HC Deb 14 December 1989 vol 163 cc1172-90

4.6 pm

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Cecil Parkinson)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about new initiatives to relieve traffic congestion in London. My proposals are being published today, together with separate consultation papers setting out my provisional conclusions on the four London assessment studies. I am placing copies in the Library.

The economic boom of the 1980s has had a dramatic impact on London. Population, employment and incomes have all grown and demand for transport has exploded. There is every indication that this trend will continue. We must provide for planned commercial and residential development, and proposals for the transport systems will in turn be an essential element in the development plans which the London boroughs are preparing.

Last month, I announced our plans to transform London's public transport systems. Over the next three years, London Regional Transport plans to invest a further £2.2 billion on modernising and upgrading its systems. That includes work on the extension of the Jubilee line to docklands. Subject to further work, I expect that a Bill for a new line to relieve congestion in central London will be deposited next year. Network SouthEast plans to spend a further £1.2 billion over the same period to improve its services for London's commuters.

It is clear that public transport will always play the key role in moving people in and out of central London, but congestion on the roads must be tackled too. We are improving the quality and capacity of trunk roads wherever possible, but we must make the best use of existing roads. Our aim is to keep traffic flowing as freely as possible. The discussion document I am publishing today brings forward new proposals for traffic management and parking control.

First, I propose a 300-mile priority route system—red routes. Stopping, loading/unloading, and parking will be severely restricted. A pilot scheme will start next summer to establish the best way of implementing the proposal. I shall begin the necessary discussions with local authorities and the police immediately.

Secondly, a consistent and businesslike approach to the management of these major routes is essential. I propose legislation to establish a traffic director to ensure the coherent development and operation of the red routes. The traffic director would not replace the existing highway authorities, but would have a co-ordinating role on these routes, with appropriate reserve powers.

Thirdly, I strongly believe that the fixed penalty level for illegal parking on the red routes and possibly elsewhere in London should be increased. The Government will consult representative organisations on possible legislation and the appropriate level of fine.

Fourthly, new traffic management guidance will aim to ensure that yellow lines are strictly confined to places where they are needed. Drivers must be convinced that where there are such restrictions they are needed and will be rigorously enforced.

Fifthly, effective enforcement of traffic and parking regulations will be a key element. The police and traffic wardens will remain responsible for enforcing parking bans. The role of the traffic wardens will be enhanced. They will be given powers to authorise removals and wheel clamping. Local authorities would take on the control of parking at meters and residents' bays, allowing traffic wardens to concentrate their efforts on the red routes and the more serious offences.

We also need to go on improving the road system. We already have a substantial programme in London. This is geared mainly to upgrading the north circular and improving access to docklands and east London. One of the most notorious bottlenecks is the Blackwall tunnel, so I am announcing today my decision to add to the programme a scheme for a third tunnel. There will also be a review to see whether another crossing is needed between the Blackwall tunnel and Tower bridge.

The four assessment studies have been detailed and intensive studies. They have looked at a range of public transport, traffic management and road improvement measures on a comparable basis. They show that public transport improvements are needed but cannot by themselves solve the traffic and environmental problems, however much we invest in the rail systems. Road improvements are necessary to increase the efficiency of the system, to reduce accidents, and to take traffic out of residential areas.

The consultants looked at a large number of options. They have narrowed these down to two or three recommended options in each area. Most of the major new roads that they considered have been eliminated. Even so, they have recommended some schemes which I do not consider should be pursued further. These have been ruled out. I am prepared to go forward only with the new road schemes that will bring significant overall benefits, taking full account of the environmental effects. I have selected for consultation a number of ideas for new public transport projects and a limited number of new road schemes, mostly to improve existing roads.

New proposals for the transport systems in London will be vital to securing environmental improvements and creating opportunities for new development. In preparing proposals my Department will therefore work closely with the Department of the Environment, local authorities, transport operators and the police.

Copies of the consultants' reports will be available at public libraries and town halls in the study areas, and will be sent to representative local organisations. Free leaflets setting out the consultants' main findings and recommendations will be circulated widely, together with a statement of the Department's initial views. This will set out clearly the options that have been rejected and those on which comments are invited.

It is now nearly 18 months since the consultants first published their options. There has never before been such wide and open consultation on transport studies. But I am conscious that it has caused great uncertainty. I am now determined to end the uncertainty, to reach early decisions and to remove the threat of blight as quickly as possible. I am therefore asking for comments by 28 February.

Any schemes entered into the national road programme will have to go through the full statutory procedures which provide for public inquiry. The amount and timing of any additional expenditure would be for decision in the public expenditure survey in the usual way.

These proposals, together with those for the Jubilee line, the central London rail study and the massive investment in Network Southeast, show that this Government have a balanced approach to London's transport problems. The measures that I am announcing today, together with those that I have brought forward in recent weeks, will give our capital city the improved transport system that it deserves and I commend them to the House.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)

At the outset, may I say that I appreciate that fact that the Secretary of State gave me these reports at 2 o'clock rather than at 3 o'clock, which is the normal time? That helped a little, but the reports are somewhat complex and he will appreciate that it would not be proper to make judgments on the details of the scheme at this stage.

