HL Deb 13 February 1946 vol 139 cc528-52

LORD TEYNHAM rose to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to the vital need for car parks in London and other great cities, not only for the convenience of the public but to ensure the free flow of traffic in congested areas and the reduction of traffic accidents caused by stationary vehicles; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in bringing forward the Motion which stands in my name I should like to ask your Lordships to recall previous debates in your Lordships' House on the provision of car parks going back quite a number of years. I think it was early in 1939, at the commencement of the war, and later during the passage of the Civil Defence Bill that plans were put forward for the construction of a large number of underground shelters which could be used as car parks on the termination of hostilities. The Civil Defence Act did, in fact, embody a clause which empowered local authorities to build such dual purpose underground shelters, but by the time the Bill became law, labour was not available and it became necessary to embark on a short term policy of surface shelters as you all know. But the Civil Defence Act has been placed in cold storage by the Civil Defence (Powers) Act, 1945, and the proposed underground shelters under that Act were never built. On the other hand, the investigations and discussions on shelter policy in the past had the very good effect of producing very complete surveys and calculations for the construction of underground car parks beneath certain areas near large cities, especially underneath the squares and under certain suitable buildings.

The point which I wish to bring to your Lordships' notice and to stress is the vital need for car parks at the present time in all our large cities. In the near future traffic may increase to very large figures. In 1928 the total number of motor vehicles on the road was just over 2,000,000. In 1938 this figure had risen to something over 3,000,000, and I see from a statement made recently by the Ministry of War Transport that it is considered that this figure might even rise to 12,000,000 by 1963, less than 20 years from now. Petrol rationing has undoubtedly reduced the number of cars on the road at the present time but the traffic will go on increasing, especially when petrol is freed, and we must devise some scheme to give a free flow of traffic. I recently attended a meeting of the Institution of Municipal and County Engineers who were engaged on the problem of car parks and suitable places where they could be put, and they realized the great necessity for these car parks in all their cities. I think it will be agreed that it is largely the number of cars parked at the kerbside which produces congestion and impedes the free flow of traffic, and I believe that many corporations propose to enact bylaws to prohibit the parking of cars in public thoroughfares. The Ministry of War Transport Committee on Road Safety, which was appointed in 1943, issued an interim report, in March, 1945, in which it recommended that: The parking of vehicles on busy streets should be prohibited, and adequate space off the highways should be provided. It would appear that there are only two principal remedies to this problem, either to prohibit private cars from the use of main thoroughfares altogether, or perhaps during certain hours, or to provide car parks in the vicinity of the congested areas. The prohibition of using certain roads is, of course, very undesirable from many aspects, and I consider it would lead to great public inconvenience, but underground car parks could be constructed in the squares of London and other large cities, which are usually situated near congested areas, and these would make the prohibition against using certain roads unnecessary.

The possible provision of car parks beneath London squares is no new idea. The London Squares Preservation Act, 1931, contemplated the construction of such underground car parks, and this Act was based on a report of the Royal Commission on London Squares in 1928, which laid down that it was important in the public interest to allow for the construction of car parks and garages beneath the squares. It seems doubtful, however, whether the London Squares Preservation Act does in fact permit the construction of these underground car parks, and I should like to ask His Majesty's Government if they are prepared to implement the powers under this Act, if necessary, in order to get these car parks built beneath the London squares. I am advised it might be difficult for a local authority, and certainly for private capital to construct such car parks under this Act. I suggest that it is very essential to have the co-operation of all three parties, the Government, the local authorities and private capital, in order to have these car parks built as quickly as possible. One, of course, realizes there is some considerable difficulty at the present time owing to the question of labour and so on, but, unless we have our plans made, we shall never have these car parks built, and traffic will get completely out of hand in our big cities.

One of the difficulties in the construction of car parks has been due to the very large space required, not only for the parking of cars, but to provide freedom of movement in and out of the park. One has to provide a large number of attendants to move the cars about when necessary, and, in fact, the waste of space amounts to nearly 50 per cent. of the area. And, of course, it is not a financial proposition to establish a car park on land or in buildings of high value, which is usually the case where parks are most required, and it is for this reason that very few car parks are built except in outlying districts. I think it can be taken that approximately 300 square feet of space is required to park a car by normal methods, but this area can be reduced to as little as 130 square feet if these new mechanical systems, of which several are in existence, are employed. The mechanical system will permit of more than twice the number of cars to be parked in a given area, and at the same time show a reduction in building and operational costs.

