HL Deb 15 May 1958 vol 209 cc399-437

4.40 p.m.

EARL HOWE rose to move, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Parking Places (Westminster) (No. 1) Order, 1958 (S.I. 1958 No. 549), dated March 27, 1958, laid before the House on April 2, 1958, be annulled. The noble Earl said: My Lords, it was on April 30 that I brought before your Lordships' House a Motion 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. Encouraged by the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, on that occasion, I now venture to submit the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

I particularly do not want to weary or unduly detain your Lordships by again raising all the arguments which I used in the debate which took place so recently, but there are just one or two points that I must ask your Lordships to allow me to submit to you. First of all, I will deal with the replies which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, made to me in that debate. The first remark he made to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention is [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 208 (No. 61), col. 1158]: 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. I was encouraged by that remark. But the noble Lord then proceeded to adumbrate a whole series of arguments to show that if the disc system was not wholly wrong, it was certainly first cousin to it.

Much has been made in argument, particularly by the noble Lord in his remark in col. 1159 of …how much narrower our streets are than the main streets of Paris. Of course, that in its way is something of a platitude. But there are streets in Paris, particularly streets covered by the blue zone, which are every bit as narrow as, if not narrower than, the streets of London. The noble Lord went on to talk about the Champs-Élysées. Everybody knows that the Champs-Élysées is one of the widest streets in any great city in the world. The same is equally true of many other streets, the names of which I need not recite. There are many wide streets in Paris and, equally, there are very narrow streets—if anything, narrower than the average street one finds in London.

Then the noble Lord said [col. 1160]: All the disc system in Paris has done is to increase the turnover of cars—if that is the right metaphor to use.

I thought that one of the aims of the parking meter scheme—indeed, of every other scheme that one may consider— was to try to get rid of long-term parkers. That is exactly what the Paris disc system has done; the long-term parker has retired to garages, and the cars that are now parked on the Paris streets, where they can be parked, are short-term parkers. Furthermore, there are not nearly so many of the short-term parkers, for a 10 per cent, reduction in the number of cars parked on the Paris streets has been secured by the disc system. Furthermore, the disc system has enabled the overall speed of Paris traffic to be increased by some two miles per hour. The disc system must have advantages there if it has been able to bring about that result.

One other point that the noble Lord made in that debate was when he said that meters are better suited than discs to control our parking in London. That is simply an assumption by the noble Lord and is unbacked by any sort of experience. It is presumably in order to gain experience that he wants his Order. He says that the meter itself shows where parking is permitted, which the disc does not. I am sure the noble Lord drives a motor car, and when he goes abroad he has to know, or he should know, the international signs. Those international signs include an outstanding sign for where parking is permitted and another outstanding sign for where it is not permitted. The question of where parking is permitted can be taken care of by the use of international signs. Then, further on in the debate, the noble Lord said that it would not be possible to produce any legislation. Obviously there would have to be legislation to legalise the disc system. He said [col. 1167]: …there is frankly no room for such legislation either in this Session or the next. I suggest that it all depends whether or not the Government really mean business on this parking question.

There are these two systems. I submit to your Lordships that the parking meter scheme is rigid; it is inflexible. For example, at the moment one of the quite natural features of London traffic is unilateral parking in certain streets. I should like to ask this specific question of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. One of the streets in the area to be covered by this experiment is Park Street. I happen to know that street very well because I go to a dentist whose consulting rooms are there. At present the street is subject to unilateral parking. If the noble Lord gets his parking meter scheme, the parking meters will not deal with unilateral parking unless one is prepared to put down a whole series of parking meters on each side of the street and to put half of them out of action on alternate days. I do not think that that is really a practical proposition; yet unilateral parking is most necessary in that particular street. You cannot have parking always on one side of the street; you would depreciate the rateable value of the property if you did that. It is not a practical proposition. On the other hand, with a parking disc you could go on as you do now, having your parking alternately on the one side and on the other.

I say that the meter scheme is hopelessly rigid. So it is. It is rigid in this way. Suppose that a mistake is made in the distribution of the parking meters and so on; we shall have gone to considerable expense to decorate the streets with them and shall have to incur considerable further expense to dig them up and put them somewhere else. With the parking disc scheme, on the other hand, there is no expense whatever to anybody.

There are various other matters to which should like to refer, but I will switch to what was said in a similar debate in another place by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 587 (No. 103), col. 992]: In Paris, with its wide streets and boulevards, it is quite easy, over a large area, to allow parking on both sides of the street without impeding the traffic flow, It is quite easy to do so in the Champs-Élysées, as everybody knows, but one of the features of the disc system in Paris is that whereas there was a great deal of double parking on streets much too narrow for it, double parking has now disappeared and it is much easier to park one's car. For example, shopkeepers in Paris have stated that their financial returns have been going up since the disc system has been in operation, due to the fact that the short-term parker who wants to go to a shop for a few minutes is able to get there without too much difficulty, whereas before, with long-term parkers, that was quite impossible. The result is that in Paris shopkeepers are asking the authorities to extend the scheme as rapidly as they can; and the authorities are doing so in order to make things considerably easier in that great city.