The statement confirms the sensitivity of the Government and the Secretary of State to the importance of transport. I welcome some of the limited steps towards intervention by the state, which in the past the Secretary of State has labelled as being eastern European in approach. No doubt the new views of the new Secretary of State for the Environment in the Cabinet and his attitude towards the car has concentrated the right hon. Gentleman's mind. Will the Secretary of State confirm that after 10 years of praising the values of the free market, the Department of Transport now seems to be learning to speak the language of planning, co-ordination, integration and even red routes, which have more to do with the blue rosettes of the local elections and the general election which are around the corner?

As the Secretary of State knows, he received a delegation from Wandsworth, which has produced plans rejecting most of the ideas in his paper. Wandsworth is a Tory council which wants more public transport, not a road solution. If anything is clear from the statement, it is that it is fundamentally about what we all know the Department of Transport is always involved in—a basic road solution to a transport problem.

We have had statements from the Secretary of State and various bodies such as the central London rail study and the east London rail study, and we have had plans for the Channel tunnel. Next week we are to get British Rail's new corporate plan. Is it not time that we had a strategic body co-ordinating transport in London, such as those which exist in every other capital city in western Europe? That is the only way to deal with the major problems facing those cities. Does the Secretary of State agree with my calculation, after looking at the reports, that the adoption of all the preferred schemes would cost £7.3 billion and involve the demolition of 2,470 homes?

Sir William Clark (Croydon, South)

Who worked that out?

Mr. Prescott

This is a statement about the Secretary of State's preferred routes. If the hon. Gentleman cares to read it, he will find that what I have said is true.

Has the Secretary of State discussed with the Treasury whether the resources would be made available to meet such commitments? Does he remember the Prime Minister giving similar assurances about who would pay for environmental improvements to the high-speed rail link just before the elections in Kent last year? Kent may have retained a Tory council, but the Channel tunnel link is in one hell of a mess.

Will the Secretary of State tell the House how much of the £2.2 billion invested in LRT and the £1.2 billion investment in British Rail, as set out in his statement, is provided by the Government? Is it not the case that public transport in London receives less financial support from the Treasury than ever before, and that the amount is lower than for any other European city? Will he confirm that next week when he sets British Rail's new financial targets he intends to cut the last £150 million of financial support for Network SouthEast? Is it true that the targets will make London the only city in Europe whose rail network receives no financial support at all from Government?

The Secretary of State claims that public transport, traffic management and new roads must all be judged on a comparable basis. Can he explain why the Department has assumed in the studies that rail, tube and bus fares will be increased by 46 per cent. in real terms over the next 10 years for commuters in the south-eastern and London regions?

We all know that the Department of Transport is obsessed with new roads. Can the Secretary of State explain the extraordinary claim in his statement that major new roads improve the environment? The first effect of the roads will be to knock down thousands of houses and they will increase the number of cars in our cities. The will also increase environmental damage and the levels of gases in our city and those gases are already at twice the international limits. The building of such roads flies in the face of the Prime Minister's statement in the House that she intends to reduce exhaust gases which are contributing to the problems of the ozone layer. It is more to do with rhetoric than fact and that is evident when we examine the statements made by the Secretary of State. Will the Secretary of State explain to the House how much growth in road traffic he expects in the next 10 years, and what effect it will have on pollution levels and the other consequences to which I referred?

Finally, on red routes, although we welcome the new initiatives to reduce congestion, can the Minister answer two relevant questions? First, given that only 2 per cent. of people who park illegally ever pay the fine, what measures will he take to increase and improve enforcement levels? Secondly, what assurances about access can he offer to people who live and work along red routes?

The Secretary of State's statement is one of the first examples of what we can expect from the Department of Transport. His language may change, but the Department's priorities do not, and the statement will do little to relieve Britain's and London's great transport problems.

Mr. Parkinson

If the House were to judge my statement and the hon. Gentleman's reaction to it, it would draw the conclusion that the rhetoric was in his remarks and the practical proposals were in mine. The Government have a totally balanced approach to transport problems, as we have shown through our proposals to the House.

The hon. Gentleman talked about public transport. We shall be spending more money than ever before on the national roads programme, in the three years starting next April, but in the same period we shall also spend more money on public transport, and the biggest ever road programme will be exceeded by the biggest ever rail and tube investment. I am extremely sorry that the hon. Gentleman cannot do the arithmetic and see that for himself.

The hon. Gentleman talked about demolition, and that is a serious issue. Under the studies as originally set out, more than 10,000 homes in London were threatened, and that has caused enormous uncertainty. As a result of combining our reaction with the publication of the proposals, the threats have been removed from more than 85 per cent. of those houses, and I suspect that that figure will be reduced substantially by the end of the consultation period, which for that reason we want to keep as short as possible. We are removing uncertainty with this statement.

The hon. Gentleman has often talked about investment and resources. I have told him time and again that under the previous owners—the Labour GLC—subsidies were increased and investment was reduced. Under the present Government, subsidies have been reduced and resources have been made available for huge increases in investment. We think that producing a better system is the right priority.