There are several systems of mechanization, one of which involves the use of movable floor sections, which allows cars to be parked very close together, and at the same time permits any car to be available for immediate use and delivery to the owner without any handling by attendants, as is usually necessary in the ordinary car parks. It has been shown, I understand, that mechanical underground car parks can be built by private capital, which would show a reasonable return on outlay at a parking fee of as low as 2½d. to 3d. per hour, which I think is a reasonable figure. These underground car parks need not necessarily be built beneath the squares of London. I would suggest they could be built beneath suitable buildings, and I would suggest that in all the town planning schemes we have in hand now due provision should be made for the construction of these car parks beneath the buildings which we can see starting to go up now. There are, of course, a few examples of underground car parks constructed beneath public squares in this country. One is at Hastings, and another at Birmingham, although I believe owing to the war it has not been used as a car park. One of the finest examples of underground car parks is to be found in Union Square in San Francisco, in which I believe they park something like 800 cars in a comparatively small space.

This necessary provision of car parks no: only concerns the private motorist, but affects the whole business life of the nation. Lorries, delivery vans and buses are constantly held up in traffic blocks in congested areas, and I think the trade and commercial life of the country is thereby slowed down. I suggest that the Government should set up a statutory parking authority as the agency for the promotion of parking development. It would investigate and recommend the most efficient and up-to-date methods of parking, such as mechanical methods and so on, and also supervise the control and operation of car parks, so that a minimum standard of efficiency may be maintained. This statutory authority might also initiate the formation of a public utility company to construct these underground car parks, not only in London, but in all our cities. I would go further and say—as I mentioned in your Lordships' House some years ago—that it might be possible to devise a scheme by which people when taking out their car licences should pay an extra sum which would entitle them to use any of the national car parks anywhere in the country. I do not think it would be difficult to arrange.

One may have the objection raised that the amenities of the squares might be destroyed, and possibly the trees and shrubs injured, but I can assure your Lordships that some of the schemes I have seen prepared for the squares have taken full care of what might happen to the trees and shrubs, and in many cases the layout has greatly improved the general appearance of the square.

I should like to refer for a few moments to a very serious aspect concerned with the provision of car parks. Police records show that a very large number of deaths and injuries are caused to pedestrians who endeavour to cross busy thoroughfares from behind stationary vehicles which are parked at the kerbside. There is no doubt that adequate car parks would materially reduce those accidents, and I think it would be thus possible to prevent cars parking at the kerbside without undue public inconvenience. There is room for both Government and private capital schemes to arrange for the provision of these car parks. I hope His Majesty's Government will give this matter their very earliest attention and before town planning schemes have become so advanced that it will be very difficult to produce a sound car-parking policy. I beg to move for Papers.

5.39 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Motion which is down in the name of my noble friend Lord Teynham, and with regard to which he has spoken with such considerable vigour. There can be no doubt he raises an issue the importance of which cannot be overstressed. As we all know, the lack of car parks in London and in other cities is all too evident. It is not necessary, as the noble Lord has said, that one should be a car owner to appreciate the immense inconvenience that is caused to the community at large by the lack of such facilities, which are, in the words of my noble friend, "a vital need." There can be no doubt it is the primary responsibility of His Majesty's Government to provide adequate car-parking facilities in towns, seeing that those facilities are clearly a natural ancillary to the roads. London is, I suggest, destined in the future to be a great meeting place for the discussion of world problems, as for example, those now in debate by the United Nations Organization. If we fail to provide all those facilities, living as we do in this mechanized world, we are liable to find, in spite of our historic background, and the fact that London, the capital city of the Empire, is in so advantageous a geographical position, that it may be displaced by another city better equipped with provisions for transportation and also for living.

The Minister for Town and Country Planning gave a most interesting address on December 13 last to the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Municipal and County Engineers on the very problem that your Lordships are now debating—that of the parking of motor vehicles. Possibly several of your Lordships heard this interesting address, but to those who did not I may say that I have brought several copies of the paper here which I should be glad to give to those of your Lordships who are specially interested, as it is a remarkably clear statement of the problems. The Minister emphasized the great difference in the all-round efficiency that exists and which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, between the method of car parking ordinarily used—drive-in and drive-out if and when you can—which he rightly terms non-mechanical, and the but recently developed mechanical system. The Minister pointed out that: When cars are parked in the ordinary non-mechanical manner, it is found that in order to gain the necessary capacity of cars they must be closely packed, more or less in the order in which they are admitted, and this results in a congested condition precluding freedom of ingress and egress and causes long delays in reception and delivery, while greatly increasing the probability of damage and of fire. This outlines, in the Minister's words, the case against the old-fashioned car parking plan.