Then the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, referring to the parking meter scheme, said [col. 993] that the motorist would be allowed to set down, but not to park in certain places; and he followed that by saying: I would not regard this feature of the limitation that the disc system can control only time and not space as being conclusive. I hope that when the noble Lord comes to reply he will remember that point, for it is one which he used in replying to the earlier debate. It has been said that the disc scheme will require much more supervision than the parking meter scheme. Speaking on the volume of prosecutions, of which a lot has been made, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said [col. 996]: The general estimate which is made is that it will not be substantially more than that we are now dealing with. The prosecutions in Paris have been running at a high level, as I believe everybody knows; but at first it was an experiment there and was not understood. We must remember however that while the number of prosecutions is much larger than, I hope, we in this country are likely to contemplate, the area in Paris covered by the blue disc scheme is actually ten times larger than the area proposed to be covered in the Order which I am praying to annul.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary went on to say: The parking meter system has the further advantage that the cost of operating it is paid directly by the individual parker who is benefiting by it, as opposed to the alternative scheme "— that is, the disc scheme— where the cost falls on the taxpayers generally. I could not follow the reason for that last remark, but I would point out that all the cost of the parking meter scheme falls on the man who keeps the law, while the cost of this scheme falls on those motorists who break the law; which seems a rather important point. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary also said [col. 997]: I hope that the average motorist will accept that this is the right thing to do "— that is to say, that there would be willing co-operation on the part of the motorist,— but there is nothing to show that more off-street garages would be used if they existed.

Your Lordships will remember that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, told the House that he had gone for a little hike round the purlieus of Montagu Square and had found some garages with a certain amount of accommodation available. But the official figures given by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in another place showed that all told there is off-street garage accommodation for 1,580 cars. We are told that there are 1,300 cars parked in the experimental area covered by this Order and that we are to get rid of a half of those. That means that 650 or so have to go somewhere else. Whether or not they will go to the garages recommended to us by the noble Lord the other day as having a lot of surplus accommodation I do not know; but if we extend the parking meter scheme over the whole of the West End of London, the City of Westminster and the City itself, we shall have to find garage accommodation for an enormous number of cars running into several thousands—accommodation which simply does not exist at all.

It seems to me that it would be much better and more in accordance with practical politics to have the disc scheme, which is flexible and, as I pointed out before, costs absolutely nothing. The disc itself—I have one here—costs less than ld. It is said that this system is more easy to evade, but that remains to be proved. I am going to ask Her Majesty's Government to give me an assurance. Would the noble Lord first of all give us an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will either promote legislation or give assistance to legislation to legalise the disc system? Will he assure us that the experiment will be one equivalent to the experiment in Westminster? I do not mean that it shall necessarily be made in London (though it would be better if it were), for if that were too difficult it could be made in any city subject to considerable congestion of traffic.

If the noble Lord is not able to do this, would he give us an assurance that he will not authorise any further extension of the parking meter system, either in London or elsewhere, until it is possible to have such an equivalent experiment? If the noble Lord is able to answer those questions or any one of the three in the affirmative then I shall be able to accept his assurance and we shall all be able to go home; but if he does not, I am afraid I shall have to press my Motion to a Division.

Moved, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Parking Places (Westminster) (No. 1) Order, 1958 (S.I. 1958 No. 549), dated March 27, 1958, laid before the House on April 2, 1958, be annulled.—(Earl Howe.)

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, replied on April 30 to the debate to which the noble Earl has just referred he said—and I now quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT [Vol. 208 (No. 61), col. 1158]: Somebody has to try to solve this problem, and that is what the Government are doing. Now I wonder, if I may say so with great respect, whether the noble Lord or the Government know the problem they are trying to solve. It is popularly supposed that they are trying to solve the parking problem. Nothing of the kind! This scheme will not solve any parking problem. As I pointed out in the speech I made upon the last occasion, all it does is to shift the parking from one area to another; it does not solve the problem at all. What the noble Lord really means when he says "solve this problem" is "solve in the West End of London the problem of the congestion that is caused by parked vehicles". That is what the noble Lord means. The noble Lord and the Government could cure that congestion in five minutes, without having any parking meters or anything else. They could prohibit anybody from parking a car for over two hours anywhere they liked to designate. That is what they could do. Why do they not do it? No!

