HL Deb 30 April 1958 vol 208 cc1122-70

2.43 p.m.

EARL HOWE rose to call attention to the enormous cost of the control of parked cars by the use of parking meters, as compared with the disc system as used in Paris, and various other questions involved; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, the question which I am venturing to submit for your Lordships' consideration to-day may seem in some ways to be a small and unimportant affair, but I submit to your Lordships that it is of extreme importance. The question with which it is designed to deal is one which is very simple. The question really is, of course, the control of the parked car. This is; a problem which has been growing for the last eight or ten years—in fact ever since the last war ended—and various methods of dealing with it have been suggested from time to time. But the question with which I desire to deal this afternoon is whether the Government are going to employ a system which is enormously expensive in what it sets out to do, or whether they would prefer to have a trial run with a system which is working in Paris, and working extremely well, and which costs exactly nothing—not one penny piece.

I am sure we in your Lordships' House all agree that something must be done to deal with the problem of the parked car. It is not a new problem. It is a problem that has been growing, as I have already said, ever since the end of the war, and is one which has received curiously little attention on the part of the Government of the day. But it has received the attention of the various Committees which have tried to deal with it. Wrapped up in the question is the problem of the long-term parker and the short-term parker and the amount of off-street parking accommodation available to them. In 1951 the London Traffic Advisory Committee reported as follows: Although we recognise that there is much to be said both for and against the introduction of parking meters in London, we incline to the view that an experiment could be tried"— and this is the important point to which I wish to direct your Lordships' attention— as soon as reasonably adequate off-street accommodation in a particular area has been provided for the long-term parker. That was 1951. It was obviously a most sensible recommendation embodied in the Report which apparently fell on deaf ears so far as the Government are concerned, for no Government since that date has done anything to implement the recommendation of that Committee.

Two years later there was a Working Party on car parking in the inner area of London, and this is what they said on page 2 of their Report: We put forward a parking plan which we think will go a long way towards solving the parking problem in inner London by providing garages for long-term parking at charges which we hope will be acceptable to motorists. Two further features of the plan are the provision of parking meters at authorised street parking places for short-term parking and the introduction of a new system of waiting regulations in the area—both of which should immediately follow the opening of the garages. Unfortunately, these aims have not been achieved in the year under review, and in many respects the situation is worse. That is what the Working Party thought in 1953. Over the years, the Ministry of Transport seem to have found it convenient to forget all these reports, in particular that off-street parking accommodation should be available before we went in for parking meters, and nothing effective has been done.

Now I turn to the present position. It was only a relatively short time ago that the Government sent the Chairman of the London Traffic Advisory Committee to Paris to report upon the new experimental disc scheme which has been running there. If any noble Lord is interested in the disc scheme I have it here, and I shall be delighted to show it and explain it to him. A report was produced by the Chairman of the London Traffic Advisory Committee after he had been to Paris, and he at once advocated the parking meter as against the disc scheme. The motoring organisations were not at all satisfied with this. They had not been asked for their views—that did not matter—but they were not satisfied that the investigation which had taken place was sufficiently unbiased, sufficiently factual and exhaustive. So they sent over a special team of their own to inquire into the whole matter.

This team went out to try to obtain the views of French residents in Paris, British residents in Paris and proprietors of garages in Paris, and also to discuss the scheme with the French police. They discussed the matter particularly with a M. Bourlon, who is in charge of the administration of the disc scheme in Paris, and he was most helpful and gave every possible assistance. It was ascertained that the scheme in Paris, the "blue zone", applies to an area about one square mile in extent. The proposed experimental area in north-west Mayfair is about one-tenth of a square mile. I emphasise that because it will be seen that it is a much smaller area, and also that any figures relating to the Mayfair experiment will require to be multiplied as necessary in order to bring them on all fours with the figures relating to the French scheme.

Of course, the idea in Paris was new, and people had not got accustomed to working it and dealing with it. It was brought in for the first time on November 7 last year; therefore it had not been going a very long time. It was discovered that there had been a very large number of fines on motorists for disregarding the provisions of the French scheme—in fact, the fines in Paris for non-observance of the regulations have been running at an average of £36,000 per month. It was also found that the French scheme employed about 200 policemen. When it first started there were 400. It was rapidly found that that was an unnecessarily large number, and so it was reduced to 200, and the authorities are hoping to make further reductions on that figure for the area they already work. The cost of those 200 police is about £8,000 a month. So you will see that the fines are running at a considerably higher figure than the cost of the scheme.

This is the important point: in Paris we could not discover any criticism whatsoever of the French scheme. The shopkeepers say that it has made a complete difference to the financial takings in their shops. They are all for it. The police are most strongly in favour of it. Not only that, but many areas in Paris are pressing for an immediate extension of the scheme, because it has been found that it removes the long-term parker from the streets. I believe it is right to say, and that it is borne out by figures here—the noble Lord who is going to reply will, no doubt, correct me if I am wrong—that about half the vehicles one sees parked in the streets are long-term parkers. People, sometimes called commuters, come up early in the morning, park all day and go away in the evening. It was the same in Paris, and the effect of the disc scheme in Paris has been to remove the long-term parker from the streets; the short-term parker gets a chance, and he is nothing like such a problem. The shopkeepers are in favour of it, the police are in favour of it, the residents are in favour of it; in fact, one cannot find anybody against it. They are asking that the present scheme be extended. Another aspect of it which is most important is that it has resulted in a speeding up of traffic.

The Ministry of Transport's attitude seems to be to look upon the parking meter as yet another means of raising money. One of the criticisms the Minister himself has made of the disc scheme in Paris is that it does not produce any money, whereas parking meters would. I wonder whether everybody in your Lordships' House realises that already the net burden of taxation on the motoring world in this country is running at £500 million per annum. Do we really want to add to that burden unless it is absolutely necessary and there is no other way out? The London experimental area is to cover one-tenth of a square mile. We have been told that each parking meter that is put up in the London streets is going to cost round about £35. I have deducted £5 from that so as to be quite sure that I am not overstating the case. There are to be in the experimental area of Mayfair 654 of these parking meters. To add to that I suppose there is the figure for cost of erection, which we have not been told. Then there is the cost of repairs and maintenance.


I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but would he be so good as to inform the House, if there are 654 meters to be put in this experimental area, how large the experimental area is?


One-tenth of a square mile. These things are rather tricky little bits of machinery; they cannot be guaranteed indefinitely, I suppose, any more than any other machinery of that type. The cost of maintenance and repairs in London was given to me by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in answer to a Question, as £17,000 a year. That is for one-tenth of a square mile. Multiply these figures and what do they come to? If the area were the same as in Paris, the whole square mile, the installation figure would be something in the region of £200,000. That is just to install them. The maintenance figure would be £170,000 a year. No one supposes that if the parking meter scheme were successful in the area of Mayfair it would stop there. We should find the streets of London decorated wholesale with these things. Therefore it is as well that we should know what the probable expense would be. Then we were told that nine attendants would be sufficient to take charge of the parking meters in the Mayfair experiment. I wonder, my Lords, whether nine would he adequate; but if they were adequate and you relate it to the Paris scale, ninety would be required. I do not know what their wages would be.

Another figure that has to be brought in has not been mentioned by anybody as yet, and that is the number of police required to regulate, to see that the owners of the parked cars carry out the drill, and to protect the meters; I emphasise "protect." Some time ago I saw the figures for New York, and in one month no fewer than 342 parking meters were broken into and looted there. That figure is an ancient one, at least three years old, but I have not been able to obtain a more up-to-date one. It is obvious that a number of policemen will have to be taken off their beats and specially employed in seeing that the rules are carried out and that the parking meters are not looted during the night or at any other time.

Now I turn to the parking meter. The parking meter is a rigid, inflexible machine. It is inflexible in its erection and in its operation. It is impossible to vary the times indicated on the meter. With the disc scheme in Paris that can be done; the time can be varied to allow a longer period for the lunch hour than for the normal period throughout the rest of the day. The parking meter cannot be adjusted according to the conditions with which it has to deal. One of the features of the control of the parked car in London, and indeed everywhere else, is unilateral parking on alternate days; but with a parking meter that is impossible. Therefore the cars will always, all day and every day, be on one side of the street. The principle of unilateral parking as at present in force in this country is that one day parking is permitted, all along one side of the street, and on another day all along the other side of the street. Surely that is a fair way of dealing with the problem; otherwise the wretched property owners—shopkeepers, or whoever they may be—will be greatly prejudiced, according to whatever side of the street their premises may happen to be on; and it may even affect the rateable value of their properties. These people may run into all sorts of bother.

Then again, the parking meter idea originated in America. It may suit American traffic conditions. Many of your Lordships who have been to America have seen it in operation there, and it may be that the lay-out of American cities lends itself to it. No doubt it does where cars can be parked at an angle to the kerb. But if cars cannot park at an angle to the kerb (and I have here a plan of the experimental area which shows that it is not intended that there should be parking at an angle: it is going to be longitudinally to the kerb) you will therefore have to allow as much space for a motor scooter as for the latest giant from Detroit, so that you will really be wasting a lot of space unnecessarily.


If I may interrupt the noble Earl, is it not likely that the arrangements will not provide for automobiles of the absurd length of the present day American cars but will be restricted to sensible English models?


That question had better be addressed to the noble Lord who is going to reply to the debate. I personally hold strongly the view that these large super-cars that are used by some people in London streets are much too large, and unnecessarily so; in fact, some of them are every bit as large in length as the ordinary motor lorry. The other day I saw one standing outside a club, which I will not advertise. It was such a beautiful machine that I walked across the street to have a look at it and to admire it. I then paced out its length. It was over twenty feet long and took up as much road space as a lorry. I think there is a great deal to be said for the Ministry of Transport, somehow or other, trying to persuade people to use much smaller machines than these very large ones. I am sure that would help considerably.