The Minister in the same address referred to a paper prepared quite recently for the Royal Institute of British Architects on the subject of car park buildings, in which various methods—all methods in fact—of car parking were discussed. In dealing with the modern method of car parking which must, as the Minister clearly emphasized, be mechanical, reference was made to one system which appeared to the Minister, in his words, … to require the smallest amount of space per car. The floor area is divided into movable sections suitable for cars of all sizes, and cars can be parked end to end and side by side in a more or less solid mass, with only the minimum essential clearance between cars—a matter of inches. Although the floor is divided into such sections it presents a flush surface with no impedimenta, and thus for practical purposes and in appearance differs very little from an ordinary floor. The movement of these sections on which the cars are parked is automatically controlled by electro-selective gear, so that by pressing the appropriate button, the car required, whatever its position in the mass, is automatically brought to the drive-off position. In the light of our knowledge of efficient and up-to-date methods, the parking problem should now be dealt with so as to provide this amenity on a sound economic basis and without delay. Those were the words used by the Minister in his address. In fact, it is clear, from what the Minister says, that any car can be brought within a few minutes—perhaps three minutes, not more than five minutes anyway—to the drive-off position. Think how different that is from the situation that faces us to-day wherever one may find a car park.


May I ask what Minister you were quoting just now?


The Minister of Town and Country Planning. This is a copy of the paper which I shall be pleased to give to your Lordship.


Since the noble Lord has been interrupted, may I ask how costly this system would be, whether any royalty has to be paid to any company for installing it and, if so, to what company?


I propose, in concluding these remarks, to give a few figures relative to those points, in comparison, and I would here mention, since the noble Lord asks the name of this particular system, that it is the Baldwin Auger Mechanical Car Parking System. I feel sure that your Lordships will be in complete agreement with the Minister of Town and Country Planning's approach, and, as an engineer, I was particularly anxious to discover something more about this mechanical system of car parking to which he referred and which uses space so efficiently, eliminates the risk of damage to cars, reduces the fire hazard in a very marked degree, and, as I have said, allows the driver to get his car within a few minutes and to drive off.

I have been successful in my quest in discovering details of this mechanical car parking system which, I gather, is to be installed in a building shortly to be erected on a "blitzed" area in the City, in fact not very far from the Mansion House. The basement area of this new office building is to be utilized as a car park. The site, as is common to most sites in the City, is somewhat irregular, and therefore the difficulties of space utilization are considerable. For this reason, the figures 1 propose to submit will give your Lordships an idea of those difficulties and may be taken as affording a fair comparison, in the matter of what is involved in London and what may be done in utilizing the space, between a non-mechanical and a mechanical method of car parking.

Dealing first with the non-mechanical method, I may say that the total cubic dimensions of the structure to which I have referred in the City, which embraces two floors, would be 1,253,550 cubic feet, and the cost of such a structure, estimated at 3s. per cubic foot, would be £88,000. Such an area would carry, by the old methods of parking, 152 cars. Secondly, by the mechanical method of parking, the total cubic dimensions of the structure, which embraces as before two floors, would be 1,027,910 cubic feet, and the cost of such a structure, estimated at the same figure of 3s. per cubic foot, would be £70,000. But this is important: the carrying capacity of that area would be 295 cars, as compared with 152 cars under the old method. Your Lordships will have noted that the non-mechanical parking structure is just over a quarter of a million cubic feet larger than the mechanical parking structure. This is due to the need for widely-spaced stanchions and the consequent increase in depth of beam essential to providing unobstructed space necessary for the manipulation of cars by non-mechanical methods.

This involves an increased depth of excavation of 4ft. 6ins. over the whole area of the site, plus 4ft. extra over the stanchion foundations. The mechanical parking structure, which allows of closely spaced stanchions, inherently provides the better foundation to bear the load of the superstructure which will be carried to the permitted building height. Your Lordships will have noticed the large area of the non-mechanical structure and its higher cost. Despite the larger area, the non-mechanical lay-out of these two floors only accommodates 152 cars, whereas fitted for the mechanical method of parking it accommodates 295 cars. The convenience to the user and the safety of the mechanical method is very obvious.

I would like to suggest in conclusion that steps should immediately be taken to select from amongst the large number of "blitzed" sites a number sufficient in area to make adequate contribution to those car-parking facilities now so sadly lacking, and that work be started on the preparation of those sites forthwith because the sites can be utilized right away for the necessary mechanical car parks and the buildings could be erected at a later stage, when circumstances permitted. I have therefore very warmly to support the Motion raised by my noble friend.

5.51 p.m.


My Lords, this is no new discussion which we are having this afternoon. I myself can remember several discussions in your Lordships' House which ranged all over the question of car parking from A to Z. You will probably think it is rather a foolish question to ask, but really what is car parking? It is not quite so simple a question as it might appear on the surface to be. Is a vehicle parked when it is left in a street for two or three minutes; or is it parked when it is left in a London square for two or three hours? I suggest there are two problems in connexion with car parking. There is the problem of the commercial and business man who comes to London and who leaves his car pretty well all day in some car park, if he can find one, or round a London square, and there is the problem of the user of a motor vehicle who uses his vehicle for shopping, or for pleasure, or for travel, or for all the miscellaneous purposes for which cars are used. When once things return to normal, are we going to have relays of policemen pursuing agitated females and chasing them away from streets when they stop for a minute or two outside a shop; or are we going to provide the motor world with some proper accommodation, perhaps on lines suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill? If I might be allowed to criticize the noble Lord, Lord Teynham's valuable speech this afternoon, there is a slight tendency to put the blame for all the ills from which we suffer on the motor car. After all, a parked vehicle, while being in normal times a very potent source of obstruction, is not the only one; there are many others.