One can see the attraction to the Government of this parking-meter scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, let that out of the bag later on, as did his noble friend Lord Selkirk two years ago—and I am very glad to see the noble Earl here, because in a minute I am going to quote what he said concerning the Road Traffic Act.

But the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, went on to say, in the debate on April 30: And, of course, by introducing a charge, the parking meter reduces the demand for the use of parking places. That is the secret. The Government think that they will put up these parking meters—640 of them, I think it is, or something like that—in Mayfair, and nobody will be allowed to park a motorcar anywhere except beside a parking meter; then the charge will be made. And I suppose, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, hinted when we were discussing the Road Traffic Act—at least, he did not deny my challenge—the success of this scheme will be when the charge is so high that nobody will be able to afford to park a car by a parking meter; and the very start of this iniquitous imposition is in these Regulations, to which I shall come in a minute.

I find it easy to follow the noble Lord, because if the price mechanism was not behind the Government's thinking in this, they could very well try the parking meter experiment with the scheme of the noble Earl, Lord Howe. Both schemes are precisely the same, except that they do not collect any money under the blue disc scheme, and that is why it is so unattractive to them. They could do everything with the blue disc scheme that they can do with the parking meter scheme as an experiment, because they could designate various streets where the blue disc scheme would operate. They could have an area for it. And that, of course, would prevent the defacing of some of our streets in London with these hideous monstrosities of parking meters. There is only one place where I am rather glad they are going to put them, and that is Grosvenor Square. It will at least make our American friends feel at home. But that is about the only useful purpose they will serve.

I want to ask the noble Lord who is to reply whether he will tell me, in the experimental scheme that is contained in these Regulations, how many of these parking meters that are going up in these streets will be placed outside houses or private residences. That is what I want to know; because they cannot all be in Grosvenor Square; they cannot all be in Berkeley Square. Are the Government, in order to collect money, going to prevent the shopkeepers from allowing anybody to park outside their shops? Are they going to deny the householder the right to pull up outside his own front door? These are the things that I do not like about this meters scheme.

After lunch I refreshed my memory by reading Hansard of July, 1956, and the debates we had on the Road Traffic Act. How any noble Lord in this House can find anything fresh to say about parking meters or parking places—I cannot—is very difficult to see. We all argued it then. It was the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who said that the reason they were having a charge, and an excess charge over the standard charge, was first of all to act as a deterrent; and, secondly, to act as a pseudo, quasi-fine—a fine. If people were to be summoned for staying after two hours, all the attendants attending to the parking meters would have to spend their time in police courts. So they thought that fining on the spot was a very good idea. I will quote the noble Earl's own words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 198, col. 1130]: …one of the points of having this excess charge is that it will avoid either the attendants or anybody going into court for what is a trifling offence. We have sought to settle an amount which is a substantial deterrent, but not an unfair or unreasonable payment. It may vary in different places or at different times. I do not know what recommendation will be made by the local authority, but I expect the excess charge will be of the order of 6s. to 8s. or something of that sort…That is enough, for a three or four hour period, to constitute a substantial deterrent. It is not a great deal in excess of what you would pay in an ordinary garage. My Lords, in this regulation which we are discussing upon the noble Earl's plea for annulment you are going to pay 10s. 6d. if you leave a vehicle parked for sixty-five minutes. The standard charge here in these regulations is one shilling for two hours. If you think you want parking space for only an hour you can put in sixpence; but if you find you are going to be an hour and a half you cannot put in another sixpence. Just as you have exceeded your first sixpennyworth, the extra charge is ten shillings, and the limit of time during which you can leave your car is two hours.

One of the disadvantages from which we suffer in having an Order subject to the Negative Resolution procedure is that we cannot amend the Order. I suggest to your Lordships that it was never intended by either House that an iniquitous charge like this should be made. When I first read it, I thought it must be a mistake; but no, it was done with malice aforethought, again, I suppose, as a deterrent. That is why the Government stick so closely to the meter scheme and do not like the blue disc one, because the latter scheme does not give such a chance of bringing in a deterrent. I suggest to the noble Lord that for an experimental scheme it is quite wrong to have a charge of this kind. I suggest that it would be better for him to take the regulations back and then re-lay them with this one altered, because I am sure that no Member of your Lordships' House thought that a temporary experiment would include such an iniquitous charge as this. The Minister of Transport and the Government must accept responsibility for this. They cannot put it on to the Westminster City Council. On the last occasion, I expressed the fear that when we get these 640 meters erected the cost of dismantling them and remaking the pavements will be so great that this temporary experiment will be as permanent as Nelson's Monument. Will the noble Lord give the House an assurance that that will not be the case? I do not suppose that he will be sitting on that Bench when the experiment comes to an end, and I am not going to deny him the experiment.