My Lords, I turn to another aspect of the parking meter which we are to have in this experimental area in Mayfair. A large number of medical men, specialists, dentists and the like, have their premises in this area. How are they to deal with their clients? How is the client to get to his specialist? What about the doctor who lives there? He may be a busy man, and he cannot be expected to walk half a mile to find a clear parking space. What is going to be done to help him? It seems to me that the medical men, the specialists and so on, as well as their clients, have so far received little attention. Your Lordships no doubt saw in the Press recently a report of an inquiry into the state of affairs in Marylebone. The fact that I have just mentioned was brought out strongly there, and it was pointed out that the medical man is often highly pressed for time. He may have to go from his consulting room to hospital as quickly as possible; it may be a matter of life and death that he should get there quickly. If he has to walk for half a mile in order to get his car it is going to be a serious matter for his particular client. It seems to me that that aspect of the question has not received much consideration. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is going to reply whether the report of the Marylebone inquiry is to be circulated and, if so, when. So far as I am aware it has not been circulated and not much has been said about it.

Or suppose that a client who is aged and infirm is driven up to the specialist's door in a chauffeur-driven car or something of the sort. The client goes inside to see the medical adviser, but what happens to the car? How on earth does one discover where the car has gone to? It may have to go quite a long way before a vacant space can be found in which it can be parked, even supposing one can be found at all. If one cannot be found I suppose it just cruises around, thus adding to the prevailing traffic, until space can be found. Another problem concerns the residents. If one is resident in a particular house, and if one day the Westminster City Council, or some other council, erects a parking meter just outside the front door, from then on one can expect to find a car permanently outside the front door. Yet as a householder one has a right of access. How is a person to get his own goods, be it luggage or what you will, into his house? How is he to get in or out of his own front door? What is going to be done about that problem? If he cannot do anything about it it seems to me that the rateable value of his property will be sensibly diminished. That, I think, is something else to which the Government should give attention.

I do not want to weary your Lordships by taking up too much time. I should therefore like to sum up.


I wonder whether, in summing up, the noble Earl would tell us just how the disc scheme would help the doctors, because that is a very important point.


In summing up could the noble Earl also tell us how a disc scheme would operate in regard to all-night or week-end parking by people who leave their cars out all night?


It does not.


Before summing up, could the noble Earl tell us something about the disc scheme, which may not be known to all noble Lords?


I shall be delighted. I told your Lordships earlier on that I should he only too delighted to try to explain the disc scheme. It is perhaps rather difficult to explain it in your Lordships' House, but I will do my best. I have here a plan of the "Blue zone". Everybody going into the "Blue zone" has to be furnished with a little disc such as I have here. It has two little windows, one showing your arrival time, and the other, a red one, which shows you when you have to leave. The times are variable. There is, for instance, one time in the morning, at 11.30. If you arrive at 11.30 in the forenoon you have to clear out by 15.30—half past three. If you arrive at an earlier stage, let us say at eleven, you have to be out by 12.30. This scheme can be adjusted to the habits of the people. The disc hangs up in your car, where it can be seen by the policeman or attendant, and if you have overstayed your welcome you will be fined. The standard fine in Paris at the moment is 900 francs, but that is to be stepped up to about 2,700 francs; and it may go even higher. Those fines produce the amount of which I reminded your Lordships—£36,000 a month.

I do not know whether I have explained this system clearly to your Lordships—it is difficult to do so here—but in Paris it has had the effect of clearing the long-term parker off the streets altogether. He has now gone to a garage, to which he should have gone to begin with; and the short-term parker now has a reason-, able chance of finding a place in which to park. Shopkeepers are so pleased with the scheme that they are asking for it to be extended to other areas of Paris.


A doctor and his patient are not long-term parkers.


It may be necessary to deal with them separately. That could be dealt with under the disc scheme, but under the parking meter scheme one can leave a car only where there is a parking meter. Under the disc scheme one can park wherever one can find a place; but it is not worth while for the long-term parker to stay because he will be prosecuted for a contravention; and it is better and more suitable for him to keep his car at a garage during the day. Your Lordships 'have decided on this scheme which completely disregards those two extracts which I read to your Lordships from the Reports of the London Traffic Advisory Committee and the Working Party on car parking in London. Both those recommendations said that before we went in for parking meters, although it was not a bad scheme, adequate off-street parking accommodation must he provided. So far as I am aware, Her Majesty's Government have done exactly nothing about that. Those recommendations were made way back in 1951 and 1953, hut nothing has happened over the years: things have gone on just the same.

As I have tried to show your Lordships, the cost of the scheme that has been decided upon is enormous. Just think of one-tenth of a square mile, are area designated in Mayfair, fitted up with a lot of machines which arc to cost £170,000 a year for maintenance, repair and the like. Then think what would be the cost of a scheme on the French scale. As against that the Paris scheme costs exactly nothing. The disc which I have shown your Lordships costs the authorities nothing—for this reason. Each costs less than one penny to produce and bears the name "Caltex" or that of some other firm—perhaps people who will grease one's car, Paris garages and the like. They pay the whole cost of production, so that there is no cost whatever to anyone else, other than perhaps for a piece of string to hang the disc in the car. Against that, the parking meter is an expensive machine, costing from £35 to £40. I do not know the actual figure of cost, but I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft, will be able to tell us. He told me once, in answer to a Question, and I believe he gave the figure as £35. I put it down at £30 in my calculations, so as to be well on the right side.

By the parking scheme Her Majesty's Government are going to put yet another burden on the motorist who is already giving us £500 million a year in taxation. Then the scheme is hopelessly rigid and inflexible as compared with the disc scheme. Supposing, for example, a parking meter scheme is started in an area in London, and eventually it is decided that that is not quite the right area for it. It cannot quickly be changed, for all the parking meters will have to be taken up and planted somewhere else; whereas under this scheme nothing like that is necessary. A motorist can park where he likes and has only to conform to the rules. And, as I have said, the parking meter wastes space. I told your Lordships about the scooter and the "giant" from Detroit, and your Lordships can see how space can be wasted unless there is parking at an angle to the kerb which, for the most part, would be quite impossible. It might be done in Grosvenor Square or Portland Place (though Portland Place is not affected at the moment), but obviously it could not be done in an ordinary street. Again, is the parking meter going to be an ornament? Many of us in this House pay great attention to amenities and appearances and a large number of pillars with these parking meters on top of them will not be exactly an ornament to the London streets.

The parking meter scheme does not meet the need of the professional man. Another point is that no experiment has so far been carried out with the disc scheme in this country. One would have thought that before making a proposal involving such very great expense, as is quite obvious from the figures which I have given, Her Majesty's Government would have preferred to try out something a little cheaper. But nothing of the kind occurred. I beg Her Majesty's Government to think here. I presume that the present experiment has gone too far, but I beg them, before making any extension of the present experiment, to carry out an experiment with the disc scheme and see what it really amounts to and what can be done with it. I suggest that that is not an unreasonable request in the circumstances, and I am sure that if they will dc so it will be very much appreciated by all concerned. I beg your Lordships' pardon for having taken so long, but I could not help doing so. I beg to move for Papers.

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, let me say straight away that I believe the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has made out a prima facie case for at least the very earnest consideration by Her Majesty's Government for which he asks. I hope that that is the tenor of the reply that we shall receive this afternoon from the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. Before I make any comment about the scheme which the noble Earl has put to your Lordships, may I say this: neither his scheme nor any scheme of parking meters is a cure for the problem that confronts London or any of the other big cities of this country. The tragedy which I believe the noble Earl has brought before your Lordships this afternoon is that nobody—neither Her Majesty's Government nor the local authorities—is making any attempt to solve the fundamental problem of getting cars off the streets into off-street parking.

Her Majesty's Government shilly-shally. They mess about and seize upon any straw to save them from trying to solve the problem; and they are exceeded in their dilatoriness only by the lack of responsibility shown by local authorities up and down this country. Until we get that remedied we shall go on debating this subject with monotonous regularity until the noble Earl, myself, the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, and those of us who find it difficult to say anything fresh on this subject, are in another place where motor cars and parking will not trouble us at all. My Lords, I am not averse to experiments; but what is this experiment going to prove? Nothing whatsoever. You are going to put up outside people's houses, so the Government say, 654 obstructions to the pedestrian along the pavements of one-tenth of a mile of Mayfair. I do not know whether Montagu Square is in this sacred zone.


Not yet.


I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, may have half a dozen in front of his house. But what are the Government going to do? What they are going to do is to push the motor cars outside the area and cause the congestion to be worse than ever; and the more you enlarge your zone the more you will have the congestion and the need to push it away. Once when we were debating this matter told your Lordships a story of when I was a young engineering apprentice. A broom was put into my hand so that I might sweep up the shop, and I swept it up very well. I got a devil of an amount of muck collected, and when I went to the foreman to ask him what I should do with it, he said, "You sweep it about till you lose it". That is precisely what he Government are doing with the parking problem: They are going to sweep one-tenth of a mile somewhat clean and push the muck into someone else's front yard.

I wish I could induce the noble Lord really to get down to the fundamentals. If your Lordships will permit perhaps a slight indelicacy, I would say that it is as much the responsibility of local authorities to provide off-street parking for motor cars as it is for them to provide public lavatories for the pedestrian. It is a social amenity to-day. If you do not provide that social amenity, how are your shopkeepers going to pay their rates and taxes? They have to rely upon those who wish to travel by their own conveyance to shop. The City of Oxford lately has had a "blitz" on parking, and what has been the result? You could not park anything in the City of Oxford for about a month or six weeks, but the shopkeepers soon had something to say about that, because their trade went outside the town.