At a time when the use of the tube system at peak hours has increased by 35 per cent. and off peak by 85 per cent., it seems extraordinary that Opposition Members persistently argue the case for subsidy rather than investment. Why subsidise a service which is already hugely in demand, and for which people demonstrate that they are prepared to pay a reasonable price? The increase in fares is a figment of the hon. Gentleman's imagination. No proposals of any kind exist to increase fares by 46 per cent. during the next 10 years. I simply do not know where that figure was dreamed up. It does not feature in any documents that I have seen, and there are no such proposals.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned red routes. I accept that he has not had time to absorb all the proposals, but the discussion document makes it clear that transferring some of the responsibilities to the boroughs will relieve police and traffic wardens of a substantial part of their existing duties and leave them to focus on the enforcement of restrictions on red routes and on parking offences which break the law and are criminal.

Finally, I agree with the hon. Member that these proposals have substantial implications for people who live or have shops on red routes. That is why we propose substantial consultation.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he is to be congratulated on the massive increase in investment in public transport that he has announced, which reflects economic success and is in marked contrast with what the Labour Government did? Is he aware that the existing traffic management schemes in, for example, the Aldwych, to the south of Westminster bridge and last week in St. George's road have on the whole been disastrous in that they have been completely counterproductive? Will he seriously consider whether his Department should take over control of transport in London so that we can have a more unified system?

Mr. Parkinson

We do not think that London's experience under a strategic authority is a great recommendation for strategic authorities. We had one—the GLC—and the House, with one or two notable exceptions, was glad to see the back of it and has no wish to recreate it. We believe that traffic management schemes have an important role to play. We have been impressed by improvements as a result of new traffic control systems in places such as Hanger lane—the so-called SCOOT system. Some 120 independent junctions are controlled by it at present, and we plan to increase that number to 700 over the next five years.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermonsey)

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept my conditional welcome for his announcement? He has obviously backed off from the original proposal, which was to have a network of new roads. That is welcome. I also have a conditional welcome for red routes and an increase in fixed penalty fines, which I believe will be vital. A worrying consequence of that is that there may be fewer yellow lines. I ask the Secretary of State not to go too far in that direction because other roads need protection from unthinking parking.

Having done half a U-turn, the Secretary of State should do the other half. All the opinion surveys show that the vast majority of people in London do not believe that there should be more roads. Rather they believe that there should be less traffic. We need to decrease the supply of traffic, not to increase the supply of roads. In that context, will the Secretary of State consider, seriously and urgently, the possibility of further restraining trafic coming into London, including the possibility, which he said that he would consider, of a central London licensing system which would discourage people from driving into London? He knows that traffic has increased during the past decade.

Mr. Parkinson

We do not propose to reduce the number of yellow lines substantially. We are saying that they should be there only if they will be enforced. Not enforcing them discredits the system. We are saying that boroughs should examine their systems and that if they do not or cannot enforce yellow line restrictions, they should not discredit the system, and that where they exist they should be rigorously enforced. We think that that is a more sensible approach.

We have to recognise that the public are quite capable of making a choice if given a choice. That is why road traffic commuting has fallen by 11 per cent. and rail traffic commuting has increased by 25 per cent. We are putting very large sums of money into ensuring that people have a choice. If the hon. Gentleman examines the assessment studies with his usual care, as I am sure that he will, he will see that most of the proposals feature extensions of public transport. There are fewer road proposals and more public transport proposals, but we have to recognise that there is still a demand for road movements, and that is what we are catering for.

Mr. John Moore (Croydon, Central)

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement, especially on the assessment conclusions that he has produced for those who have a constituency interest in this matter. I congratulate him on the balanced way in which he has put together a package of proposals combining substantial investment in public transport with excellent conclusions on red routes.

Perhaps I may include you, Mr. Speaker, the most distinguished Member of this place, as you are not able to speak on behalf of your constituents in Croydon, North-East, in welcoming wholeheartedly, for yourself and myself and our constituents, the clear decisions that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken—this is made clear by his conclusions on rejected schemes—which will remove the blight and the difficulties that many of our constituents have suffered for 18 months or more? I thank my right hon. Friend for listening so carefully to the representations that have been made throughout Croydon—Croydon, North-East, Croydon, North-West and Croydon, Central—

Sir William Clark

And Croydon, South.

Mr. Moore

And Croydon, South, of course. I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for acting so decisively on behalf of all the Croydon constituencies.

Can I—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

He is trying to get him—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is a former Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. Skinner

So what?

Mr. Moore

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend specifically on keeping the remaining consultation period very brief. There was an extensive period of consultation throughout the London area.

Mr. Parkinson

I thank my right hon. Friend and you, Mr. Speaker, for your welcome, through my right hon. Friend, for the decisions. I accept that in Croydon, in particular, there has been tremendous uncertainty and blight. I hope that today's announcements will remove most of that and that we can, as my right hon. Friend said, keep the consultation period brief. We have substantially narrowed the range of options to be considered because we recognise that there are still nearly 2,000 families who feel threatened. We do not think that we should prolong their uncertainty.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will recognise that we have a transport crisis in London. The capital is dirty and congested and traffic is moving slower than it was in the days of the horse and cart. This is due basically to lack of investment. Plans have been available for four or five decades to solve the problem, but nothing has been done.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the basic need is public transport? It is the only way to get the capital going. Yet the Government are reducing the public contribution to public transport. The right hon. Gentleman says that there is more investment, but it is not Government money—it is permission to borrow, which increases fares. The right hon. Gentleman is saying that there is not enough public transport and too many people want to get on it, so he will solve the problem by pricing people off public transport by increasing fares. That is the only way in which he is getting investment, and it is the wrong approach. Why does the right hon. Gentleman not put proper investment into public transport, which is the only way to get London moving again?