I should find it very difficult to advise any noble Lord on this side of the House, or any noble Lord who would take my advice, to follow the noble Earl, Lord Howe, into the Division Lobby, for this one reason: we debated this matter fully when the Road Traffic Bill was in your Lordships' House in 1956. If the noble Earl will read the OFFICIAL REPORT to refresh his memory, he will find that he is allied to what I am going to say now. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, gave the undertaking that no further experiment would be made outside the London area and that these parking meters would not have Government sanction until an Affirmative Resolution was brought before Parliament. On that undertaking, the Amendments to the Bill that opposed the designation of parking places and the erection of meters were withdrawn. I think that that is within the memory of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk.

Where the Government are not playing fair is to bring in these regulations. I refer to paragraph 8, which starts off by saying: The standard period for which a vehicle may be left in a parking place during the permitted hours shall be two hours … Those are the permitted hours, and one shilling will give the motorist two hours' parking. The paragraph goes on to say: Provided that the initial charge for a vehicle left for a time not exceeding one hour shall be sixpence … That is not the permitted charge, I beg your Lordships to understand; the permitted charge is one shilling for two hours. But if you put in sixpence, you cannot put in another sixpence to get the two hours. Paragraph 9 says: If a vehicle is left in a parking place during the permitted hours for longer than the period for which payment was made by the initial charge, the amount of the charge shall be the amount of the initial charge together with an additional amount of ten shillings… If you think that that is fair, I do not, and I do not think that it is in line with what your Lordships were given to understand when we agreed to this experiment, or with what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said as spokesman for the Government during the debates on the Road Traffic Bill.

I do not think it is worth debating this matter much longer. If the Government want to stop the garaging of cars—and I use the word "garaging" as opposed to stopping for two hours for the legitimate purpose of shopping—it is easy to stop it. They could stop it to-morrow without all this ridiculous paraphernalia of parking places and everything else. They could do it by prohibiting the stopping of cars anywhere, or in designated streets, for longer than a certain time—I say, two hours. It would take no more police to enforce regulations of that kind than it would take to enforce the regulations in this document before us.

The excuse for not allowing another sixpence to be put in the meter to make up the initial one shilling charge is that it may lead to "fiddling" of the meter. But nothing is going to stop that. It will be the easiest thing in the world to do, unless there is one attendant per meter and he is the most honest man that was ever born. I acquiesce to this experiment with great misgivings. It could be done in a far better way. I want the noble Lord, if he will, to give the House these undertakings: first, that this initial charge, the amount of which I say is a breach of faith, will be altered; secondly, that he will tell us quite definitely that this will be only an experiment; next, that the blue disc scheme will be tried, either in London or somewhere else. I join with the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in that request.

It is no good the noble Lord coming to your Lordships' House and saying that there will not be Parliamentary time this Session or the next. There are too many old campaigners here for him to get away with that statement. There is never Parliamentary time for anything that a Department does not want to do; there is always plenty of time for what a Department wants to do. That is an old story that all of us who have been on the Government Front Bench have used. I have been as guilty as everybody else, but I am converted to the truth now. If the noble Lord will give those assurances, I, for my part, will not find it difficult to support him. I think he has a difficulty, because I know what taking these regulations away would mean, but I think it is iniquitous that something like that should be put forward in an experimental scheme in a set of regulations that we cannot amend. With those words, with reluctance, I support this experiment. I do not think it will cure anything; and I am afraid it is going to be like many other things, difficult to get rid of.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with a great deal of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and I certainly agree that the excess charge of ten shillings which was not indicated at the time when the Act was going through is far too high. I do not seek in any way to delay the proposals of Her Majesty's Government to carry out a trial of the parking meters under the terms of the Order which is before the House to-day, as the proposal has already been agreed to by the House and embodied in an Act of Parliament. On the other hand, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, Her Majesty's Government have said that in order to carry out a trial of the Paris disc system in London, legislation would be necessary and that time could not be found for such a proposal. I must say that I do not feel that that is a valid excuse Surely it would be perfectly possible to move a short amendment to the Road Traffic Act, 1956, and pass it through both Houses in quite a short time, if the Government so wished.

However, what I am anxious to do today is to get an assurance from the Government that they will in fact support a trial of the disc system in one of our great cities if the local authority is prepared to initiate such a trial. I do not know whether legislation would be necessary outside London, and perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to enlighten us on that point. If legislation is necessary, I ask Her Majesty's Government to undertake to put forward a necessary amendment to the Road Traffic Act to enable a local authority at, say, Birmingham or Manchester to carry out a trial of the disc system. I also hope that the Government will give an undertaking that no further extension of the parking meter scheme will be proceeded with until a trial of the Paris disc system has been carried out.