Would the noble Lord accept this statement from me—his own observation must bear it out—that the problem is getting worse, because not only is the number of motor cars on the roads increasing but also, through the rebuilding of the blitzed sites, the number of off-street parking spaces is diminishing. This is no cure. I would not mind having the experiment if I thought it was going to be only an experiment, but I can conceive that 654 hideous parking meters are going to be awfully permanent in Mayfair. Once the authorities have put them there the experiment will have to be proved a success, whether it is or whether it is not. When I was in America about eighteen months or two years ago I could find nobody, neither a lay person nor a person in authority, in any American city who would tell me that the parking meter there had solved the parking problem. All they would say is that it had raised a lot of money, but it had not solved the problem.

The noble Earl has talked about the smash-and-grab attraction of the coins that are put in these parking meters; but how many of your Lordships have seen an American street without any cars by the 'parking meters? At all drunken angles they lie, aluminium plates stained with rust. The most hideous sight that you can see in an American city is a street of parking meters unhidden by motor cars. Are you going to have that in the squares of the West End of London? I do not know what is going to be done with Berkeley Square, because I have thought for this last year or two that Berkeley Square had really become respectable—from the amenity angle I mean, not any other. Are you going to have parking meters all around the inside and all around the outside?

The scheme which the noble Earl has expounded is precisely the same as the parking meter scheme, but the motorist carries his meter about with him on the inside of his own car. He sets the time and, as the noble Earl says, that is the time at which he has to go. Now he can go on doing this if he is not caught, so it does not altogether stop the long-term parker. It stops the long-term parker if he is caught going back to his car at the expired time, opening the door and pushing the disc round. Nor does the parking meter stop the long-term parker. It has this worse abuse: that the wealthy man has only to give the car park attendant a handful of coins and he can, what is known as, "feed the meter". I wonder how many of your Lordships could say that you have never given the attendant at a car park in London an extra half-crown tip so that he need not write out the little chit and you could leave your car on that car park for longer than two hours. That is the thing that happens in London, and these meters will not stop that.

The advantage of this other scheme is that it does not cost any money. The cards are printed. The one I have in my hand is printed by Caltex, so it does not cost the motorist anything; it does not cost the local authority anything. You have not to spend millions of pounds on meters and their upkeep. The amount of policing it requires is approximately the same as for a car park, and, as the noble Earl said, it is mobile—you have your own meter. One disadvantage is that if you have an open car anyone can move the meter, but if it is locked inside a car no one but the owner of the car can alter it.

I have not heard any objection to this scheme that is not quite rightly levied against the static meter scheme. The static meter scheme, as the noble Earl has so rightly pointed out, has many other objections. So I plead that I am not in favour of parking schemes of any description. I say it is wrong for any Government to let out the Queen's highway for garaging. That is fundamentally wrong; it is immoral. The only answer to the problem, as I keep repeating, is off-street parking. But if you must have an experiment, and the Government are set on having an experiment, then let us have an experiment that does not cost any money. Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer so well off that he can spend somewhere in the region of a quarter of a million pounds on having a parking zone metered, so that when he has done it he might just as well have poured the quarter of a million pounds of money down the nearest drain? It will prove nothing. It will not stop the congestion. The only way to stop congestion on the highway is to take vehicles off the highway, and the only way to do that within reason and stop the long-term parker is to have a limited time of parking for every motor car. If two hours be a reasonable time, we must never let any car stand on designated streets longer than two hours.


Twenty minutes.


When we get people who have so abused the position that they have had car covers made so that they can keep their cars on the street for six months, is any scheme going to stop this garaging? I would not do anything to stop the free flow of traffic in our big cities. I would not stop the shopper From doing his or her shopping during proper hours. I find that in London it is possible to shop with the greatest convenience up to 11.30 in the morning, leaving my car outside a shop while I make a legitimate purchase. The way to stop all this parking is to say that no motor car can stand in any street, except for picking up or setting down, between stated hours. A motorist cannot do it in the big American cities. In San Francisco, for example, right in the middle of Union Square there is an underground garage that for twenty-four hours a day holds 1,700 motor cars, and the motorist can leave his car there.

I come down on the side of the noble Earl. Not that I like any scheme of this description, because it does not solve the fundamental problem; but if we must have a scheme, this is just as good a scheme to try out. It will not disfigure London. It will not impede the free flow of pedestrian traffic. It will not tempt smash-and-grab merchants to plunder the meters, and it is less open to bribery and abuse than is the meter system. I hesitate to bring this note in, but the parking meter scheme will not stop a wealthy man from leaving his car in the street all day. It may stop the little man up from the suburbs who wants to take his wife to do a bit of shopping.

Under cover of the last words in the noble Lord's Motion, "and various other questions involved"—and I thank him very much for putting them in—I want to mention three points to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft about which I hope he will do something. There is increasing perturbation in our big cities, especially in London, about allowing parking places near schools. Schools and taxi ranks should be free for certain distances on both sides, and parking should not be allowed near crossings for children. I think that that is sensible. It would be conducive to the greater safety of children. Perhaps the noble Lord will bear that in mind and discuss the matter with his right honourable friend the Minister of Transport. Secondly, the noble Lord may care to consult the appropriate 'authority on the dictum of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, that the police are in breach of the law themselves by the vehicles they use to tow other breakers of the law away from the place where they have broken the law. He may care to look at that point.

The third point that has arisen lately goes to show that even Parliamentary draftsmen, who are held up to the poor Opposition movers of Amendments as the acme of knowledge of Parliamentary draftsmanship, occasionally nod. It has been held that the sending of a registered letter containing a summons to the last known address of an alleged offender is riot legal. Perhaps the noble Lord would look at the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1957, to see whether, after the dictum of the Lord Chief Justice, any of the delivery processes by that method are now legal. Perhaps it might help if he would do that.

That is all that I have to say. It is only a variation of what I have said in your Lordships' House for the last ten years, and I do not suppose that it will vary very much from what I shall say in your Lordships' House for the next ten years. Until we convince local authorities of the need to build garages, anything we do by methods such as this makes no inroads upon our basic problem. But as an experiment, a less costly experiment, and one which, if it is a failure, can be admitted to be a failure—because nobody is ever going to admit that the parking meter scheme is a failure—I support the scheme put forward by the noble Earl.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I understood the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, to say that very little was being done to provide off-street parking. I think he will be delighted to know that in fact two schemes promoted by private enterprise are before the London County Council for approval at the present time. If we can increase our off-street parking by these methods, we may be able to relieve the difficult parking conditions. As to parking meters, I understand that the Minister of Transport is unwilling to have a trial of the Paris disc system at the same time as the parking meter experiment. I believe that it was the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who said, in reply to a recent question, that a trial of both systems at the same time would lead to chaos. I am afraid that I do not quite follow that argument. Why cannot a trial of the disc system take place in another part of London, perhaps even adjacent to the proposed parking meter area?

There is no doubt that the disc system in Paris has been a great success. I have seen it in Paris and believe that it works very well. Perhaps the reluctance of the Ministry of Transport is due to the usual difficulty of reversing the bureaucratic machine once it has been set in motion. As we know, the Act lays down parking meters; and therefore it must be parking meters, regardless of any more modern scheme that may have been developed since the Act was passed. My noble friend Lord Howe has pointed out the many advantages of the disc system and I do not intend to weary your Lordships by going all over them again, but I must say that the argument that the disc system does not indicate parking areas is surely not a good one.

It would be perfectly possible, as in Paris, to pick those areas which are not to be used for parking, and if motorists use them wrongly, their cars can be towed away by the police, as is done in Paris. I do beg the Minister of Transport to look at the matter again. Of course, it may be that without legislation it would not be possible to try the disc system in London at the present time. But will not the noble Lord who is going to reply for Her Majesty's Government give an undertaking that the experiment will be tried out in, say, one of our larger towns, like Birmingham or Manchester, if it is not possible to do it in London?

It has also been argued that the disc system would provide no money towards the provision of off-street parking. I suggest, however, that the cost of installing and maintaining parking meters would be so high that by the time the whole cost had been met, there would be very little money left for the provision of off-street parking. I have always thought that the particular section in the Act dealing with that matter was put in only as a sop to the motorist to accept the Act. I beg the Government to be realists in this matter, and to carry out a trial of the disc system; and, if it is satisfactory, not to proceed with the installation of parking meters all over our great cities. Apart from being expensive, parking meters are very ugly and they will destroy many amenities in the London area. I think I should add, too, that no discussions have taken place with the motoring organisations on the Samuels Report about the disc system in Paris. We are all anxious to regularise the parking facilities in our great cities, but let us be sure that we use a method which is not too costly and at the same time provides what we really require.

3.41 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be quite brief, because I have not much to add to what my noble friend who moved the Motion has already said. I am bound to say that I felt a sense of rather deep depression at what was said at the beginning of his speech by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, although he is quite right: the secret of this problem, if we are going to conquer it, is off-street parking. I have often thought what a thousand pities it is—though, of course, the reason is clear; it is that of expense—that all those bomb sites that were with us at the end of the war could not have been bought up by the Government or by the local authorities and had multi-storey garages built on them. I believe that in the years to come they would have paid for themselves; and they would certainly have gone some distance, although not the whole distance, towards solving the off-street parking problem.

This Motion deals, in the main, with the divergence of opinion as to the proposed London system, tried out in America, and the Paris system. But to all of us it is a matter of grave growing concern that we should in some way clear our streets and try to free the flow of traffic. Incidentally, we have to remember the immense expense, in the waste of petrol and oil of getting through a big city; and we must not lose sight of the added safety it would bring to our roads. We all know the sense of difficulty and anxiety in trying to drive through a large city, especially in the rush hour. I am quite certain that that is a matter which may lead to not quite such safe driving when the motorist once gets free of the traffic congestion, and I feel that if we could solve this problem it would add greatly to the safety of our driving.