Mr. Parkinson

I will give the hon. Gentleman three figures which show that he is talking nonsense. In the past five years, the number of commuters coming into London on Network SouthEast has increased by 25 per cent. The number of people using London Underground at peak times has increased by 35 per cent. The number of people using London Underground off peak has increased by 85 per cent. During that time subsidy has been falling and investment has been increasing. If the hon. Gentleman studies the figures he will realise that he is drawing entirely the wrong conclusions from the facts.

Sir Barney Hayhoe (Brentford and Isleworth)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his decision to spend more money on investing in public transport than on roads will be greatly appreciated by all those who are concerned with transport problems, as will his determination to make better use of existing roads by having better traffic management? He is to be commended heartily for those decisions.

I wish to be more specific and to raise a constituency issue in Chiswick. The removal of the threat of a major road being constructed along the line of the railway from Kew bridge to Barnes will be seen as a most welcome Christmas present. It is extremely good news for thousands of my constituents who have campaigned against that old proposal, which I hope is dead and will be buried for ever more.

I remain unconvinced about the need for massive new investment in urban roads in London, but careful consideration will be given to the proposed road tunnel from Chiswick to Wandsworth. We shall examine carefully its effect upon the local environment where it goes into the ground in my constituency—that is, if the tunnel is ever built—and its effect on local housing. By and large, however, my right hon. Friend deserves many congratulations on his statement.

Mr. Parkinson

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reception of the proposals. He has been a great defender of his constituents' interests. I am glad that he realises that the very radical proposal for the tunnel is worthy of further consideration, and I look forward to receiving his comments and those of his constituents.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

May I congratulate the Secretary of State and the Government on at least recognising, at long last, that there is a transport crisis in London? Londoners know that fact to their cost, on a daily basis. They have had to live with it for years. They also know the reasons for the crisis—first, the Government's failure over the past decade adequately to invest in public transport infrastructure and, secondly, the abolition of what was the only strategic transport planning authority, the Greater London council. That authority found itself in great difficulties because of the Government's hostile reactions when it wanted to invest in London Regional Transport.

Despite what the Secretary of State said about the level of investment, is he aware that while British Rail will receive £605 million per year from the Government for investment purposes, the rail system in West Germany receives £4.8 billion per year? That is the only way to deal with our crisis. The Government have created the crisis, yet they come to the House and expect us to be grateful to them for a few packages of measures designed to deal with the crisis that they created. It is too little and it is almost too late—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House is dealing with questions on a statement. There will be opportunities on the Christmas Adjournment motions to deal with the more detailed debating points.

Mr. Parkinson

Until four years ago, London Transport was under the control of the Greater London council. If there has been a failure in investment during the past decade, for the first six years the hon. Gentleman was party to that failure. During the period since we took over the control of London Transport, investment has increased substantially and we now have the biggest investment proposal that London Transport has ever had, amounting to more than £2.2 billion in the next three years.

As I said earlier, there has been a substantial increase in the number of passengers. That has clearly produced a substantial increase in resources. That is how, with a reduction in the subsidies, London Transport still finds itself in a better position to invest.

Sir. John Hunt (Ravensbourne)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most reasonable people will warmly applaud his statement, which I am sure will bring both relief and reassurance to most people in London? Does he realise the amount of unnecessary anguish created for many of my constituents, and for others in Croydon and elsewhere, by the premature publication of a large range of various options, most of which have since been abandoned? Will he ensure that in future the faceless planners and consultants will not be let loose on London's traffic problems in the way that has happened on this occasion?

Mr. Parkinson

That practice was a feature of transport planning a few years ago. I remember a time in my constituency when seven possible routes for the M25 were declared, which meant that seven areas were blighted. The idea that there should be open discussions, with every conceivable option put on the table, although well intentioned, actually causes enormous alarm and concern. It is for that reason that we have accompanied the publication of the final assessment studies with our decisions on which of them will be pursued. That has relieved more than 85 per cent. of the people who felt threatened of the threat that caused them such concern. We want to reduce the number still further. That is why I hope that all colleagues will urge the boroughs to co-operate in keeping the period of consultation sensibly short.

Mrs. Rosie Barnes (Greenwich)

Does the Secretary of State accept that three particular proposals will be welcomed in my constituency—first, the third bore of the Blackwall tunnel, which will relieve severe congestion; secondly, the commitment to the extension of the docklands light railway, which will help to link homes and people in Greenwich with jobs in docklands; and, thirdly, the abandonment of complicated schemes through Blackheath village which would have devastated it, about which there will be great relief? At the same time, however, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the balance or emphasis between private and public transport with a view to the future of London's roads and the increasing number of people turning to cars? Whatever modifications are made, congestion will probably continue for the next decade. The inclusion of south-east London on the tube network would be greatly appreciated and I should be grateful if the routing of the Jubilee line to include Greenwich could be further considered.

Mr. Parkinson

I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks. I think that all hon. Members will agree that south London is badly served by the Underground. As she knows, the ground there makes tunnelling difficult and that is why most of the tube network is concentrated in north London. I have no decision about the Jubilee line, but I too like the prospect of it going south of the river to the Greenwich peninsula. That, plus an extension of the docklands light railway to Lewisham, which is another possibility, would link that part of south London into the Underground system. That is badly needed and would contribute a great deal to the relief of congestion.