I would point out that under the Road Traffic Act. 1956, Parliament gave the necessary powers to the Minister of Transport to enable him to authorise only an experiment, and not to go any further. I am sure it would be the greatest mistake to litter London with parking meters, when perhaps the Paris disc system might well prove equally suitable and a great saving in money. It was suggested by Her Majesty's Government, I think in the recent debate, that the cost of the parking disc system would fall on the taxpayer. That is quite true. But the revenue from fines would probably exceed the cost of this administration, which would be low. If the scheme should be so successful that the revenue from fines did not cover the cost of administration, the benefit to the community as a whole would be well worth while. Under the parking meters scheme finances are extracted from the motorists who are obeying the law, but under the disc system from those who break the law. Surely the latter is a far better basis.


My Lords, with such a wealth of knowledge and eloquence from the noble Earl, Lord Howe, who moved the Motion, and from my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I should be a brave man indeed if I rose to speak in opposition. Mine is a far simpler and humbler venture: it is merely to ask Her Majesty's Government one or two questions. The first question I should like to ask is this. Is it a fact that acknowledged traffic experts, including an Assistant Commissioner of Police, visited Paris to study the working of the disc system, and reported against the adoption of that system here? The next question I want to ask is: what staff would be involved? Is it a correct estimate that for the experimental system seven men and a supervisor would be necessary, whereas for a similar area working the disc system at least 200 men would be required?

I suppose one might say that this system works all right in Paris; there are plenty of men there to do the job. Without being unkind to our near neighbours, anyone who has visited Paris will be aware of the French temperament and that large numbers of police are required, and are in fact there, to maintain law and order; though as we have seen recently they are not always successful in doing so. When they are not called upon to perform those tasks, obviously something must be found for them to do, because, as we all know, Satan always find something for idle hands; and so the police are allocated to looking after the disc system. That is my information, and I should like to know whether that is correct or not.

The next question I want to ask—and I do it with great trepidation—is this. We all know that motorists are among the most honest of people, but is it correct that the disc system could lend itself to bribery, whereas the parking meter system would not? Then, is it correct that the parking meter system provides appropriate gaps where unloading from commercial vehicles can take place, whereas in Paris, with the disc system, it is a "free-for-all" and whoever gets there first leaves his car there? That may be a very happy system, but I suppose that in Paris, as in other cities, vehicles have to unload sometimes. If they find a place where they want to unload, do they have to form a double line; and does that help the movement of traffic or not?

My final question is this. I am sure it would not be in the mind of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, or in any way bearing on the problem, but I am assured that the motorists themselves will pay for the meter system, whereas the cost of the disc system will fall on the taxpayer. If that is so, we can congratulate the motorists on their advocacy of the disc system. But whether that is a solution of the problem which would commend itself to your Lordships I can only leave to your discretion in the subsequent debate.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I trust that noble Lords who have already spoken will forgive me if my speech does not follow any of theirs, except to say that I wholeheartedly support my noble friend Lord Howe in asking for certain assurances. If the assurances are not given, I shall feel inclined to follow my noble friend into the Lobby. If they are given, then I think we ought to go on with this experiment. I am going to be so hold as to suggest that this Order should be now withdrawn on the grounds of bad drafting. I am submitting that certain sections of this Order contradict other sections of the Order, and that, in effect, the Order does not carry out the intentions of the Minister. I need hardly say that I am not making this submission without expert advice. There may well he an answer from my noble friend Lord Mancroft, but experts who have studied this Order are in agreement with me that it is contradictory and does not do what is intended.

May I first draw your Lordships' attention to Article 2 of the Order, "Interpretation"? Amongst the list of things for which an interpretation is given is a "goods vehicle." There is no interpretation later in the list for a "vehicle", and it is quite clear from the way the Order is worded that a "vehicle", without the word "goods" in front of it, includes a private motor car. I merely want to state that at this point so that your Lordships can follow my argument. I would then draw your Lordships' attention to Article 8, paragraph (2), which without reading it all to your Lordships says in effect that if a vehicle stops on a parking meter site in a parking bay, and the initial charge is not paid, the attendant on duty shall put a notice on the car saying that an offence has been committed. The reason why I mention this particular Article is that it is quite clear from it that, before an attendant can do such a thing, he must be quite satisfied in his own mind that an offence has been committed.