Unlike my noble friend Lord Howe, I have not seen the disc system in Paris in action, although I have read all I can about it. As has been pointed out, it costs practically nothing and is apparently accepted cheerfully by motorists. If motorists are given a system which they can accept cheerfully, knowing it is a common-sense system which does not cost too much—or, as in the case of the disc system, nothing—they will abide by it, and there will be less trouble through their trying to get behind the law. On the question of expense, one realises that one system brings in money, while the other does not—although I am a little surprised at the amount in fines that the Paris police get from their system, which goes, to some extent, to pay for it. It may not have come to your Lordships' notice—I saw it in a recent evening paper—that the meters put up in London have already been interfered with. I think it is in the main due to childish pranks, but one does not know that this may not lead later on to some form of "smash and grab" raiding.

It was said by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in reply to a recent Question on the matter by my noble friend Lord Howe, that conditions in Paris are so different from those here that the success of the disc method abroad is no criterion of its successful application in England. With all respect to the noble Lord and his wisdom, which is far superior to my own, I find that statement difficult to accept. Why is Paris so different, from that point of view, from London? There may be good reasons for it, but I do not know them, and I should be grateful if, in his reply, the noble Lord could elaborate on what he said on that occasion and let us know what the difference is.

It seems to some of us who from time to time have ventured to make suggestions—many of which have been based on observation overseas of systems which have been run, and successfully run, at some time—for increasing road safety or for easing the traffic problem in the country, that this country has an idea that it has nothing more to learn. Admittedly, we have an excellent Road Research Board, which does great work; and admittedly, the Ministry of Transport have every facility for knowing far more about these things than the layman. But the fact remains that many countries with less in the way of resources than we have far outstrip our road programme. We see such things as the rather grudging and belated permission given recently to experiment with reflectors on pedal-cycles, a simple, cheap, effective device which has been tried elsewhere with great success and has no doubt been instrumental in saving lives. Again, we see this reluctance to experiment with parking discs. Surely an experiment in this direction, costing very little, could be carried out in parallel—and I should like to see it carried out in parallel—with the meter system, possibly, as has been suggested, in a different area altogether, such as Birmingham or Manchester. If it should fail, no great harm would be done. But if the meter system fails and has to be abandoned, as has already been pointed out, a great deal of public money will have been wasted.

It is obvious to everybody that, from the point of view of traffic congestion, we are rapidly approaching an almost impossible situation. That has been said at intervals over the last few years, and I sometimes wonder why that impossible situation has not already arrived. But there is no doubt that, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said, with the rapid growth of new registrations (the noble Lord said the number is something in the nature of 240,000 a year), it will come—and before long. Surely, therefore, every experiment which will help to relieve the situation should be tried out. They may fail, or they may succeed; only time can show.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, I strongly support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Howe, for I believe it to be a reasonable measure towards an improvement of a situation in which there is an increasing misuse of our streets and a deteriorating traffic situation—and by that I mean the traffic flow condition. That this situation should have come about is not surprising, in view of the increase in the number of registrations. My noble friend Lord Hampton quoted the figure of 240,000 new registrations a year, but in fact I believe it is something in the region of 400,000. With this in mind, it is estimated in some quarters that by 1960 the number of vehicles on our roads will have reached a figure of roughly 7 million. Other estimates, based on a relation between income per head of population and vehicle registrations, consider that this increase will be less. Be that as it may, there has been a considerable increase. We must remember that for some time now this country has had the greatest traffic density in the world. Under such conditions it is certainly not surprising, though most regrettable, that such a misuse of our streets should exist. This misuse is, I think, one of the main causes for our traffic congestion.

Will your Lordships consider with me for one moment the inner London area? It is interesting to note that, according to the interim report of the Parking Survey Committee, in the last five years there has been an increase of 50 per cent. in the number of parked cars, whilst if one considers only the City of Westminster the percentage increase has been much greater. According to a figure in an article which came out in May, 1954, in the Economist, the increase is even greater, for the article quoted a figure of 20.000 to 25,000 vehicles parked in the 250 miles of the inner London streets. To refer again to the report of the Parking Survey Committee, published only two and a half years later, I would point out that the figure had risen from between 20,000 and 25,000 to 48,000, a very great increase indeed, Therefore, I think these figures explain the rapid increase in the congestion of our streets which has led to this indiscriminate parking. This indiscriminate parking has in fact increased the congestion, and I believe it to be more or less a vicious circle.

With your Lordships' permission, I should now like to mention how the rate of misuse is increasing through a number of practices which I think are most regrettable, though I can well understand that the police have great difficulty in curbing them. For instance, double-bank parking; a total disregard for the traffic flow on the part of some drivers when they stop their vehicles t turning to the right when travelling along the nearside of the street, and being hampered in doing so by an oncoming flow of traffic, thus causing a slowing down in the traffic flow behind them; frontagers who attempt, for instance, by signs or obstructions to restrict their part of the highway for their own use; a disregard of parking instructions, and, finally, long-term parking. Another method by which there is also a fair amount of misuse of our streets is the way in which loading or unloading is carried out to or from commercial vehicles.

As has been mentioned, the purpose of the Parking Places (Westminster) No. 1 Order, 1958, is to deter the long-term parker so as to improve the position for the short-term parker and in so doing ease the traffic congestion in the defined area. I certainly agree with this principle, for I believe that on a highway a driver should have the right to park only for a reasonable time; and certainly in inner London long-term parking is tantamount to obstruction. It has often been said that off-street parking facilities should be provided in inner London, and this question was touched upon by many noble Lords before me, but I do not completely agree with everything they said on that matter. Although I am pleased that multi-storey car parks, for instance, are being considered at the moment, I believe that financial considerations will to a large degree act as a deterrent to the provision of underground or multi-storey garages. Another deterrent to off-street parking, until working hours have been staggered on a much larger scale, is, in my opinion, the fact that unless a reservoir space of considerable capacity is available, long delays will occur. Here I particularly have in mind the attendant parking system for cars, which I believe is quite extensively used in America.

To substantiate this remark, I should like, with your Lordships' permission, to refer to an extract from a paper presented last year by Colonel S. Green, deputy divisional road engineer, Metropolitan Division, Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, which said: A recently constructed garage in Canada for 300 cars is worked by two lifts; each lift has a capacity of one vehicle per minute. In this case a period of 2½ hours would be required to deal with the 300 cars. Even with a larger number of lifts, the delay would still be extensive. Even customer parking by means of ramps at peak hours would still entail considerable delay and congestion, at least in my opinion, in the narrow London streets. I think, therefore, that in inner London there is no alternative but to discourage the long-term parker by restrictions on parking time, and provision of adequate fringe parking facilities. In respect of the latter, a step in the right direction is being made by larger car parks which may be found by the stations of outer London. But much still remains to be done along the bus routes.

Earlier in my speech I said that I agreed with the principle of the Parking Places (Westminster) No. 1 Order, but I disagreed with an aspect of its mode of application, which brings me to the vital question of parking meters versus parking control discs. As so much has already been said in favour of that latter system, I will say very little. It has been extensively and well covered by the noble Earl who moved this Motion, and by the noble Lords, Lord Teynham, Lord Lucas of Chilworth and Lord Hampton. I should like to add that I have a personal knowledge of the parking control disc system, as I go to Paris quite often. A number of friends of mine live there, and they are definitely in favour of this system. As has been mentioned, it is a very flexible system, and with that I certainly agree; for it was only two days ago that there was an amendment to the regulations which existed with regard to the parking of vehicles in the Champs-Élysées. I cannot see how a similar amendment could have been made in London with the use of parking meters.

Article 9 of the Parking Places (Westminster) No. 1 Order, 1958, refers to the duties of the attendant. If I may I should like to read the portion I had in mind: In the case of a vehicle in respect of which an excess charge may have been incurred, it shall be the duty of the parking attendant to attach to the vehicle in a conspicuous position a notice which shall include the following particulars … I will not go into the particulars, but I imagine that with the parking disc control system that could equally well apply.

The question of the high cost of the installation and the maintenance of meters has been mentioned, so I will not go into it. During the course of an inquiry last year this question of costs was debated and it was said that the profit would be considered for use in providing off-street parking. As I calculate, the system would provide approximately £30 a year per meter, so I cannot imagine that we shall have off-street parking, either by multi-storey garages or underground garages, for a very long time, if we have to rely purely on that. Another aspect of this question is the inconvenience—at least, some Members of your Lordships' House think so—of these parking meters. That was mentioned to me by an attendant on a car park which was fitted with parking meters. It is the inconvenience to drivers of seeing that they have a shilling available; they may not have a shilling or a sixpence on them, and I imagine that that could at times prove an inconvenience when trying to park within the prescribed area.

It would appear to me, too, that the parking meter system is on the decline, judging by an article which came out two days ago in the Daily Telegraph and which reads as follows: He"— that is the Minister of Transport— may have learned that in the United States and other countries there are thousands of meters standing out of use, rusty and ignored. At least the parking discs would not do that; there would be no danger of their rusting. The adoption of the parking disc control system would appear to be on the rise, for Strasbourg has just started using this system, Vienna is about to start using it, and Brussels is considering using it. I should have thought that with regard to the question of a method for controlling parking we should be well advised to look more towards the Continent than towards the United States, because the types of roads on the Continent and the conditions under which drivers operate are more similar to ours. As I said in the early stages of my speech, I strongly support the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Howe.