If your Lordships will bear with me for a moment, I would like to refer you to the fact that in 1938 the Government produced certain draft regulations, called the London Traffic (Waiting Vehicles) Regulations and the London Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Draft Regulations, 1938. The publication of those provoked widespread dissatisfaction, not only in the motor world but amongst traders and commercial interests generally. As a result, there was a tremendous demand for a public inquiry to take place into the whole question of waiting vehicles. No inquiry was held, but the result of the agitation was that the draft regulations went no further. We all have our own ideas and we all have had our own experiences with regard to waiting vehicles in the streets, but I submit to your Lordships that it is a little dangerous if we assume that the experiences which any one of us may have had to endure are necessarily sufficiently comprehensive to enable us to come to a final decision on the matter. Whilst welcoming such schemes as those produced by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, and being really for the most part in entire agreement with the mover of the Motion, I feel there should be a comprehensive inquiry into this question. There have been several inquiries into London traffic conditions. Sir Charles Bressey produced a very valuable report and in it he dealt with the question of parking. The Ministry's own Memorandum on the Lay-out and Construction of Roads also deals with parking. In fact it is hardly possible to pick up any Government publication that does not refer to car parking or waiting vehicles.

There seems to me to be a need for a comprehensive inquiry into the whole thing. I would like to see an inquiry which would touch on such matters as the need for the revision of omnibus and coach services, the reduction of the number of vehicles operating outside rush hours, and the re-arrangement of the routes of motor coaches. Most of this refers to peace time, of course, and the position is perhaps not quite so aggravated at the present moment. I would also like to suggest that the inquiry should consider embayments for public service vehicles at fixed stopping places. Everybody knows the obstruction which is caused by London Passenger Transport Board buses when they do not pull in as close as they should do to the side of the road and it may be that at some places embayment points for their use should be provided. Then there is the question of cab ranks in main thoroughfares, and of cruising taxicabs. In these days when one cannot get a taxicab, the point does not arise, but in normal times, speaking from personal experience, I can think of no more potent obstruction in many of our busy streets than the cruising taxicab. You must remember that he is going at a slow speed, with one eye, or perhaps even both eyes, fixed on the pavement, and is not looking at the traffic, which is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.

Then there is the question of unilateral parking, which has hardly been tried in London. There are only one or two streets in London where it ever seems to take place at all, but I think much more use should be made of unilateral parking, or unilateral waiting, if you like to call it that, for motor vehicles. Then there is the question of the provision of adequate parking places. That has been touched on already. I do hope the Government will do what they can before London is built up again to try and get the appropriate authority—I do not know whether it would be the Ministry of Town and Country Planning or who it would be—to consider the question of office buildings and so on providing their own car parks in their basements. I think much more could be done in that direction. It has been recommended by most of the traffic authorities, but hardly anything of the sort seems to have been done in London or any of the other big cities.

Another thing is the restriction of horse-drawn vehicles. Nothing provokes more heated controversy than any suggestion that horse drawn vehicles should be restricted, yet surely it is rather absurd to see half a mile of traffic following a horse-drawn vehicle along a busy thoroughfare—it may be Oxford Street or any street you happen to think of; anybody can see it for himself on any day of the week. It certainly seems to be absurd and it would not be tolerated for a moment in many cities on the Continent which are really not half so over trafficked as London. Then there is the acceleration of road repairs on through roads and the hours at which such repairs should take place. I suppose a good deal has been done in that direction already, but I think a good deal more might be done to see that road repairs are not undertaken by various people who have the right to go and pick up the surface of a road just, as it seems, when they like to.