Now we come to the nigger in the woodpile, which is Article 23. Article 23 states: Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions"— that is, everything that has gone before— with respect to vehicles which are left in a parking place …any other vehicle may wait during the permitted hours—

  1. (a) anywhere on the carriageway in a parking place if "—
and then come a whole series of vehicles which may wait in a parking place in a parking bay without charge, such as Post Office vans, commercial vehicles loading and unloading, and so on. Subparagraph (viii) says: in any other case the vehicle "— mark you, my Lords, not a "goods vehicle" but "a vehicle," which includes motor cars— is waiting for the purpose of delivering or collecting goods or merchandise or loading or unloading the vehicle at premises adjacent to the parking place in which the vehicle is waiting and the vehicle does not wait for such purpose for more than twenty minutes or for such longer period as a police constable in uniform may authorise I am advised by the experts advising me that that means, in effect, that a vehicle, a private car, may stop outside a shop in a parking bay and wait there twenty minutes, provided that the driver —a lady, shall we say?—either takes into the shop a parcel which she wants to change, or goes into the shop, buys something, and comes out. I am advised that the effect of this wording is that she can do that on a parking place for twenty minutes without charge. If that is the case, how is the attendant on those parking meters to put a notice on her car to say that she has not paid her initial charge, and that she has committed an offence? Because if our reading of this Article is right, she has committed no offence; she is allowed to stay there for twenty minutes. As I say, there may be an answer to my point, but so far I have not heard one. If there is an answer, well and good. If there is not an answer, this Order cannot be amended. If there is no answer, this sub-paragraph makes nonsense of the Order. And in my submission, if that is the case then the Order should be withdrawn and a new one issued.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, it is difficult to follow the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in what he himself has said is rather a different approach to this question from the approach of most of your Lordships. We have now reached the stage towards making this experiment where, if we approve this Order, we shall have a system of the control of parking in a small area in London on July 10 of this year. If we now support the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and pray that the order be annulled, whatever system we ultimately decide to have we shall not have this summer. So it seems to me it requires some urgent proof that something is seriously wrong if we are, at this late stage, to annul the Order.

The arguments which the noble Earl has put forward are arguments that have been expressed before in your Lordships' House by the noble Earl himself and by others. Other than those which relate directly to the disc system, Which is a comparatively new scheme, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, pointed out, many of them date back to the discussions on the Bill. The scheme outlined in the Order is certainly not going to cure everything, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said. But it is intended to be only an experiment. It is admitted that it covers only a small area. I venture to suggest that the fact that it covers only a small area reduces to some extent the importance which should be placed on the off-street parking aspect. Obviously, before control of parking can be enforced over a wide area, such as the whole of this city, one must have adequate off-street parking. My noble friend Lord Mancroft has pointed out that there is more off-street parking than is used, and so long as that situation obtains it appears to me quite permissible to have an experimental meter scheme in a comparatively small district before you start additional off-street parking.

There are arguments against the scheme—most of them have been mentioned, though I think not all. My own objections are the excess charge scheme, which I mentioned in the debate the other day, and the objection which I heard only to-day and which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, put very forcibly. That is the objection of a man being able to use only half his share of the normal period, and then not being able to come back, as it were, for his second helping. That certainly needs re-examination. I do not know whether it would be possible to redraft these regulations and to re-lay them again so as to take the place of the present Order. If that is possible, it might be the best thing to do. In the meanwhile, however, from the point of view of getting the scheme working I am sure we should support the Order, and if it is necessary to redraft it, as my noble friend, Lord Derwent, thinks it is, perhaps that can be done as soon as possible after the scheme is started.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a very interesting debate, one of many debates on this subject, with great expert knowledge, and I am sure it is very helpful. The point I want to make I can express quite briefly. On what I consider to be the correct constitutional practice, it would be quite wrong for this House to negative an Order which has already received the approval of the House of Commons. It is quite true that Statutory Rules and Instruments have to be submitted to both Houses, but in these Orders the powers of your Lordships are exactly equal to the powers of the House of Commons: that is to say, if there were a change of Government and they were to propose such an Order and it was necessary for their legislation, your Lordships, not under any measure of the Parliament Act, with no powers of suggesting Amendments but by a simple phrase, could negative the policy of the Government elected to power in the other House.

Therefore, although constitutionally—or statutorily I suppose is the word—the noble Earl is perfectly right to discuss the matter and move his Motion, when I heard him say he was going to a Division I thought it right to put this point before your Lordships. What would happen then? This is not a question of which Party is in power; the Government is a Conservative Government at the moment. But they have passed this Order with the assent of the properly elected Chamber. Yet a number of noble Lords can then come and, without any appeal to any Parliament Act, negative the policy of the Government. I say that constitutionally that is wrong.

What my noble friend said about not voting certainly applies to me and I imagine to other noble Lords; I shall certainly riot take part in any vote on this subject. We have to establish use here, and that is what I am endeavouring to do. Your Lordships may think this is a large issue to raise on what is a very small matter, but it is not small; it will be a very important thing in the future, because a great deal of legislation, especially colonial legislation, is at the present time being passed under the Statutory Instruments Act. Take as an example the question of the Rhodesian Constitution or the constitutional position in East Africa. In all these matters, if changes have to be made they will probably be made by Statutory Order, and it would be quite wrong for the House of Lords to claim in this matter to have a power independent of and contrary to that of the House of Commons. Therefore, I respectfully submit to your Lordships that the correct thing for us to do, and certainly the course I. shall follow, is to take no part in any Division called by the noble Earl.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, I will not join issue with the noble Viscount opposite on the constitutional point he has just raised, except to say this: we are, amongst other things, a revising Chamber, and here is a Statutory Instrument which contains certain things with which your Lordships may not agree.