Mr. Steve Norris (Epping Forest)

Does the Secretary of State accept that what he has announced today is extremely welcome, but that there is still concern in my constituency about the ludicrous journeys that many of my constituents undertake to get into London from the east —journeys which frequently average just above walking pace? I understand why the Department has chosen to reject, for example, the major widening of the A10 and the new road across Hackney marshes down the Lea valley, but at the very least one of the pilot projects for the new red routes should be either Commercial road or East India Dock road where congestion is at its worst.

Mr. Parkinson

We have not yet settled which will be the trial stretch. We have been considering the A1, the A21 and the south circular, but I will add my hon. Friend's suggestion to the list. As I am sure that he and other hon. Members know, the Department controls about 220 of the 300 miles, but the other 80 miles are under control of the boroughs. We hope for co-operation from the boroughs so that we can speedily implement the announcement that I have made today.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

The proposals contained in the remaining two options of the east London assessment study for a tube line from Chelsea to Hackney and the extension of the east London line to Dalston will be welcomed by Hackney's residents, and they would be even more welcome if they were combined with proposals for more public transport? Am I right in thinking on road traffic proposals that words designed to smooth and massage will be more environmentally damaging than the document admits? I shall reserve my constructive criticisms until I have consulted my local residents, beginning on Sunday.

Mr. Parkinson

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. We want a proper consultation exercise and we look forward to receiving considered views from him and his constituents.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that commuters to London from my constituency in Kent face some of the worst journeys in the morning rush hour and in the evening? Will he accept that to halve the width of many of the inadequate routes from the south-east by the use of bus lanes makes no sense whatever, that to clamp wheels on those strategic routes is nonsense, and that the ripping out of parking meters in central London, which will merely add to the churning effect of traffic desperately looking for somewhere to park legally, is not at all helpful?

Mr. Parkinson

It was because we were aware of the difficulties for north Kent commuters that in September I announced and approved the orders for £257 million worth of new rolling stock, the improvement and lengthening of 63 stations and a new signalling system on the north Kent line. We shall be looking carefully at the use of clamps on red routes, but I think that towing away would be a much more appropriate sanction.

Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

The Secretary of State will be aware that thousands of people in Hackney will be pleased and grateful that at least some of the major road schemes which threatened to plough through my borough have been turned down and I am sure that he will want to join me in congratulating the thousands of assiduous campaigners without whose energetic and imaginative lobbying of hon. Members on both sides of the House the roads would not have been turned down. Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that one of the problems identified by the surveys is that there is still no tube station in Hackney, the only London borough without a tube station? When the right hon. Gentleman considers proposals for a Chelsea to Hackney line, will he bear in mind that any Secretary of State who succeeded in bringing a tube station to Hackney would live for ever in the hearts and minds of the people of Hackney?

Mr. Parkinson

Who could resist such an invitation? I agree that the public have made their views known in an effective way and I hope that the hon. Lady will accept that the Government have responded to the arguments put forward. I look forward to the in-depth studies on a Chelsea to Hackney line, which has many things going for it. It could be linked with Chingford and relieve some of the pressures to which other hon. Members have referred this afternoon. I note what the hon. Lady said and I thank her for the way she said it.

Sir William Clark

The very fact that my right hon. Friend has now ended the 18 months uncertainty and removed 85 per cent. of the blight on property, is welcome. I have received more than 3,000 letters against the south London assessment. It seems that somebody in the Department simply took a map of Croydon and started drawing lines on it with a felt pen, blighting a great deal of property. I welcome the fact that some of that uncertainty has disappeared, but if the options that have been cancelled had been considered carefully before the original document was produced it would have been clear that they were impractical. Option 9, through Sanderstead, affected my constituency and that is why I had so many letters from my constituents. Will my right hon. Friend give me a categorical assurance that option 9 is not now to be pursued and that, consequently, all those property owners in Sanderstead, the sellers and the rest, will now be free to sell the rest of their properties, something that they have not been able to do for the past 18 months?

Mr. Parkinson

I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. Option 9 is a dead duck.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Was the reference in the Minister's statement to the environment and green sites a token afterthought? Has he not already given prior private assurances to some Conservative Back Benchers that some of the roads will be in tunnels? How does that compare with the rejection and sabotaging of tunnelling in Labour areas such as Leyton, despite the fact that it was to be financed privately? Is there not a phrase for that approach —political corruption? Will the Minister now scrap the environmentally scarring M11 link road?

Mr. Parkinson

The hon. Gentleman is working himself up to a fine but totally spurious state of anger. If he will examine the proposals as they affect the area that he assiduously represents, he will find that there are substantial public transport options designed to help. There is no question of the consultants, in considering the alternatives that they—not the Department—put forward, being told to look after one area at the expense of another. The consultants were asked to examine solutions for London, and their recommendations are the result.