These are some of the problems which I should like to see examined comprehensively by some body—I should not be in favour of a Statutory Commission—set up by the Ministry of Transport with the right people on it. I believe they would not find very much difficulty in coming to a conclusion, and would not take very long over their deliberations. The question has been examined so often. It should be examined as a whole as, otherwise, there is a danger that the Government, or the Ministry of War Transport, may come down upon one section of the traffic problem only, leaving all the others inadequately dealt with. This question should be examined by a Committee with the adequate experience.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, lord Teynham, has very appropriately called attention to this immediate problem, and to the rapidly approaching crisis in the matter of car-parking, not only in London—to which noble Lords have referred prominently up to the moment—but also in a great number of the larger cities of our land. At the risk of being charged with digressing from this Motion, I would say that I hope thought will be given to this matter as part of the whole subject, which is nothing more or less than our highway service as a whole. Fundamentally, the big issue is the saving of life. I know we are involved with the congestion of traffic, and that Mr. So-and-So gets furious because he cannot get somewhere or is held up behind a horse-drawn vehicle. They are very important commercial matters, and very important for the general welfare of the public, but, fundamentally, the thing we are up against in this and all road matters is the saving of life. Unfortunately, this problem is treated, in general, with appalling apathy. Your Lordships will remember the words of the Select Committee on this particular point. The Report of the Select Committee has been debated in your Lordships' House. It says: The holocaust on the roads to-day nothing short of appalling, but it seems to be contemplated by the public in general with complacency. That was in 1939, and, as far as one can see, extraordinarily little has happened in the ensuing seven years to change that psychological attitude. Good propaganda has been put out. We see it now beginning to bloom on walls and in newspapers, but we all know what propaganda is, however good.

Only a few weeks ago I was talking to a man who, incidentally, was an eminent cyclist, about this road problem. He said this accident business was an extraordinary thing. One never seemed to see accidents; where on earth did they happen? That is a remark you probably have heard, or it may be a thought you have harboured from time to time. It is one thing to read of an accident and another to see an accident. And, of course, it is a vastly different thing to become involved in one. In this specific problem of car-parking which we are discussing to-day, I feel that there is no need for complacency at all. We do not have to go out and look for the trouble; it is lying around us all day for all to see. No propaganda is necessary to get us worked up into a state of wishing to ask questions about it, nor, indeed, should there ever be any need in future for those whose work it is to be to set matters in order, to be probed either by Parliament or the Press.

I am quite certain that those in high or in lowly positions in the Government Departments concerned, as and when they find themselves so fortunately able to snatch a few moments out of the office will, by dint of getting into their motor car, or someone else's, be able to get themselves into the middle of the trouble in less than no time. I fear I have dealt, as I threatened to do, with the matter on a slightly different point. Other noble Lords will no doubt have excellent suggestions to make of an entirely practical type in regard to the remedies. Remedies must come and they will come, but I feel an urge to say that something should be done in the interim. I am sure that when due attention is paid to the clearing of some of the "blitzed" sites, perhaps even the demolishing of "blitzed" buildings, an immediate remedy will be found so that the congestion on the roads that really matter can be eased without us having to wait for those magnificent underground garages which will follow at a later date. I have the very greatest enthusiasm in supporting the Motion.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, this is a complicated question. I think one of the fundamental difficulties has not yet been expressed. If one goes to any big city—Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester, or anywhere else—one finds every street during the day, and every street in the neighbourhood of a cinema at night, lined with motor cars for really what amounts to one very simple reason. In a big city, the building of a garage or a parking place to house cars is not a commercial proposition. In other words, it is a job that has got to be done by the local authority or by the nation. We have to realize how serious the situation is. I do a good deal of prowling round London at night not in a motor car. It has a specific object in view when I do it, and it sometimes produces, I am glad to say, results.


Would the noble Lord tell us what his object is?


It is the object of assisting the police in preventing people burgling your flat or mine, or pinching your car or mine. If you prowl round the West End, you find the most extraordinary state of affairs. For instance, try driving round Leicester Square at night. I was advocating yesterday that we should have dual carriage ways. I do not suggest that dual carriage ways should be produced by putting a line of cars down the centre of the road so that the traffic is automatically divided. I certainly never suggested that. I never suggested there should be a line of cars down each side of the road as well. You will find that happens in Leicester Square, in the Haymarket and in Lower Regent Street. They are one way streets, but they are divided into two thoroughfares. You get a one-way street where the traffic should have the whole length of the street to thread itself through on to the side on which it wants to be when it goes out. It gets on to one side and, because of cars parked all the way down the middle of the street, it has to go down the street to the very end and then cut across a line of traffic. The result is you get, at the very end, two lines of traffic meeting like that.

How urgent this problem is a very rough count that was made the other day will show. In the West End of London there were parked in the streets over ten times as many cars as there were parking facilities to hold them. It is obvious that if you endeavour to keep your traffic moving in the future, when people are really licensing their cars—a great many are not doing so to-day owing to the basic petrol restrictions—that sort of situation is going to produce complete chaos unless something is done about it. The figure of ten times as many parked cars as there are parking facilities for will, in a very short space of time, increase until it is twenty times as many. If that is the position that is going to develop there is only one possible answer—you will have to prohibit the use of motor cars at night or by day in London. If you prohibit the use of motor cars in London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and your other big cities the loss to this country in revenue from taxation is going to be something superlative. There is only one means of dealing with the problem. You have your big parks and your big squares. There is no conceivable reason why you should not build your garages underneath them. If you do not make provision for this now when you are rebuilding the devastated areas you will have lost your chance, and a chance that is lost is very hard to make up.