My Lords, that is just the point. If we are a revising Chamber there is something to be said for the noble Earl's Motion. But we cannot revise this Order; we cannot amend it. We can only reject it, and counter the settled policy of Her Majesty's Government.


My Lords, I am fully aware of that. I was only pointing out that we are a revising Chamber. That is one of our functions; it is generally recognised, even if the noble Viscount does not agree. And when circumstances are such that the only method of revision is to reject an Order or ask the Government to withdraw it, it leaves us very little opportunity to do anything else.

With regard to the main issue, London traffic has been in such a mess ever since the end of the last war that naturally one is very loth to criticise any genuine proposal to try to improve it. Therefore I have asked myself whether this scheme will improve the situation and if it is the right way of trying to do so. We have been told by Her Majesty's Government that this is an experiment. I think that is agreed. I find nothing in the Statutory Instrument, however, about an experiment; I see no time limit in this Statutory Instrument. We have been told by Her Majesty's Government that one of the plans in this experiment is to collect some money with which to create garages and parking places. If we are going to wait for the end of that experiment, it will take a great many years. Just to build one of them will absorb many years' revenue from such an experiment as this.

Therefore I would ask the noble Lord who is going to reply if he will give us an assurance, first, that if this scheme is unsuccessful it will be withdrawn after a limited period, let us say two years; and, secondly, that he will at the same time promote and encourage— not merely permit, but promote and encourage—an experiment in the disc system. The disc system has a great many merits which have not been fully canvassed in this House. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, told us of many of them. One merit is that it is much fairer to the residents to have a disc system. If your Lordships have looked at the map which accompanies this Order, you will have observed, for example, that in Upper Brook Street (I may say that I am in no way interested in Upper Brook Street in particular) there are to be parking meters on the whole of the north side but none along the south side. The fortunate residents on the south side of Upper Brook Street will have no parking meters outside their front doors. They will be able to drive up to their doors; their visitors will be able to come; their laundry will be delivered. They will have all the amenities of a front door. But the residents on the north side of that particular street will have none of these amenities.

Then again, this scheme is designed to reduce traffic congestion. I observe here that in several streets parking is to be allowed on both sides. Much of the difficulty at present in our congestion of traffic in London is simply because parking is permitted by the police on both sides. I cannot understand why the police continue to permit it. I was in one narrow street this morning near Westminster Cathedral where there is just room to get through between two lines of cars. It is perpetually occupied by two lines of cars, and the police make no effort to clear it, though they have power. There are several streets which are quite narrow which are to have parking meters placed on both sides. I cannot believe that that is a sensible plan. I shall be very glad if the noble Lord who is going to reply will tell us why that is being done.

This scheme is going to be very expensive to install. Probably these meters have already been bought. But installing them is a very expensive job, and it is a thousand pities that we cannot, even at this stage, persuade the Government to try for six months or a year the disc system, to see how it works. It would cost nothing, and we should not have to desecrate Grosvenor Street and other places with these hideous meters. If, after six months, it was found that it did not work we could come back to the parking meter system. I think that is a very much better plan, and I should like to ask the Government to postpone this scheme for a year and give a chance for the disc scheme to be tried. I have been told by those who criticise the disc system that it is not perfect, that it deals only with the long-term parker. But he is the man I want to deal with, and I think that the problem of the long-term parker is the main problem we have to face. Therefore, I think the disc system should be tried.

Under the meters scheme, a large number of people will never during the day be able to approach their own front doors, because this is a busy area, and all these parking places will be filled up. Yesterday afternoon a furniture van came to my house, which is not in this area, and spent about half an hour unloading a small amount of furniture. It would have taken much longer had there been more furniture, but at least it was able to approach the door. Had there been a parking meter along my street, the whole of the traffic would have been disrupted during the period of unloading. I do not know whether that would have been a very satisfactory situation.

One other point that I want to mention is, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has said, that all this will do is to shift the parking of cars from one area to another. Here I declare an interest, because I live just outside this area, and all that will happen is that cars are going to be pushed from this area and will crowd into the area in which I live. I know that that is something that one would have to suffer. But I beg the Government to withdraw this Order now —that will obviate the necessity for any Member opposite to vote against a Statutory Instrument—and to tell us that they will try the disc system for six or twelve months. Then, as I say, if it does not work, they can come back and introduce another Order, which I hope will have been drawn to meet the obviously important point raised by my noble friend Lord Derwent. I also hope that the map will be amended a little, so that some of these inequalities of distribution in regard to parking will be put right.

