussed today, but that is understandable.
A word of caution to my hon. Friend. I have been conscious during proceedings on other private Member's Bills to which I have responded for the Government in the past two or three years that just one hon. Member has been able to try to force an amendment or block a Bill. That is what happened last year to the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day), a measure dealing with child restraints in cars. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) 514 here. Northern Ireland was included at the suggestion of an hon. Member from Northern Ireland. The year before that saw the passage of the Adley Act—if I may call it that. It did much to reduce the terrible noise pollution from motorcycles, which can do more to ruin the lives of people than even coaches. I am sure that many are grateful to him for the priority that he gave to that issue at that time.
I hope that my hon. Friend's Bill makes further progress. I do not intend to speak for long as I know that other important Bills await discussion. The next to come up may not be controversial. but it will be important to some people, and the House has an obligation to small as well as large numbers of people.
My problems is that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has made the speech for which we have waited for two and half years, so I can get rid of my response to the speech that I thought that he was going to make. When and if I appear shortly on "Any Questions" I shall be able to report to Carol Stone that the hon. Gentleman's New Year resolution, announced on "Any Questions" two years ago, to avoid shouting, has now been fulfilled. If he stands again for deputy leader of the Labour party I am sure he will be successful. He is certainly more active than its present deputy leader. I had better stop exchanging compliments before I get into trouble——
§ Mr. Bottomley
What we are really discussing t s whether store cards, credit cards and even kidney donor cards can be used to pay for parking in an off-street parking place. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East said, we understand the absence of his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) who, in 1986, brought forward a similar group of measures. Had anyone guessed then that our legal friends would say that one cannot be certain whether the same equipment authorised for on-street parking will be lawful for off-street parking, the previous legislation might have been more comprehensive. Today's debate is an important use of private Member's time and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East on that.
We shall return to the subject of small coaches next Tuesday night when discussing European driver licencing, and to general traffic arrangements which, I am sure, will be able to be debated on the Second Reading of next Thursday's legislation. I want to make plain the Secretary of State's and my position on motorways in London. We do not intend to put forward motorway proposals. As the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) said, there are reasons for considering new roads. He served in Fulham and in what is now the borough of Wandsworth. As I said in an earlier intervention, 'Wandsworth Council has promoted—and, I have no doubt, will promote in future —road schemes of advantage to local people. They will need to be considered in terms of their wider impact, but I do not believe that Wandsworth or any other London borough or the Department of Transport will promote a. road that will be a substitute for the M25 for crossing London.
I have made this point almost so often that it bores me. silly to repeat it. It is not our aim to spend public money on building roads to encourage people to give up their rail season tickets and get into their one-tonne motor cars——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. It is hard to see what this has to do with the new clauses.
§ Mr. Bottomley
Perhaps I can make myself plain by referring to page 59 of the Forshaw and Abercrombie report of 1943, which referred to people who drive their cars into theatreland. Messrs. Forshaw and Abercrombie recommended that there should be 7,000 car parking spaces for vehicles in the West End theatreland alone. My aim, even if it upsets my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) is to ensure that such people will come in by coach from the railway terminus, go to the theatre, and then use the railways to go home.
Nothing I have done or said in more than three years as Minister for white lines and potholes should give anyone the idea that we will try to build motorways in London —or on radial routes in and out from the centre—which will only increase car commuting. We are not trying to do that and have said so. I would be grateful if Mr. Nick Lester of the Association of London Authorities, and others who produce resident groups leaflets describing half mile wide motorways covering most of London, would stop doing so. Could they please desist.
I should like to give some advice to Thames Television which spends some time covering parking provision and other road issues in London. Instead of quick responses and asking the Minister to make a comment when somebody else has grabbed the microphone, Thames Television should occasionally read our leaflets or listen to our speeches. We have issued publications called "Transport in London" and "Statement on Transport in London". Why does it not heed the rather good speech that I made on Tuesday in Brighton at the Traffex exhibition? It was called "Civilising the Motor Car."
There are many opportunities for media people to listen to what we say. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has said, we ought to take some of the party politics out of this. There are always local issues and in that context I pay tribute to the societies and associations who pay attention to them. I had a meeting only last night with the Eltham society about various considerations in the borough of Greenwich. But we must make sure that we do not say that we must never build any more roads in London. There are too many casualties and too much of an environmental impact because of present traffic arrangements. In many areas of London new jobs need to be created. When people from the boroughs come to see me about parking or other traffic problems I advise them to seek advice from their officers about how many casualties they have and where they occur, on the rat runs as well as on the main roads. I advise them to bring in a map showing which households are affected by through traffic.