6.14 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to associate myself with all that Lord Teynham has said in presenting his Motion. I feel that everything possible should be done in the way of long-term planning for affording parking facilities for motor vehicles in the streets of our cities and towns. But, my Lords, such facilities as have been outlined to-day—a mechanical car park in two bottom floors in a building, or parks under squares—take time to construct. They require also material, labour and finance. But the problem which we have to face is immediate and grave. It is one which is likely to become aggravated in the very near future. I feel that however much we may wish to have car parks underneath squares we are, at the moment, in danger of not seeing the wood for the trees. The question is—what are we going to-do now? In New York, in Paris and in other large Continental cities they have street parking, and you have no congestion even in the smaller streets. I suggest that unilateral parking on a street that is not greater in width than four motor cars is essential and should be enforced. You can go down such a street as Jermyn Street any day you like and find that, although there is supposed to be unilateral parking, there are cars standing along each side of the thoroughfare. And nothing is done about it here. Another thing that I suggest is essential is that when a motorist is parking he must not draw across traffic and park the wrong way. If you do that you cause traffic to stop twice—once when you pull in and once when you pull out. Also you fox the pedestrian who may be crossing the street and is not looking for traffic coming from different directions. What we have to do is to afford immediate and adequate parking facilities and yet to keep traffic flowing.

The Alness Report on the Prevention of Road Accidents stated that: During the year 1936–7, 13.5 per cent. of the total number of accidents involving personal injury to pedestrians were attributed to persons walking or running out in front of or behind a vehicle which masked their movement. I have also noticed that Sir Alker Tripp was quoted in the Autocar a fortnight or three weeks ago as saying that in the majority of accidents involving pedestrians, the facts showed that the greatest danger to the pedestrians was from standing vehicles. It is interesting to note that the Alness Report makes this distinction which I think it is important that we should keep in mind These are not, of course, all 'parking' accidents, for many of them occurred to persons walking out in front or behind an omnibus or tram which was stationary for a short time only. Therefore I do not think we should be too greatly worried about these accidents when we consider the matter of unilateral parking in our streets. We have got to have parking facilities, and the thing is to organize them so as to cause the least obstruction to traffic. I think that it can be done and that the necessary regulations should be put in hand forthwith.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, I desire to intervene in this debate for only two minutes. I think it has been a most interesting discussion and I should like to express my own personal gratitude to the noble Lords who have spoken for the very constructive suggestions which have been put forward. If I, as an old administrator, might venture to make one suggestion to the present Ministry it would be this—do not try to do everything at the same time or you may end by doing nothing. I have no doubt that all the things to which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, referred are quite important, but if we are to wait while we have an inquiry into every problem connected with road transport, or any form of transport, it seems to me that the inquiry will be likely to go on and on and that we shall have rebuilt England—even at the rather slow speed at which the present Government are doing it—before the inquiry has finished. I do not say that that means that we ought not to take note of the very practical suggestions made in the last speech.

The London police are very good friends of mine, and I have worked very closely with them, but I must say that I have found instances in the Provinces where it seemed to me—probably because the places are smaller and, therefore, it is easier no doubt to control and enforce the orders as to where you may park your car and where you may stop—that the parking problem is dealt with more effectively than in London. The noble Lord, Lord Waleran, has made some very practical points in this connexion, and I would add that I recall that in some provincial towns (and this applies to towns in France as well) you used on odd days to park on the sides of the streets where the houses bole odd numbers. It is rather a bore to have to park always on the same side of a street, and under the system of which I am speaking you parked on the side where the houses bore odd numbers say on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and in front of the even numbers, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On Sunday, I think, you probably had a beano, and could do what you liked. I am not greatly in favour of making new criminal offences, but really this fantastic procedure by which so many London streets now seem to have cars parked down the middle, obstructs traffic and is frightfully dangerous. I was nearly killed going into my club the other day when one of the noble Lord, Lord Winster's, 'buses was parking. There was a great line of his B.O.A.C. 'buses, or it may have been Transport Command vehicles right in the middle of the street. I will certainly divide against him if he does it again.

But whatever be the answer to all these manifold problems, one thing is quite certain, and that is that in this and other great cities we are going to need a great many more parking places. Quite frankly, it was a revelation to me, as I am sure it was to other members of this House, to hear of the change of cost. If the figures of my noble friend who introduced this Motion are, as Lord Balfour would have said, in any near relation to the truth, they are most remarkable. It seems to be almost a paying proposition and, when they are not too expensive, quite a paying proposition. That is very interesting and it will be interesting if the Minister in reply will confirm this. It does make it an entirely different proposition, coupled of course with, and made possible by, these new simple mechanical processes. I do not want a commission of inquiry. It is much better that one Ministry should be responsible for this, but now is the appointed time. We have had the "blitz" and all these planning schemes are going forward. You cannot be too arbitrary about it. One noble Lord said that a block of offices ought to be rebuilt. If you do that they will expect to have the loss underwritten.