4.5 p.m


My Lords, I intervene for only a few moments to add my support to the Motion which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has moved. I agree, of course, with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that no method of parking control is going to solve the problem of traffic. Nevertheless I think the situation can be eased to some extent, and if we can relieve the problem of traffic to some extent that is well worth doing. I agree with the noble Lord who spoke last that the parking meter system is on the way out and the disc system is on the way in. We are never very quick off the mark in this country, and it looks to me as if we are adopting the parking meter system just when something better is available.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, when he replies, will tell us that Her Majesty's Government are willing to experiment with the more modern system and will not be deterred from doing that by any preliminary expense to which they have been put in providing parking meters or anything of that sort. I hope they will not be fearful that the Public Accounts Committee will be "after them" because they have spent a certain amount of money in getting parking meters and then subsequently found that something better was available, at less cost. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, would tell us whether these parking meters have been ordered and whether that is one of the reasons why the Government are going to proceed with the parking meter system, instead of adopting the disc system, which has so many merits and so few demerits. The number of demerits of the parking meter system seems to me to be enormous, and the demerits of the disc system very few. If the financial considerations have to be borne in mind, I am inclined to think that the disc system would be the winner in the end. Just as much money would be collected in fines, and it would not mean all the initial expense, and the maintenance expense, involved in the parking meter system.

There are just one or two points which I should like to put to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, if I may take advantage of the few words which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, put into his Motion on various other questions involved. One is that I feel that the police in London (though I know they are very short-staffed) could do a little more than they do in enforcing the law as it is. There are certain very narrow streets in central London where cars are regularly parked on both sides; and it is impossible to go down those streets without meeting somebody coming the other way. A little more intelligent use of the present powers of the police could avoid that. I could tell the police—no doubt they know very well—which those streets are, and I should like an assurance from the noble Lord. Lord Mancroft, that some attention will be given to that particular point. That in itself would do a great deal to improve the position.

Whatever parking system is adopted, either parking meters or discs, I hope that some regard will be had to the right of a man to get to his own front door—or his own back door, for that matter. I think it is quite monstrous if people's entrances are going to be used for parking places for other people's cars, and I believe it will cause a great deal of dissatisfaction throughout the City of London and Westminster. I say no more on these points, except to say that I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for having brought forward this Motion, which I wholeheartedly support.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, in recognising that I have no specialised knowledge in speaking of this question. I would echo the feelings of indignation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, has just given voice, at the many annoying features of parking in the streets-particularly parking on both sides of streets, sometimes in narrow streets, and the difficulties experienced by some people in getting to their own houses, or even, as some of us who have offices in Westminster find, to their offices. I, too, am prompted to make one or two remarks in connection with the Motion which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has with such propriety raised, in the hope that Lord Mancroft, who is to reply, may find time to refer to them. Lord Howe, who speaks with such authority and information on all matters relating to automobiles, has undoubtedly done a service in bringing forward this question of the disc system.

I cannot find myself in agreement, however, with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, whose engaging oratory often inclines us to believe things that are contrary to our judgment. His reasoning was that there was no point in having parking meters because they were not going to solve the parking problem. It seems to me very much the same as saying that it is no good having laws because they will not prevent crime. The existence of parking meters will not prevent automobiles corning on the streets; indeed, there will be more cars on the streets, and the difficulty will not be solved. What occurs to me about parking meters is this. Many Members of your Lordships' House, like myself, spend a certain amount of time each year in Northern America and will have assumed that those concerned satisfied themselves, after very careful examination, that the meter system is a satisfactory way of dealing with at least part of the problem. I hope that the noble Lord, in replying will be able to assure us that the disc system has been carefully considered in the United States, and that it has been decided to be in no way superior to the parking meter system.

On the practical side, several speakers to-day have mentioned the question of the cost of this experiment with the meter system. As an experiment in solving what Lord Hampton has told us is the problem—the tremendous loss of national revenue through the slowing down of movement on the streets—the cost is derisory. This is research. What are we spending on research in other directions? This is one of our most urgent problems, apart from our being all most irritated with what we experience on the streets. I think it is right that we should get that fact into correct focus. In moving his Motion, the noble Earl laid great emphasis on the plight of the doctor. That is good reasoning; but I do not see how the doctor would be any better off if somebody else got up early in the morning and parked his car in front of the doctor's place of practice. I personally feel that the system which this meter experiment aims to mitigate is one of present privilege. Why should there be a continuance of the privilege of any one user of the roads in putting his automobile in position as against other users, and paying nothing for it? At least, if he has a meter he will pay something for it.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft, will give us some indication of what is the exact position with regard to the police. It has been already mentioned that parking occurs on both sides, and it has also been said that there is an obstruction of the highway if parking takes place in the wrong place. What is the exact position in regard to the space between the two kerbs on which cars may be parked without causing obstruction, and at what point of the road surface does an obstruction begin?

The real point to which I wanted to draw attention, however, was that I, like others, have read the Report of the Working Party on Car Parking. It is quite intriguing. I have also read (I hope the noble Lord who is to reply has had it drawn to his attention) a Paper read before the Institute of Highway Engineers, as recently as March of this year, by a Mr. Meacock. In that paper, which set out much of importance in connection with this problem, attention was drawn to the experiment that is at present taking place, and of which your Lordships may be aware, behind Selfridge's, to illustrate a garage on the so-called composite system. Surely this question of garages is largely at the root of the whole matter. I think the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has emphasised that point to-day. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will be able to give some indication of the readiness of the Government to give some financial facilities, either by guarantee or subsidy, for the provision of appropriate garages, even in the Metropolitan area. If we take into account the 25,000 to 30,000 cars a day that come into the City (the information available shows in more detail what it costs to build these garages), surely there is good ground for urging that the Government, whatever may be the result of their experiment with the meter system, the disc system or both, either in London a lone or simultaneously in other cities, should recognise the need for doing something to make garages available for parking.

My Lords, it is because I feel that some of us have been moved to indignation about the slow rate of traffic in London, and about the need for some experiment, that, whatever may be the merits of the disc system in Paris—and we are indeed persuaded by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in the 'way he urged the advantages of that system—I hope nothing will delay the existing experiment of meters, the cost of which, high though it may be, is negligible in relation to the whole problem. For myself, I am, as I say, impressed by the logic of the noble Earl in recommending that the disc system be tried as well.

4.19 p.m.


My Lords, at least there appears to be no difference of opinion on the principle of this matter; we are all agreed that the basic problem is the long-term parker who impedes the flow of traffic. Those of your Lordships who have seen the disc will know that the French have a phrase for it—"La stationnement abusif paralyse la circulation". Following the thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, I would say that if we paralyse the circulation of the traffic, we are in fact freezing the lifeblood of the city. With great respect to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, the question of which of these two systems—meter or disc—is preferable has not been entirely clarified in my mind by his remarks. Take first the question of the difficulty of enforcing the two different systems, or the problem of abuse. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, referred to corrupt practices for resetting the meter, but it does not seem to me that it would be very much more difficult to reset a disc. There is the slight additional problem arising from the fact that probably the car is locked, but no doubt an ingenious man could get over that fairly easily.

As for resetting the meter, under the law of this land one has to contend with Section 22 of the Road Traffic Act which provides penalties for offences relating to parking places. I do not know whether someone who elected to reset his meter would come under subsection (3) of that section, but if he did and was held to have interfered with a parking meter with intent to defraud, he would be liable to a fine of anything up to £50 or imprisonment for three months, or both. I do not think I should myself start defrauding one of these meters, for it would not be worth it; other people might think it worth it—I do not know.

It seems to me that on the questions of abuse and economics there are many similarities between the systems where the defects and the advantages of both are roughly comparable, but from my examination of the problem I come down firmly in favour of the meter and against the disc. Many of your Lordships will know the old rhyme purporting to be a conversation between the Rivers Tweed and Till which ends: For aye man that ye drown I drown twa". For every case of a man who is able to abuse a parking meter and for each difficulty of enforcement of the parking meter system, I believe there will be two chances of abuse or two difficulties of enforcement with the disc system. I have not been to Paris and seen their system in action but I have spoken to a man who has. He says that the methods of abuse are quite subtle and delightful. For example, a man may put his disc in his car set half way between one figure and the next, so that he can claim to have come at the time which meant that he would not have to leave before the later hour.

Again, this gentleman, who was speaking from close observation, told me that it is apparently quite common to put the disc inside the car in such a way that the relevant figure is hidden by the windscreen wiper, or, alternatively, particularly in the American type of car which has a sloping windscreen with a flat surface inside, to put the disc down on that flat surface so that the unfortunate attendant has to come up and peer closely before he can see whether or not a motorist is within his time limit. The chances are that on a hot day the attendant will not bother to do so. Incidentally, the necessity to go up close when inspecting each individual disc, particularly if it is badly set, is one of the principal causes why the number of attendants required for the disc system is much greater than the number necessary with metering.

I was interested to hear the figure which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, mentioned, of £36,000 having been collected in fines in one month. The figure which I heard was about the same, but related to the number of offences, not pounds. I believe that was in the month of December. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will have more up-to-date figures. The figure of 30,000 offences for parking in a square mile in one month, when the official number of parking places is, I believe, 6,000, seems to me a grisly proportion, and one shudders to think of the suffering involved in 30,000 slipped discs.

The number of attendants required is also a major factor in the economics of the two systems. I was a little puzzled by the figures quoted, which indicated that in the proposed Mayfair scheme it would be necessary to have, roughly, one attendant to some 60 cars. I have been told (and again I am speaking only from information) that in American cities the number of attendants is one to 200 cars. That makes a difference; but even a proportion of one to 60 is considerably better than the Paris starting figure of 400 men to 6,000 parking places, or one attendant to 15 cars. On their reduced figure, which I had as 250 and the noble Earl had as 200, the proportion would be one to 30. So that on the basis of the number of attendants required, the metering system is clearly much more economical.