Sir George Young (Ealing, Acton)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most Londoners will consider the proposals a realistic and balanced response to the growing pressure on London's transport network due to the capital's booming economy? Far from being a road-dominated solution, as suggested by Opposition Members, the exciting feature of the documents published today is the fresh ideas that they contain for new investment, after many decades, in British Rail and London Regional Transport.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the enormous pressure on the Central, District and Piccadilly lines in west London, and on the wave of support for the proposals in the documents for a new tube line from Queen's Park to Ealing Broadway and from Shepherd's Bush, through Turnham Green, to Richmond?

Mr. Parkinson

One of the myths that Opposition Members do their best to promote is that the Government are hostile to public transport. They are not.

Last year saw the highest level of investment in British rail for 25 years, and this year's expenditure also represents a substantial increase. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) that the documents contain several interesting and novel ideas for extending the Underground and for light transit systems in different parts of London.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Is the Secretary of State aware that many Islington people will be extremely angry at the road-building plans envisaged in the consultative documents in respect of the east London assessment study? They will be angry that the threat of destruction still hangs over the Parkland walk and over part of the Holloway road. They will be angry also at the so-called major junction improvements envisaged for Highbury corner and for the junction of Hornsea road with Holloway road. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the last thing that the people of Islington want is more roads and traffic? Instead, they want more money invested in better public transport to reduce the level of commuter motoring and the number of heavy goods vehicles flowing through the borough.

Mr. Parkinson

On a point of detail, the Parkland walk proposals have been abandoned, so there is no threat to Parkland walk.

We welcome comments and consultation. If the hon. Gentleman will examine the documents, he will discover that the part of London that he represents is the subject of public transport as well as road proposals. Many people believe that it is time for the Government to grasp the nettle and deal with the problems around Archway and Holloway road. Many people also resent the fact that the planning process has been deliberately disrupted on a number of occasions to prevent important decisions from being taken.

Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of how welcome is his strong commitment to investment in London Underground—and in particular in my constituency, in respect of the proposal to undertake a proper study of the Chelsea—Hackney line, which would greatly improve the Underground service to south-west London.

I regret that the western environmental improvement route is still included in the assessment studies, but that proposal is made more acceptable by the inclusion of a proposed new river crossing. Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is also vital that if the new road goes ahead there should be a strong and purposeful commitment on the part of the Department to encourage environmental improvements along its route, to minimise the effects of traffic noise, fumes and vibrations on the local residents?

Mr. Parkinson

I thank my hon. Friend. As he knows, there are opposing points of view to his own in respect of the new river crossing. People on the Wandsworth side of the river are not so enthusiastic about the prospect—in fact, they are very unenthusiastic about it and think that the road should link up with Wandsworth bridge. Nevertheless, I thank my hon. Friend for recognising that the studies represent a combination of road and public transport, and that the two together can make a real contribution to solving the present problem.

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, Finsbury)

While welcoming the abandonment of some of the initial major road-building proposals in the original east London assessment study, I wonder whether the Secretary of State accepts that there remain proposals in his own consultation exercise that will possibly involve road widening, bigger roads and the creation of new roads in my constituency, with associated destruction of constituents' homes? Is not the fundamental flaw in the Secretary of State's statement his imposition of an absolute limit on the ability of public transport of itself to solve London's traffic problems? Does he accept that my constituents want a real investment of resources in public transport, not new or bigger roads destroying their homes?

Mr. Parkinson

We have retained road-building schemes only where we believe that the benefits exceed the costs—the costs being human as well as financial. We expect those proposals to be hotly contested, and we want to hear the public's view of them before arriving at a decision. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will encourage his constituents to let us have their views ahead of 28 February so that we can arrive at a sensible decision based on the views expressed.

There is no possibility of public transport solving the whole of London's traffic problems. Many of the journeys made in London are not from the periphery to the centre but across London, and it is not possible for London Transport to carry that traffic. The Government accept, and my statement recognises, that the majority of London's travellers will use public transport, but we must acknowledge that that job cannot be done without a better road system.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

As three of the assessment studies converge on Battersea, may I, on behalf of its residents, give a triple welcome to my right hon. Friend's very sensible dismissal of the vast majority of the schemes that would have affected my constituents' houses? I note that his preference is for public transport backed up by sensible improvements to existing roads. Will he at least consider sympathetically the idea of disposing of the remaining road schemes, including the weir scheme, and putting them not into a filing cabinet from which they can be produced again, but into a dustbin from which they cannot? If the scheme is to go ahead at all, it should be put in a tunnel and left there.

My constituents greatly welcome the red routing scheme but look forward also to schemes for traffic calming, so that people can not only travel but co-exist with others who do.

Mr. Parkinson

My hon. Friend has been an ardent advocate of red routes, along with two or three of my other colleagues. I hope that he is pleased that his advocacy has paid off.

As to the remaining road schemes, I realise that the proposal for cut and cover under Clapham common will provoke a substantial amount of comment. We look forward to seeing how the public react to those proposals —which would at the same time restore vast areas of the side of Clapham common to pedestrian ways. Therefore, those proposals could bring benefits as well as problems. We look forward to hearing the considered views of my hon. Friend and of others.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on grasping the problem so soon after coming to his present office. I hope that his announcement will dispel much of the misleading speculation about the routing of new roads, which was a cause for concern to many old people across the whole of London. I believe that the Department should produce a stategy for London, rather than a mark 2 GLC or something of the kind. I hope that while undertaking his consultations, my right hon. Friend will not forget that the Government must act to prevent the unco-ordinated digging of holes in the roads, which so often causes traffic jams.