We must start talking positively rather than just slipping back into the mistakes that have been made over the last 100 years. The whole history of parking in London is covered in the Gibbon and Bell book called "The History of London County Council—1889–1939" and in the follow up edition. If we look at those, or at the Bressey report of 1938, or at Forshaw and Abercrombie we see that it is a case of people taking short-term decisions to do nothing without taking account of the impact on others. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East said, that kind of approach does not work in other forms of transport and will not work on the roads.
516 I am grateful to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East for his remarks about reducing casualties. However, we have not gone nearly far enough. I suspect that when the account for 1988 comes forward the casualties will amount to about 5,000. The target is not just to get below 5,000 a year. Over the last 14 years casualties have been reduced by about 1,500 a year, but we have to reduce the figure of 100 lives per week being lost on the roads to 80 then to 60 and then to 40. Two thirds of deaths and injuries on the roads are unnecessary.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) is with me on the Front Bench. Perhaps I should seek to work as his junior because the Northern Ireland figures used to be better than those in Great Britain, but now they are not so good. We have heard about parking problems in Belfast as well as about those in the rest of Britain. We must seriously consider the new clauses, and I would do that at great length if we did not have other pressing business before the House.
Coach parking is an emotive problem and there are no easy solutions. I sympathise with people on both sides of the argument. In his ninth Nicholas Bacon memorial lecture John Julius Norwich talked about tourist pollution. He said that it was possible to destroy the things that we are trying to see and appreciate if too many people come in. He was referring to the hundreds of coaches going to Florence and to the outskirts of Venice. We see the same thing around Westminster.
There are problems to be faced, but they cannot be faced effectively by blanket new clauses which would ban coaches that do not have designated parking spaces. It would be imprudent to adopt the alternative new clause which says that parking spaces should not be designated. There is a great conflict between two of the new clauses that we are debating. We must recognise that the Bus and Coach Council is trying but has not yet succeeded.—[Interruption.] Perhaps when my hon. Friend's birthday next comes around we will send him a letter or arrange for a parliamentary question.
As a non-sponsored member of the Transport and General Workers Union, I do not want to see too much unjustified criticism of drivers who face difficult problems when they have to drop people at the right place at the right time, pick them up at the right place at the right time and must also find time to take a break and leave the coach if it is not being used. The same problems apply with buses.
Buses and coaches provide a valuable service for the public and since deregulation they have provided alternative provision for customers. Put another way, they may be regarded as extra competition for British Rail because, unlike the railways, buses and coaches do not require expensive infrastructure for which they must pay themselves. They share infrastructure which is provided at great expense.
Do coaches use the existing road space efficiently? The answer must be yes. However, in terms of parking the answer is no. A parked coach takes up the space of three cars. However, a coach carrying 50 people is saving a great deal of road space in terms of the number of cars on the road.
There is a particular problem in London and the Metropolitan police are stepping up their efforts against illegal parking. I understand that the police have been in touch with the Bus and Coach Council to enlist its support.
517 Local authorities already have discretion about the vehicles that they allow to use designated parking spaces. Coach meters are not numerous, but they exist. We would like to see more in central London. The City of Westminster council has already introduced card-operated machines on the streets and that has been made possible more generally since the Road Traffic Regulation (Parking) Act 1986. Designated spaces are better than unrestricted coach parking. Clamping and towing have had some impact on yellow line parking. They may delay a car an extra hour or two, but research from the Transport and Road and Research Laboratory shows that they cut illegal parking by 30 or 40 per cent.
§ Mr. Adley
I would like a ministerial reply to a narrow point. We know that the Metropolitan police have described the problems of illegal parking as horrendous. What is the Government's position if coaches are parking illegally? We know that the police are short of resources, and the police believe that the coach is causing a major traffic problem, but they are worried about enforcing the law because of the inconvenience to passengers. Will my hon. Friend the Minister make it clear that the Government expect the police to enforce the law regardless of inconvenience? Only in that way will coaches stop acting illegally.
§ Mr. Bottomley
I fear that I may have to disappoint my hon. Friend. Part of my work involves proposing legislation and I try to avoid saying what the police should do. The law is there to be observed. That is plain. If there is supposed to be discretion in obeying the law, that should be written into legislation. However, most of us would expect to see a degree of common sense in terms of enforcing the law, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) explained in relation to his parking circumstances. In areas like drink driving, I have held back from saying anything about the way in which the police should use their discretion. If my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch will allow me, I prefer to maintain my degree of discretion today.
There are problems with designation. In a wide-ranging and very important speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West, like my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), put into context the problems facing travellers and residents. We must consider residents as well.