Mention has been made repeatedly of the enormous installation and upkeep costs. Unfortunately, I have not brought the earlier documents with me, but in the Report of the Working Party in 1953, which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, quoted, Appendix J sets forth quite clearly the economics of parking meters. That was five years ago and no doubt the figures will have altered a lot since then; perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, can say. But I wonder whether they have altered so much that meters are now going to be an extravagant method of traffic control whereas in 1953 they were estimated to make a profit of £66 per annum each. That is a profit made because the meters are being properly used and is not a mere accretion to public funds from fines. The assumption made by the noble Earl that the fines could be taken into consideration on the economics of the disc system seems to me rather a curious attitude. Those fines accrue because the disc system has not worked; so the noble Earl was really saying that the success of the scheme depends upon its failure.

There is one point which as a motorist I find it rather hard to take up, but, in all conscience, I feel that I must. As a motorist I entirely agree with everything the noble Earl said about the over-taxation of the motorist. As a citizen I am over-taxed and as a buyer of goods I am over-taxed. We are all over-taxed in every conceivable way. But in this particular matter I am sure one is justified in expecting the motorist himself to pay for a particular service—the control of his parking—and not to have the cost of that service put on to the general rates. More particularly is that so when one remembers that with the prospect in view that the parking meters would work profitably, arrangements were made in the Road Traffic Act, 1956, for the surplus to be used towards the provision of off-street parking.

It has been pointed out that the surplus has to be vast in order to provide capital for such off-street parking, but it does not seem that it has to be so very vast to be sufficient to service, and possibly even write-down, the capital expense of that parking system. Incidentally, on the subject of off-street parking, I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, who would like to see off-street parking arrangements made out of London, so as to keep the long-term man right out of the centre of the city altogether. I am sure that that would be a better economic proposition.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, would he be kind enough to tell the House who has been advocating that the motorists should have free parking?


He has it now.


I cannot just follow his argument. My argument was that the motorist should have off:-street parking, for which, of course, he would have to pay.


My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord. I was thinking of street parking which, as my noble friend says, he has free now.


We are against it.


The other point on which I take issue with the noble Earl is the question of flexibility. He approved of the flexibility of the disc system because it enabled different periods of parking to be allowed at different hours of the day. That might be a laudable system. However, on the figures in the reports, I should not have thought that we in London needed to allow a longer period in the middle of the day, as they do in Paris. In fact, I was very much surprised to see they did that in Paris. The flexibility which I had in mind, and which to my mind weighs in other respects, is referred to in the Interim Report of Mr. Samuels' Committee, at paragraph 64. It states: In our view it is not necessary that all parking meters in the Inner Area should, the same length of time or should give it for the same amount of money. In the experimental period it is probable that they will all permit the same period for the same amount of money, but I foresee that, with the extension of metering, it will be very convenient to have in different areas different periods allowed and different amounts charged. I doubt whether the disc system could be adapted for such circumstances.

Mention has been made by more than one noble Lord of the possibility that metering is now falling out of favour, and that the disc system is the system of the future. But the noble Earl, Lord Howe, mentioned a police view in this country that metering was to be preferred: a report had been made after a visit to Paris, and I have here a translation of a cutting from a Dutch paper which says: The Chiefs of the Traffic Police of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam have met the Chief of the Traffic Division … to investigate the new Paris parking method by disc. … This study … led to the conclusion that the parking disc … is not suitable for circumstances in the Netherlands. I do not know how greatly the circumstances in those three Netherlands cities differ from those in Paris or here, but I should have thought that the basic problem was the same; and if the Metropolitan Police and Netherlands police both disagree with the Paris system I should be strongly inclined to listen to them. The report goes on to say: The enforcement of parking meter laws by motorised police personnel wilt require less manpower and even less opportunity will arise for violation of parking time limits. And, later: The setting of the permitted parking time can he adapted to the circumstances ruling in a particular area. That seems to me to indicate that Paris is happy with the system because obviously it is a great improvement on no system at all, but that those who have compared both systems, I hope without prejudice, have come to the conclusion that the meter is the preferable system. The last information that I have is that the Chamber of Deputies in Paris have in fact passed a law, now before the Senate, to introduce charges for parking. Whether that refers to off-street parking or to metering I have not been able to ascertain.

Before the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, gets the impression that I am all in favour of the schemes proposed for London, I would enter one caveat. I cannot find myself in agreement with the excess charge system. In the Interim Report of Mr. Samuels' Committee, at paragraph 79, one of the members of the Committee, Mr. D. F. Allen, caused to be set down separately his opinion in which he differs from his colleagues. His opinion was that a machine which shows the duration of the excess charge period may well have the opposite effect to that intended; it may weaken the persuasive effect of the first flag and encourage motorists to think that until the second flag is up they have nothing to worry about. The exact type of meter has not been discussed very much this afternoon, but in that passage Mr. Allen, or the Committee, is referring to the type of meter which it is apparently intended to set up, which shows not only the two hours facility that you book for your shilling but also the two hours facility that you can have for the extra ten shillings.

Mr. Allen considers that the indication to the prospective user is that he is entitled, not to two hours but to four hours; whereas if he got a ticket, as is done in the States and Canada, the moment his time was up, he would realise that the basic time is two hours, and that two hours should not be exceeded. The excess charge theory is, unfortunately, already written into the Act and certain fears were expressed (in this case not by Mr. Allen alone but by the whole Committee) as to whether the excess charge system itself would not be open to abuse. In Section 73 the Committee are not speaking of the particular type of meter but of the general theory. They say: If many motorists are prepared to pay the excess charge to secure as long a period of parking as is possible and so virtually to turn meter sites, intended for short-term parking, into long-term parking places, the whole purpose of the parking meter may be defeated. I am greatly afraid that that is what is going to happen. It will not help the parking situation nearly so much as if the two hours were strictly observed. Moreover, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, pointed out, a man who is prepared or can afford to pay 11s. for four hours, which is 2s. 9d. an hour, may well think that that is a good bargain.

The only other point which I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is whether he will take up the question, which the noble Earl mentioned, about the size of cars. I understand that the standard size of the parking space is to be 20 feet. That would not quite accommodate the monster of which the noble Earl was speaking; it would fit in, but it would be impossible to get it in and out. On the other hand, the little "bubble-car" (I believe that the noble Earl uses one), is going to look very silly in a 20 foot space, and there will be a great deal of wasted space. If a street is divided into 20-foot sections there may very often be a few feet left over at the end of a section which is not long enough for the ordinary car but which could quite conveniently manage to take a "bubble-car."

With that one query, and the caveat on the excess charge system, I would venture to disagree with the Motion of the noble Earl, on the grounds that the disc system is more, rather than less, liable to abuse than the meter; it is more difficult to enforce; it is less economic, and at some future time it may be seen to have the disadvantage of inflexibility. In that case I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government will stick to their guns on this point.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, I shall detain your Lordships for only a very few minutes, as I know that noble Lords wish to get home. There is one subject that has not been touched upon at all. I am looking round your Lordships' House and just wondering how many of your Lordships come up to London, to this House or to your business premises, using your cars and parking them all day. Like most noble Lords, I have a car but I come up in the train and I use the public conveyances that are available to me, buses or taxis. Why on earth do not a greater number of noble Lords do the same thing? I believe that if I were to go round and ask how many noble Lords come into London, park their cars, attend this House or any other business they have to attend to, and then come back to pick up their cars, I would find that they are few. I suggest to my noble friend Lord Mancroft that in dealing with this question, he should make it most unpleasant for people who unnecessarily come into London and park their cars for the day. I believe that the bulk of people in this country avoid the roads as much as possible. I do. It is a horrible thing to have to drive to-day. The anxiety of it and the inconvenience of it are very great. It is perfectly simple to use the trains, buses, tubes and taxis, and probably in the end it is cheaper.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord when was the last time he tried to use the Underground during the rush hour?


Not quite lately, but I do use the Underground sometimes. The people who use the Underground are not the people who bring cars into London and park them all day. They are the people who cannot do it or who, like myself, do not want to do it. I want to stop people from being distinctly selfish in their use of the roads, as they are to-day, when they can easily go to and from their business by using the available public transport.


My Lords, I feel that I must interrupt the noble Lord. I think that he missed the point that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, was trying to make. If everybody gave up the use of private cars, public transport could not carry them all. It is congested as it is, and it would become quite impossible if that were to happen.


My Lords, the noble Lord does not understand what I am talking about. I am not suggesting that people should give up their cars. All I am suggesting is that motorists in the use of their cars should have in mind the general benefit of the public—that is to say, they should not bring their cars into London, where they can get about on public transport, but should leave their cars at home.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, about the rush hour. It is very tiresome for everybody. I have to use a taxi twice a day, because I cannot walk very far—a "gammy" leg. I believe that this matter is going to settle itself. I am entirely in favour of the noble Earl's Motion and I think that he has done great service in bringing it up. I should like my noble friend Lord Mancroft, if he can, to give the figures of the cars which are now being parked all day, and the number a year ago. I believe that people will get so fed up with the whole thing that eventually they will do as I do, and use the public transport available. I hope that the noble Lord will take this point into consideration and make parking as unpleasant as possible, so that people will leave their cars at home and use them for other purposes than that of coming in and out of a very congested area.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, if I heard my noble friend Lord Teviot aright, and I could hear him very clearly from where I was sitting, he suggests that this problem might possibly solve itself. How I wish I could agree with him! But I think that that is one thing which will not happen. Somebody has to try to solve this problem, and that is what the Government are doing. There are two or three other ways in which we could try to solve it which differ from the way we have suggested to the country. Therefore, I have this afternoon, I hope at not undue length, to try to draw up a balance sheet, to try to convince your Lordships that of the two methods at present before us—the meter and the disc—the meter is to be preferred.