On the other hand it is perfectly reasonable in planning a city to say, "This shall be done on fair terms." I would much rather have one Minister responsible than a cohort of Ministers, and he should be responsible for giving practical advice and encouraging local authorities and individuals. I do not see why the individual should not get on with this job if he is willing to. The Minister can come to a perfectly good conclusion as to which of the systems is the best, or in a case where two are equally good and give expert and impartial advice to local authorities. That is much better than leaving all these people—and I should like to see two or three competing systems—without any encouragement to canvass local authorities. The sites will be begun to be built, the new designs will be taking shape, before a settlement is made. I commend the Motion most sincerely to my noble friend who is going to reply.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, like everyone who has participated in this debate or listened to it, I have enjoyed it very much and I feel it is one of the very best I have listened to during the time I have been in your Lordships' House. We welcome it particularly on behalf of the Ministry of Transport because it will help to give additional publicity to the campaign we are now running to urge the provision of greater safety precaution in connexion with road traffic and to diminish road accidents. It will also help to stimulate local authorities, all of them, to be more active and vigorous in this very important matter. We do appreciate the work of our local authorities. For example, in Manchester some most notable work has been done in this direction and I have been asked to mention it because it is so praiseworthy. The first point I want to make is that local authorities are endowed with ample powers. No Ministry has the power that they have and it has been the practice to devolve local affairs upon local authorities, to give them responsibility, and to hold them responsible for doing what they ought to do after they have been given the power. In so far as they have been remiss I shall tell your Lordships later what we propose to do, but there are plenty of Acts of Parliament which have given them powers in the last twenty years, although the initiative must rest with the local authorities for taking action.

Briefly their powers—there are a large number of Acts of Parliament—can be summarized as follows. They have ample powers to create parking places and to make charges for their use. They can obtain money to do that on better terms than any private individual. The local authorities can make a charge and administer them and where there is a loss it can be balanced against a nice profit-making project in another place. They may not charge for parking places on the highway and that is the item most of us object to. That is what we want to get rid of, and I will do my best to show you what we have in mind in that direction. They may also make buildings to provide car parks. The noble Lord has produced an interesting pamphlet which he read, but local authorities can provide these car parks and they can mechanize them.

It is perfectly true, as the noble Lord said, that you save enormously by mechanizing your car park. A car wants 40 to 50 feet of space and it can be dealt with by mechanism much more expeditiously and at far less cost. The local authorities can undertake that either by using buildings or by making an underground car park. That, of course, is not so easy to arrange but they have powers to do it if they are willing to try. Then they have powers to make "no waiting" orders. They are able to say that cars may not wait about and choke up the thoroughfare, but that is subject to confirmation by the Minister because there are often a lot of objections to hustling people along, especially when there are not any places for them to go to. It is no good chivvying people to get their cars out of the way when there is no place for them to go to. These very facts emphasize the need for action on the part of the local authorities to provide parks so that people can park their cars.

Local authorities may acquire land, or utilize land for parking places. They may authorize parking in any side street which is not greatly used, which I believe is known as unilateral parking. They may make provision for parking of public service vehicles where they are at all troublesome. They can arrange suitable places for them on highways or side highways, but they cannot make any charges in that case. If, however, cars are parked in their own car parks, that is to say, the authority's car parks, they can make a certain charge. If anyone thinks the charges are unfair, he can appeal to the Minister and he will give a ruling on the charges based on his experience.

Then there is another authority which has some power, and even more power than the Ministry of Transport. That is the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. I must say, however, I am informed that when the present Minister of Town and Country Planning was speaking at this conference, he was speaking as a private citizen and not as a Minister. He divested himself of his responsibility as a Minister in making his statement, but it was useful as a general guide, and I am glad it has been cited. He has some quite -useful powers, and my information is that he is exercising them. When he makes plans for new areas or for dealing with "blitzed" areas, he can make provision for car parks, as part of his duty, and he does it. I have seen it in operation in new areas in Surrey, where a cinema is put up and there is a car park adjoining the cinema, part of the cinema land, and there is adequate provision for the cinema-goers in the afternoon and evening, and in some cases it is used by shopping people in the morning. That is all due to the Minister of Town and Country Planning insisting that that should be done. He acts in close co-operation with the Ministry of Transport, and, of course, with the local authority, who are, after all, the chief people concerned in this matter.