If we said that a local authority could not allow a resident to park a van in a resident's parking space—that is an implication in the new clause—we would be going too far. However, we can expect more local authorities to be as rigorous as some authorities in central London have been recently in checking to discover why so many people with residents' parking permits use that permit at 8.30 am and stop using it at 5.30 pm because they drive away elsewhere. Local authorities have power to deal with that type of cheating.
Our economic life requires service vehicles. I am not referring here to residents parking, but to road use. More people should read the articles which have been published in The Times about the time that is wasted in trying to make deliveries during the commuter rush hour. Many of the firms that contributed to the Confederation of British Industry's interesting report on London traffic congestion should consider whether they can stagger their deliveries to 518 avoid the main commuting rush, especially in outer London. I do not think that there is a solution for central London, because in central London there is often more traffic during the day than there is in the morning and afternoon commuter periods.
I hope that my remarks illustrate that the Government are continuing to examine the issues raised on other occasions by my right hon. and hon. Friends. However, it would be inappropriate to load the Bill with the new clauses proposed.
As to new clause 5, the duty on local authorities themselves to make provision for off-street parking would cut away from some of the initiatives we have been encouraging, in requiring local authorities more often to use private sector resources. I do not want to see a return to the old cycle that we had in London especially, whereby for 10 years one was not allowed to construct a building unless it included plenty of parking provision, followed by 10 years of saying that new buildings could not incorporate any parking provision—with the Government trying to set themselves against the market and swinging from one extreme to another, rather like the pendulum in the Science museum. It may be better to allow a mixture of self-interest and planning guidance, rather than to go for an absolute solution.
There has been congestion in London since Roman times, and as we shall not find a solution to parking or to traffic movement, we should try to move to a sensible position. Today, I think that it is sensible to have off-street parking that is paid for by cashless means, mainly by stored value or by credit cards.
It should not be assumed that all local authorities are confronted with a serious parking problem, though that may be true of London, of other city centres, and of some historic towns. I look forward to attending the historic towns forum that is to take place in two or three weeks' time. However, I may wish to return early, so that I may be negatively neutral on the Right of Reply Bill. Given my job, if I had a formal right of reply, half the newspapers would be full of items explaining that they had misunderstood me. I am one of the more misunderstood Ministers, in the same way that the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East is frequently misunderstood.
I move on past new clause 6, which is not being debated, to new clause 7. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is right to say that coach parking is a serious problem. I do not want to hold out a false prospect of accepting new clause 7 at a later stage of the Bill or of having it adopted in other Government legislation. I should like to give it further consideration and will write to my hon. Friend about detailed points and the difficulties as we see them. That is not meant as a false promise so that my hon. Friend will not press his new clause today, but I fear that if he did so, we might lose the whole Bill—and that would be a major loss. It is only by the kind of persistence shown by my hon. Friend that we shall move towards partial solutions to very real problems.
London has a population of about 7 million people, in addition to those who commute to London to work. That population is equivalent to that of Austria and twice that of Singapore. To believe that we can destroy economic activity so that traffic may move easily, or that we can impose the kind of solution adopted by Singapore, whereby a car has only eight years' life, would be foolish. 519 We have a duty to improve London's environment and prosperity, and to make certain that the casualties of traffic congestion are reduced. Off-street parking is part of that.
I shall be grateful if the House will not agree to the new clauses that have been proposed in a helpful way today, but will let the Bill as it came from Committee go forward to another place. Perhaps we may then consider other problems in the debates that we are likely to have on traffic in London, use of the motor car, and designated parking.
§ Mr. Maples
I am grateful for the comments of my hon. Friend the Minister, who recognises that the problems mentioned by myself and by other hon. Members are integrated and that the solutions to them must encompass various forms of transport and of parking regulation. I feel sure that we shall return to the subject many times. In view of my hon. Friend's comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Order for Third Reading read.12.49 pm
§ Mr. Kirkhope
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a moment. I have already explained the purpose of the Bill, and its detailed provisions were considered fully in Committee. I am grateful both to the hon. Members who participated in that process and to those who have contributed so constructively to today's debate. I am also grateful to the Minister and his officials for their kind assistance during the conduct of the legislation so far.
This is not a party political matter, and I am particularly grateful to the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who made some very helpful remarks. The Opposition clearly recognise that, although modest, this is a worthy piece of legislation. Many people stand to gain from it, including local authorities, equipment manufacturers and, perhaps especially, motorists.
It may seem odd that we must resort to primary legislation to give local authorities more scope and flexibility in this regard. The truth is that the present law is outdated; technology has marched ahead while statute as dragged behind. We have the opportunity to put that right, and to establish a firm footing for future progress.
As I have said, the Bill is modest, but I believe that it is worthwhile. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to bring it forward, and I commend it to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.