Let me make two things clear at the outset. This is an experiment. It is nothing final; it is an experiment over a narrow area. Let me also make this point clear. It is no good arguing that everything is right with the meter system and that no faults can be found with it, nor that the disc system is wholly wrong. Both systems have merits and demerits. However, I am going to argue that the meter system, when applied to our particular problem here in the centre of London—and that is the only problem we are considering at the moment—is, of the two methods, to be preferred.

I am aware that the disc system is being considered in some continental cities other than Paris. It may suit them; I do not think that it suits us in London. South Africa, on the other hand, has within the last few weeks started to put the meter system to experiment: it may suit them. In comparing the disc system with the meter system, I think we must look at the matter from our own point: of view and distinguish between the objects of the two systems. The disc system, as applied to Paris, is primarily devised for restricting the length of parking time—just that. The parking meter is intended not only to restrict the length of time of parking, but also to limit and define the places in which parking is permitted. That is the feature which gives it a particular attraction to us here in London. And, of course, by introducing a charge, the parking meter reduces the demand for the use of parking places. It is essential, I feel, to bear in mind the different objects of the two schemes, French and British, and the different problems of the two cities. The main problem to which the disc system offers a solution in Paris is not the reduction in the amount of kerbside parking space, but the elimination of the long-term parker. In Paris long-term parkers were taking up too much parking space, to the exclusion of those who wanted to find parking space for a short time. Here in central London the problem is much more complex, and calls for a different approach to the whole traffic problem. The Samuels Report—in fact all previous reports—have borne this out.

We approach a drive across central London in the rush hours as a challenge to our patience. The Parisian approaches a drive across Paris in the rush hours as a challenge to his pride and to his spirit of adventure. The attitude of the police in Paris is wholly different, and their powers are different from those of the Metropolitan Police. If noble Lords would be good enough to glance at the Samuels Report, on the Disc System, a copy of which I put in your Lordships' Library some ten days ago, they will see at once how much narrower our streets are than the main streets of Paris. This may be difficult to believe for those who have tried to cross the Champs-Élysées but London traffic congestion is actually much more acute than that in Paris, which has broad avenues, systematically linked. Cars clutter up our kerbsides, as we know to our cost, and thereby London streets are becoming narrower and narrower. Some 201,000 cars are parked in the streets of the Metropolitan Police District every day and 211,000 are parked there every night. An ever-increasing amount of traffic is unable to flow through them.

My noble friend Lord Hampton asked why traffic had not actually ground to the standstill with which we are always being threatened. The blunt fact is that it has, and that on two or three occasions fire engines and ambulances, which I think are the test one must apply in this case, have been unable to get through on their errands of mercy. That is one reason why the matter has become so urgent and why we must do something about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, asked me, on the question of the removal of vehicles—which, incidentally, has greatly helped the police, who have made full and fair use of it—what I was going to do about the case of Wilkinson and Barratt, reported in the Law Reports of The Times of this morning. A difficult and technical point is brought up by that judgment, and the Metropolitan Police will have to look into it carefully to see that they do not infringe the decision given in that case.


If, on consideration, the noble Lord finds that the law requires alteration, can he say whether the Government propose to alter it?


I hope we can get round the difficulty by a minor technical alteration in the equipment, rather than by having an alteration of the law.


Will the "Construction and Use" Regulations for Motor Vehicles be altered?


I have only had a short time to consider the judgment, of which I have not seen the full text, but I hope that we can get round the difficulty in the way the noble Lord suggests.

Parking control in London, therefore, as opposed to Paris, must be aimed not only at eliminating the selfish long-term parker, referred to by my noble friend Lord Teviot, by control of his parking time, but also towards restricting kerbside parking to those places which will not jam up the traffic. If your Lordships look at it this way, the removal of parked cars from a street is tantamount to a street-widening scheme. That is what we are trying to do. Your Lordships have only to stand outside Barker's, in Kensington High Street, and watch the improvement that the street-widening scheme there has brought about in reducing traffic blocks, to see the improvement that will be brought about by restricting the areas in which cars can be parked. Somebody has got to suffer, and somebody has got to be inconvenienced. But it is the convenience of the whole community that must be set against the convenience of you and me, my Lords, who may wish to leave our cars on the streets while we go about our lawful business. All the disc system in Paris has done is to increase the turnover of cars—if that is the right metaphor to use—in the same number of parking spaces, of which there are enough to leave a margin to meet increased demand for short-term parking.

To come back to London for a moment, there are about one million cars registered in the Metropolitan Police district, and they are increasing at the rate of 8 per cent. a year. To be really effective, therefore, parking control in London must involve not only the removal of the long-term parker to off-street accommodation, and increased turnover in the kerbside space available for street parking, but designation of the actual places where parking can be permitted. The Paris disc system will not solve our problem, since the heavy and increasing demand for such kerbside space in London greatly exceeds supply, and some control over demand is required. In practice, in Westminster (and the Marylebone proposals are consistent) the reduction of the number of spaces for parked cars to about half the number of cars parking at present should he just about enough to meet the demand for two-hour parking. This number of spaces is also, fortunately, about the same as that which can be accepted without detriment to traffic flow. I suggest to y our Lordships that meters are better suited than discs for the control of our parking in London; since the meter itself shows those places where parking is permitted, which the disc does not.


Perhaps I might interrupt the noble Lord. He will realise from the Samuels Report that in Paris the areas w here you cannot park are clearly marked, and it has the same effect as the parking meter.


It does not appear to be doing so from the figures; but we will consider that point in a moment. I think an important point has been raised by my noble friend Lord Teynham, because confusion about where you may or may not park is one of the things leading to awkwardness, to put it mildly, between the motorist and the police. I think it is important—I have said this many times before, but I do not apologise for repeating myself—that we should do nothing that will in any way increase ill-feeling between the police and the public. The Metropolitan Police welcome the meters, and they foresee no increase of friction between themselves and the public. The meter, by levying a charge on the motorist (some of your Lordships do not like that, and I we; I understand the point of view) permits some regulation of the supply and demand, which the disc does not. The meter system, I think your Lordships are now convinced, is much less easily evaded than the disc system. Heaven knows! our present system, such as it is, is easily enough evaded; but to go from the frying pan of our own present evasion to the fire of the disc evasion would not, I think, be sensible.

My noble friend Lord Craigmyle has said that meters require much less staff to enforce them; and meters produce revenue which can and will be put to the provision of off-street parking accommodation, about which I will say a word or two in a moment. Let me remind your Lordships, however, that the power to provide off-street parking accommodation—that is, garages—statutorily rests with the local authorities and not the central Government. We have heard a little about that this afternoon, but let me augment it if I can. A 1,000-car private enterprise garage is nearing completion in Oxford Street behind Selfridge's, and space for 200 cars will be available to your Lordships as from next Monday. I give that information to those who have frequently said this afternoon that nothing whatever has been done about it. But we do not rest there and when I say we "I mean the public, and not the Government, because, as I have said, it is a local authority responsibility. The Westminster City Council are proceeding with plans for the construction of a 100-car multi-storey garage between Audley Square and Waverton Street. In addition, planning permission has been given to National Car Parks for a 120- to 180-car garage in the Bourdon Street area, and the matter is under discussion with the Westminster City Council.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, raised the question of schools, which is a valid point and one that I know is taken into consideration by the planning authorities. Let me tell your Lordships this, which I think will interest you, and it has a direct bearing on the whole question of off-street parking accommodation. Many people tell us: "You cannot possibly blame us for putting our cars on the street if you do not do something about providing us with a decent, respectable garage to go to." But let us go back to this one centre, the area of Westminster, which we are principally discussing this afternoon. A survey conducted by the Westminster City Council in 1957 revealed that about 100 off-street car spaces are normally unused in the area where parking meters are now to be installed. In the quarter mile area outside this zone there were an additional 300 to 400 unused off-street car spaces—and that is not taking into consideration the new garage behind Selfridge's. The blunt fact is that people will not use garages while all the streets are free. Why should they?


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but I think the House might like to know something about those figures. I think it was found, also, that the motorist did not like to go into the old-fashioned garage, where the car was moved about possibly ten times during the day by garage hands and he came back and found a dent in his mudguard. But the new multi-storey garages where the cars will not be handled so much will, I think, be used by the motorist.


That may be true in some cases, but I do not think it is a true reflection of the garage trade, as a whole. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, twitted me about my own situation in Montagu Square, and I do not blame him. I have taken careful note of what has happened—and I would not have raised it had not the noble Lord done so. Since my noble friend Lord Howe put his Motion down I have been able to draw up at my own front door and leave it in the morning on one occasion, and one occasion only. I have also noticed that there is at the end of Montagu Square a large garage on the site of a house of my noble landlord, Lord Portman. That garage holds 350 cars, but the average daily vacancies in the garage are 100. If I go one street further down, to the Cumberland Garage, I find that this garage holds 450 cars, and the average daily vacancies are 115. I go to the other end of my street—and this is all within three minutes walking distance of my own house—and I find that Moon's Garage, in Gloucester Place, has a capacity of 300 cars, and the aver- age daily vacancies are 40. Do not tell me that it is because the attendants "bash" the cars about in all those garages. It is because people can park cars outside 48 Montagu Square, W.1, "for free". What must happen is that the hen and the egg must get into the right position. I believe that what we are doing now will greatly increase garage space, and the motorists, if they are going to park all day, must park in garage spaces where the) are available.