I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has gone, because he was advocating the establishment of some other advisory or consultative committee. I may say that we have a very good Committee, which issued a valuable interim report on road safety in December, 1944. Nothing much could be done then, because our attention was entirely focussed on the war. But they made their recommendations. They did not wait until the end of the war. We are awaiting from them their final report. When the Minister has received the final report of this very valuable Committee, he will announce the final policy. He is in a great hurry. He wants to get on with it. Meanwhile he has given consideration to the recommendations in this report about car-parking. Those recommendations cover four pages—pages 59 to 62—and II paragraphs, 214 to 224. I will give a very brief description of them.


It is published as a White Paper, and is available.


It is available, and is published by His Majesty's Stationery Office. One shilling is the price for it. I have seen it in various places where traffic questions are under consideration. I think it is a fairly well known publication. It is not however a Command Paper.


It is a Stationery Office publication.


I think it is rather a pity it has not been made a Command Paper. I have no doubt the report will be. It will embrace this matter and everything else as well.

The first recommendation with regard to this question of parking is that all the appropriate authorities should be urged to make orders to prohibit standing vehicles where traffic peaks go up to 300 vehicles per hour—that is, five a minute at a peak period—or in other circumstances likely to cause danger or traffic congestion. The next recommendation is that the Minister should have power to make such Orders himself when local authorities are neglectful, after three months' notice. Then the Committee recommend that the function of providing parking places off the highway should be mandatory upon the highway authority where there is need for prohibition of parking on the highway. Then it is suggested that no financial assistance should be given except by way of loans. As we all know, loans are of great interest at the present time. I am very pleased to see that the Metropolitan Water Board completed a transaction this week at 2¾ per cent., so we may well hope that important work like this will be financed through the agency of the Government in the neighbourhood of 3 per cent.

I consider that public interest can do this work much more satisfactorily than private enterprise, although at the present time there is nothing to prevent any enterprising people from establishing car parks and charging 6d. a time, and making a profit. They are free to do it, but it is not being done, and was not done before the war. These future profits can be pooled with losses on regional areas. As I said a few minutes ago, the Committee say it would be the best way, and there would be no deficiency. Then they recommend that the use of squares and other less frequented highways, and also empty bombed sites, be regarded only as temporary expedients. They do not wish them made into permanent parks. I think there is a good deal to be said for that. Another recommendation is that planning and highway authorities be urged to require provision of parking facilities in the reconstruction of large buildings. The Committee considered nearly all the points that have been raised in this debate, and made recommendations upon them. They suggest that where people put up a great business there should be provision for parking for the people who are going to use the bossiness, and probably other people as well.

They recommend that parking places be provided on the outskirts of large towns to relieve congestion in the centres. The noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, made the point, or mentioned it for consideration, that one might even exclude all cars from London. That would be very stiff. Perhaps we ought not to go as far as that. But let us consider what the London Passenger Transport Board did at, Morden, in Surrey. They made a large park close to the station, where people could drive up, put their car in, and step into the tube, thereby not adding to the congestion of London. Well, that is recommended by this Committee.

I have very great pleasure in announcing that, although this is only an interim report, and the Minister is anxious to get the final report, he has decided to adopt the provisions of this report in respect of parking places. I consider that will be an encouragement to those who take an interest in this great subject. There is only one proviso. In the first place, emphasis should be placed more on the encouragement of local authorities to provide car parks than on the prohibition of standing traffic. Of course, this unfortunately involves new legislation. The Minister cannot go to local authorities and say to them, "Do this," and they will do it, without authority from Parliament. There is really no chance of getting it done this year, but the Minister authorizes me to say that he is endeavouring to make arrangements for it to take place in next year's programme if the exigencies of the times permit.

I know he will. He and the whole Ministry are very concerned and most sincere about this great question. In the meantime, I hope that local authorities will utilize their existing powers to construct adequate parking places off the highway, and that any temporary measures will be accompanied by a long term programme for permanent parking places. I am asked to impress that upon the minds of all concerned in this great question.

I think the points I have made pretty well cover what has been said, but I am very grateful to those who stayed and made their contribution to this debate. I have taken careful note myself of all that has been said, and if there is anything beyond what I have answered it will be thoroughly well considered. In thanking everybody, I would like particularly to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, for his contribution to this debate. As to the question of having still more inquiries, there really is no need. The Ministries are full of information. We have the documents and they contain really reliable information, and it may be it will be followed up with further steps.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord who has replied on behalf of His Majesty's Government for all the assurances he has given about the construction of these car parks. But we have the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and the Ministry of War Transport, and somehow or other it seems to me the building of these car parks may fall between them. We do require some form of co-ordinating authority. I do not want an inquiry, but I think we need some co-ordinating authority still to get these car parks built. Perhaps the noble Lord would like to say something on that point.


The Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning do work together necessarily in the matter of all road questions, from every angle, not merely that of car parks. They work so well together, and will continue tot do so, that there is no need for a new co-ordinating power.


I am very grateful for those further assurances and I feel sure that now we shall see the car parks built, perhaps in the near future. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.