Mr. Parkinson

As my hon. Friend knows, we have proposals for legislation which we hope to bring forward next year. That legislation will not only bring about better co-ordination between the utilities, but produce income from them for use of the lanes. We believe that the financial incentive for the job to be done promptly and quickly represents one of the best ways of removing the problem to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and Woodford)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the M11 link road will considerably reduce traffic congestion in my constituency, although I share the regret expressed by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) that more of it is not in tunnels?. Does my right hon. Friend realise that the building of this road has been delayed for 25 years—since I was in short trousers?

Will my right hon. Friend also comment on the level of compensation involved? Does he agree that if the level is too low it may represent a false economy, whereas a higher level will prompt my constituents to clamour for the development to be speeded up?

Mr. Parkinson

I am not sure that the Treasury would ever allow any Secretary of State to have so much money that people clamoured to be allowed to sell their houses to him. I recognise, however, that the building of the link road has been delayed for a long time, and I want the consultation process to be completed as quickly as possible so that we can get on with the appropriate plans.

Sir William Shelton (Streatham)

Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations on his statement? Will he also accept that the arrival—after so many years—of an underground line to Streatham, and the reinforcement of the underground line to Balham, will come as the best Christmas present that my constituents could possibly have? They will be very grateful.

I shall wait to hear my constituents' views on the proposed relief road around St. Leonard's, and the proposals for Clapham at the junction of Cavendish road. I fear, however, that the Clapham scheme will not be acceptable, because the problem could be easily dealt with by means of a roundabout—as I have said time and again in the past two years.

I believe that the pedestrianisation of Streatham high road is a plus, but that the loss of houses is a minus. I hope that my right hon. Friend will listen to what is said by my constituents when I have their answer.

Mr. Parkinson

Of course I will. My hon. Friend has been very active in promoting his and his constituents' views on our proposals, and I have no doubt that he will continue to do so during the consultation period. We look forward to hearing what he has to say.

I should make one thing clear. I am not giving anyone any Christmas presents. These are proposals, and they have some way to go before they become schemes—although I hope that my hon. Friend will agree that they constitute a major step in the right direction.

Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his eminently sensible approach to London's traffic problems. How soon does he expect the bulk of the red route schemes to be operative, and will the London boroughs now be able to keep the fines that will be levied?

Mr. Parkinson

As the House knows, my hon. Friend was the arch mover of the red route scheme, on which I congratulate him. It was the Adjournment debate that he initiated which first interested me in the subject.

We expect the trial stretch to be in action by next summer, for a period of about six months. The pace at which we can move after that will depend on the extent to which the boroughs co-operate, as they own about 80 of the 300 miles involved. We believe that they will be co-operative, and we shall start working with them tomorrow to make the scheme a reality. I cannot give my hon. Friend a more definite date, however.

Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)

As one who has been particularly critical over the past 12 months of the way in which my right hon. Friend and his colleagues prolonged the uncertainty about the proposals, may I take this opportunity to thank him for the trouble to which he and his office have gone to ensure that all of us who will be affected have been supplied with the reports, as quickly as possible? Clearly they will require a good deal of digestion, and, more to the point, our constituents will want to digest them too. To remove any possible doubt, however, will my right hon. Friend confirm that option 5—the additional motorway south of the south circular road—is also a dead duck?

Mr. Parkinson

I thank my hon. Friend for his opening remarks. Getting the studies published, and doing the work necessary to eliminate proposals that were unacceptable, has been an enormous task for the Department and our officials have worked tremendous hours to get the information out as quickly as possible to enable us to proceed with consultation.

I would not wish to be specific, but I am pretty certain that the answer to my hon. Friend's question is yes.

The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Atkins)

It is.

Mr. Parkinson

I am told that the answer is yes.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's judicious approach to these difficult issues. May I ask him to bear in mind that, in residential areas of Greater London, it is better to concentrate on improving existing roads and enforcing existing traffic regulations? Is he aware that at any one time only 400 traffic wardens are available for the whole of Greater London? If we are to enforce the regulations, is it not time we rectified that omission?

Mr. Parkinson

One of the objectives of our proposals is to relieve traffic wardens of some of their present duties, and to allow the boroughs to perform them. I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) for not answering his earlier question. The boroughs will be able to keep the fees from parking meters that they install and monitor.

Our aim is to extend the duties of traffic wardens to give them more authority; they will be allowed to authorise removals and clamping. We believe that those added responsibilities will lead to more job satisfaction and hence —we hope—to better recruitment.

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his careful and considered approach. May I also mention the refreshingly candid and helpful attitude of the Minister for Roads and Traffic, my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins)? It makes a nice change.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the road options are options, not proposals? I hope that he did not intend to say the opposite earlier. This bears out the observation by my hon. Friend the Member for Ravensbourne (Sir J. Hunt) that options are treated as proposals by the general public until a denial is issued. The term "option" causes a good many difficulties, and we must stress that these are not proposals as yet.

I welcome the extensions to the tube lines and light railway. May I encourage my right hon. Friend to put as many as possible of the lines underground, especially in environmentally sensitive areas? May I also point out that any widening of the south circular road on the scale that may have been envisaged would be entirely unacceptable to my constituents, as it would take place right in the middle of my constituency?