We have approved the use of parking meters after long debate. Preliminary plans and work on the administration are now all well advanced. The Westminster Order has been made by the Minister. It is now before Parliament, and it empowers the Council to bring the parking meters into operation on July 10. Your Lordships have the right to debate that Order before it comes into effect. The Marylebone report is due on my right honourable friend's desk in about ten days' time. Therefore, to an extent it is sub judice, and I do not want to say anything about the particularly difficult problem of the doctors, except that, having been myself chairman of the Public Health Committee of the Marylebone Borough Council, I am fully aware of that problem. But it is not so easy as it may seem. There are 900 consultants in Harley Street, and one can assume about 800 have cars and want to use them. At best there are 174 single-banked car spaces in Harley Street, so it is not going to be an easy problem.

My noble friend Lord Howe referred to the design of the meter. I grant you that it is not a pretty thing. I brought a couple down during the Second Reading of the Road Traffic Bill and put them in the Prince's Chamber. None of your Lordships fell readily in love with them, but we have done the best we can. The design of the meter has been approved by the Council of Industrial Design. Rows of meters—I do not think there are going to be more than five or six consecutively—to my way of thinking are considerably less ugly than a double or triple bank of cars all over the place, indiscriminately. I am happy to see that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, the Leader of the Liberal Party, and his Chief Whip the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, are present. Perhaps they would find out whether Lady Violet Bonham-Carter would prefer to have Sabrina or a parking meter in front of her house.

May I say a word on the subject of cost, which has been talked about much this afternoon? I am not going to ask your Lordships to take this too much to heart, because I do not put a great deal of importance upon it. We are conducting an experiment, and the difference will be a penny this way or that. Do not let us argue too much about that. The Motion of my noble friend, Lord Howe, is: To call attention to the enormous cost of the control of parked cars by the use of parking meters as compared with the disc system". I am not quite certain that he is right. I am going to give your Lordships approximate figures to compare the two systems. I assume that parking for both systems would have to be restricted to a limited and clearly defined number of places. The indication of where parking is and is not permitted will, under the Westminster scheme, be provided by the meters themselves, supplemented by carriageway markings. That enables loading and unloading facilities to be provided, which does not happen in Paris. In Paris it has been found necessary to employ one man patrolling the streets for every 20 to 25 vehicles parked. Where this level has sometimes been temporarily reduced, there has been a significant increase in the number of evasions. I would suggest to the House that a readily evaded law is a bad law. In December, 1957, alone, there were, as your Lordships have been told by my noble friend Lord Hampton, 37.000 offences against the disc system reported in Paris, even with that degree of supervision.

Compare that, if you will, with the total number of cautions and summonses for parking offences in the whole Metropolitan Police district—7,000: that is, 37,000 against 7,000. On the Paris figures, at any rate, the burden on our courts, I think, could be very severe indeed. I am told, incidentally, that the police individually in Paris do not care very much for this work. With the approximate 650 parking bays in the Westminster scheme, discs on the Paris scale would mean in Westminster approximately twenty-six men on duty at any one time during the hours of operation. For the supervision of those 647 parking meters, Westminster proposes to employ a total of eight men and one supervisor. The cost of these nine men is estimated roughly at £6,000 for the first year. The Samuels Report shows that enforcement staff required for meters is roughly one-third of the size of that required for discs.


Would the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? Could he tell us how many police will be employed in the experimental area?


I do not think that in the experimental area of Westminster, apart from perhaps the first two or three days, it is contemplated that any special police will be required, as we see the plan at the moment. I cannot be categorical about that, because something might arise demanding extra police. But as we see it at the moment, it will he of a small order.

On this basis the comparable cost for the Westminster parking meter zone, if turned over to discs, would be about £18,000 a year. The annual cost of maintenance of meters and posts for Westminster is estimated at £5,500. I suppose we ought to add to that art estimate for amortisation of meters and posts over a ten-year period which would be, say, about £3,250 per annum.


Would the noble Lord forgive me again? He gave me an answer a short time ago giving a figure of £17,000.


I will see if it tots up to £17,000 when I finish my mathematics. On this basis, the total amount of the annual cost of the Westminster parking scheme—and I think the noble Earl will find that the figures will arrive at the same total—works out at about £15,000 a year. Let me turn to the cost of the disc system. I cannot argue here about whether or not we should get revenue from advertising, but the discs themselves would cost about £5,000 without advertising—who knows what with advertising? So on that basis, without the advertising—and I am giving your Lordships these figures very roughly indeed, because I do not want to be pinned down to the odd halfpenny—the total comparable cost of the disc system, including the cost of supervision on the Paris scale, as well as provision of discs, would come to about £23,000 a year and would produce no profit except tines, which is not a very dignified form of profit. As I have said this compares with a cost for the meters of about £14.000 to £15,000 a year; and, of course, the meters would produce profits from the money put in.

I want your Lordships to bear in mind that the noble Earl's premise in his Motion is not quite accurate in suggesting that the cost of the meters is very much greater than the cost of the discs. On operational grounds—and those are the grounds on which I wish to argue my case, and not primarily on the grounds of cost—parking meters will prove a more effective answer in London. It is an experiment, but an experiment which Parliament has approved, and one which I suggest all the evidence shows is more likely to succeed in London than the disc system. We really must get a move on and make up our minds about this. We keep on saying that traffic will grind to a standstill. Then, as soon as the Government take any firm or positive step, and decide to make an experiment—and an experiment involves an element of risk; that is why it is called an experiment—like this, or the 40 m.p.h. speed restriction on selected roads, somebody produces a good reason for dropping the experiment, before it has been given a chance, and for trying something else.

I suggest that in this case that is not what we want here in London. I may be wrong, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, may possibly be right: he sometimes is, but this time I doubt it. Let us see how the Westminster scheme works. Our minds are not finally closed against any alternative. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, and the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, that if anybody else outside London would like to try the disc or meter system, my right honourable friend will most certainly listen carefully to what they have to say. Nor have we finally made up our minds that this will be the best answer for London; although we expect it to be a success, it remains an experiment. Let me remind the noble Lords who suggested it that the disc system requires legislation, and there is frankly no room for such legislation either in this Session or the next. If we want to get a move on with something, we had better get going with the experiment to which Parliament has given approval. I suggest that we should stop dithering and try to get a move on and see that London's traffic gets a move on, too.

I hope the noble Earl, Lord Howe, will not press his Motion; it is only a Motion for Papers. If he does wish to think about this subject or advance further arguments, or would like me to give him further information and statistics, the Order can be debated by your Lordships and that will provide a further opportunity for discussion. I am sure that if your Lordships think the matter over carefully and look at the evidence, which is not all black and not all white, on either side, you will agree that what the Government propose to do is right.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a long and, in some ways, an interesting debate, and there are just one or two points I should like to stress. First, I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, that the reason why I said that the disc system was flexible was not only because the time can be varied—that is one of the points, but only one of the points. The other point is that it will allow the continuance of unilateral alternate day schemes, as against meters which have to be planted on one side of the street—unless the noble Lord is going to plant them on both sides of the street. It enables the area being dealt with by the disc very easily to be changed, whereas an area controlled by a meter obviously cannot be done away with as easily. The noble Lord also said that he considered the scheme less economic. I am afraid I cannot agree with him.

I was interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, said. First he said it was selfish to use the roads. My Lords, is it so selfish to use the roads when we are paying a lot of money for the privilege—over £500 million a year? I should not have thought it was selfish to try to get a little of that back. He asked the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, to make parking as unpleasant as possible. That is all very well, but I do not think the people who are interested in motor cars or have to use motor cars will thank him very much for that. However, he did come down on the right side of the fence.

With regard to the merits of the disc as against the meter, the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said that in Paris the disc had the advantage of increasing the turnover. At the same time the noble Lord said that he did not like that idea very much, and I could not follow his reasoning.


My Lords, I said it was not enough.


Then the noble Lord said the disc system had had no effect on the parking problem in Paris generally. That is not my information; that is not the information of those who have gone over to inquire into the point. They have said that it has definitely reduced the number of cars parked in the Paris streets, because the long-term parker has retreated to the garages. They say that there is no doubt at all that the conditions in Paris now are very much easier. The traffic flow is faster, and it is possible now to park a car, if you want to, in the centre of Paris, so long as you do not overstay your welcome. It has reduced the number of parking places occupied in Paris by something like 10 per cent. The noble Lord wound up with an astonishing remark; I am sure I cannot quite have understood it. He said the production of discs was going to cost £23,000. They cost individually less than one penny apiece.


My Lords, the noble Lord could not possibly have understood me. The disc system—the production being one of the small items, but the payment of those who have got to maintain the scheme being a very large item—would cost that sum.


My Lords, I am still not quite clear about that point; I am afraid I shall have to wait until I have the opportunity to read my Hansard. With regard to what the noble Lord said about the disc system, how can he possibly say that the meter is more suitable for London than the disc? He has not tried it out. When the noble Lord has carried out an experiment with the disc anywhere in this country, London or anywhere else, he will be on much surer ground. At present it is simply an assertion that one is better than the other. The noble Lord has been kind enough to say that I might be right; so might he. One of us might be right; I do not think we can both be right. I ask the noble Lord whether he cannot do something effective to try to get an experiment with the disc. He said it is going to involve legislation. Would it be im possible to get it through by Order or something like that? I am not quite clear why it inevitably involves legislation. I do not know whether the noble Lord would care to explain that point or leave it at that.

I am afraid I am quite unconvinced by anything the noble Lord has said, but it is an unsatisfactory thing to ask your Lordships to go into the Lobby and vote for a Motion like this. The Order is on the Table of the House and will be on the Table of the House. I understand, until Whitsuntide. It will be possible to discuss that Order, if we want to discuss it, and to vote against it. I am not sure whether or not that is the best Parliamentary method of doing it, but I presume that it is; and, if that is so, then perhaps the best thing I can do is to ask leave to withdraw my Motion and indicate that I shall move to annul the Order in due course. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.