My constituents would countenance a tunnel from Wandsworth to Chiswick only if it were fully underground, and did not come up in one of the green open spaces in the centre of my constituency. They would, however, welcome some of the proposals, so long as all of the tunnel is underground and the south circular road is de-trunked, as well as major environmental benefits being observed.

Mr. Parkinson

I thank my hon. Friend. If I used the word "proposal" I apologise—I meant "option". These are options which are being placed before the public, and we look forward to hearing my hon. Friend's comments.

I note what my hon. Friend said about public transport. I know his views about the possibility of the tunnel's emerging at Rocks lane and linking up with it, and I have taken that point into account. I am sure that it will be made to us again in the course of the consultations.

Mr. John Maples (Lewisham, West)

We in Lewisham welcome the end of the uncertainty that has surrounded the proposal for so long. The recommended option, however, involves the destruction of some 300 houses in the borough, and a considerable increase in the volume of traffic. We shall, of course, want to study the proposals in detail, but such a move is unlikely to prove acceptable to people living along or near the route. Will my right hon. Friend assure us that the process of public consultation will be genuine, and that he will take local views into account when making his final decisions?

Mr. Parkinson

I can give my hon. Friend a categorical assurance on that point. I recognise that his constituency has the substantial problem that many houses are threatened there, although the number has been limited substantially by our proposals. The consultation will be genuine and we shall listen carefully to what my hon. Friend and his constituents say.

Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the anxiety expressed by my constituents in Dulwich, especially those who live along the south circular road by Dulwich common and of their fear that the volume of traffic and danger that exist at present would be increased if there were any road widening scheme. I urge my right hon. Friend to take note of the "do minimum" option, which would receive widespread support from my constituents and from myself.

Mr. Parkinson

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. The option that involves a tunnel under Dulwich common would have as a by-product the turning of part of what is now the south circular into a local road, thus relieving many residents of traffic, which is an enormous problem for them now. We shall listen to what my hon. Friend and his constituents say.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend consider the employment of community traffic wardens where the police and the existing traffic warden service cannot cope in keeping residential areas clear of cars in no-parking areas, which is the suggestion of one of my constituents? Will my right hon. Friend accept that although new measures to enforce proper parking will be welcomed, there is a tremendous shortage of parking places in my constituency, especially during the day when many people who come to work in the area park their cars in residential areas, thus making it impossible for residents to park anywhere near their own homes? Can we have some proposals for an increase in parking places?

Mr. Parkinson

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. The document proposes that the boroughs would take over the management of parking areas and would employ the wardens or contract out the service. They would do the job in the way that they chose. Part of the proposed duties of the new traffic director will be to promote a code of conduct for parking and we shall issue notes of guidance on parking provision. The new traffic director will, as part of his job, encourage the boroughs to adopt more uniform standards.

Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on rejecting the idea of driving a road down the Lea valley which would destroy Walthamstow marshes, an area of age-old marshland which is much loved by the people of Walthamstow. If the Chelsea-Hackney line is built with a branch for Chingford, I ask that Walthamstow marshes should not be used as an engineering depot or as a dumping ground for those works.

Mr. Parkinson

I note what my hon. Friend says and we shall take that into account when we consider the Chelsea-Hackney line.

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

Further to the points that were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), will the Secretary of State confirm that the options in the studies were tested against a fixed base and that in that base there was an assumption that the fares on public transport would increase by 46 per cent. in real terms by the year 2001, whereas motoring costs were assumed to increase by only 10 per cent. in real terms over the same period? Will he, therefore, retract his statement that road and rail were compared on an equal basis?

Is the Secretary of State aware that a recent Gallup survey of Londoners in five boroughs showed that 82 per cent. of respondents were in favour of a reduction in the use of cars in London because of their adverse effects on the environment? Will he, therefore, acknowledge that Londoners are likely to reject the road-building options in favour of public transport options and traffic restraint? Will he be prepared both to accept such a public judgment and to provide public money to support the public transport proposals?

Is the Secretary of State aware that the road-based options that are still recommended by his consultants have already been rejected by the London boroughs that would be affected, including the Tory-controlled borough of Wandsworth which recommends a 15 per cent. reduction of road traffic, a greater commitment to traffic-calming measures and a major investment in public transport?

Mr. Parkinson

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions and I shall write to her. I have been assured that the studies were conducted on what my officials told me this morning was a "comparable basis". I asked that specific question because it has been alleged that the assessment is always tilted in favour of roads and I wanted to be sure that the studies had been carried out on a comparable basis.

The Gallup survey detected a wish for a reduction in the number of cars by the electors in five boroughs. It was interesting that when a question was put about road pricing at the same time and when Londoners were asked whether they would be prepared to pay to see a reduction in the use of cars, the answer was a pretty firm no. People do not want cars, but they have no plans to get rid of their own. They want other people to stop using the roads.

I have already made it clear that all the proposals will have to earn their place in the public expenditure programme. We had a good outcome this year which is why we shall be spending £6 billion on public transport projects and £5.7 billion on the national road programme. We do not overestimate the attitude to roads and the part that roads may play in solving London's problems, but we do not underestimate the need to improve our road provision. We see an improvement in rail, underground, local transit systems, buses, which have not been mentioned today, and cars, with all of them playing their part in relieving London's congestion.