5.51 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be brief. I should like to say that I fully align myself with my noble friend Lord Howe, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth and my noble friend Lord Derwent in regard to the assurance for which they ask. I also agree with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Clitheroe. One point that has not been made is that when we agreed to this experimental parking scheme and gave it our blessing in the Road Traffic Act, 1956, there was no question of a blue disc scheme—it had not then been started. Surely when you find something that is as good, or, as some people say, better, you should give it a try, if possible in comparable conditions. Lord Lucas of Chilworth said that we should agree to this because we have given it our blessing in the Road Traffic Act. I agree. But we did not at that time know of the disc system.

The next point I want to make is that it has been said that the money coming from the parking meters is necessary to provide off-street parking facilities. I agree that such facilities are necessary, but I do not believe that any money that came from these meters—that is, if there was any net revenue from them, because I think they are going to cost more than we get from them—would ever go to putting up garages. After all, the Road Traffic Fund was robbed and done away with; and the way things are going, all the money coming into the Treasury goes to a general fund. I think many noble Lords will agree with me that money that came specifically from these meters would not necessarily go towards providing off-street parking facilities. One other thing I want to say concerns the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Burden, about traffic experts going out and looking at this scheme. If I am correct, the London and Home Counties Advisory Committee, senior officials of the Ministry of Transport, an Assistant Commissioner from the Metropolitan Police and another official from the Ministry of Transport, not in a technical capacity but in an administrative or secretarial capacity, would all be very good in their jobs. But many people in Germany and other countries have been out and made a joint survey of the disc scheme; and they have written a report. The reports of Mr. Samuels and the others have been compared, and there is a lot to be said for both sides. I do not think it could ever be said that one body only can be said to be the only body of people who know what they are talking about.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, I will not delay the House more than a few moments, but I should like to make one comment. We have had many interesting debates on important matters in which there have been only a few speakers speaking to an empty House. We have had this subject this afternoon which has been debated from time to time by a fair number of speakers speaking to a fairly full House. It seems rather peculiar to me, and I wonder whether it is not a question of our taking far too great an interest in the interests of motorists. I would suggest to your Lordships that there is another section of the community that we should consider this evening—namely, the pedestrians. The vast majority of men and women who live and work in London are pedestrians, and they require public transport as a means of moving from one place to another. We know that public transport is continually hindered and delayed because of parking.

I would support any scheme that would clear the roads of parked cars and permit the free movement of public transport and of the motorist using the road legitimately. I would support the noble Earl, Lord Howe, if I believed that his scheme would clear the roads; but frankly, having thought about it, I cannot believe that it would clear the roads. I believe there is a possible hope in the Government's scheme, subject to two conditions which do not exist to-day—and, indeed, there is no evidence that they will exist. The conditions are, first, that the Government and the local authorities will provide off-street parking; secondly, that the charges incurred by a man parking his car in the street will be so high that it will drive him off the roads into the garages. I have my doubts which way I should vote if I were called upon to do so, and I must say that I am much relieved that my noble friend Lord Stansgate has put this constitutional position, which makes it a little easier for me to abstain than to vote with the Government.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, the Motion before the House to-day relates to a subject on which the views of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, who has moved it, and of myself must be wearisomely familiar to your Lordships. We had a very full debate on it only three weeks ago, which will be fresh in your minds. What has been said in the debate to-day has for the most part been heard in this House before, and your Lordships will not therefore expect me to cover much new ground.

The Motion seeks your Lordships' approval of a Prayer to annul the Order before the House. The noble Lords who have spoken in support of the Motion have made it abundantly clear that their objection is to the introduction of parking meters in Westminster at all, not (or at least not primarily) to the manner in which the Order would empower their introduction. I may be forgiven, I hope, therefore, if I address myself first to some general considerations that have sometimes been overlooked in our debates.

The Road Traffic Act, 1956, adopted by your Lordships after full argument, empowers the local authorities in the Metropolitan Police District to submit to my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport schemes for charging for parking on the highway, if they wish by the employment of parking meters. While the Act was before Parliament as a Bill, a Special Committee was in being to consider the manner in which such a power, if it were granted, should be employed. The Samuels Survey Committee, as I may call it, recommended that a start should be made with a parking meter scheme in North-West Mayfair.

The Westminster City Council adopted that recommendation, and the present Order before us in effect translates it into legal form. The Order is, therefore, the natural outcome of the passage of the Road Traffic Act, 1956, and, were no such Order before you, there would, I suspect, be legitimate grounds of complaint. The Act goes so far as to give my right honourable friend powers, in default of any scheme submitted by a local authority, to introduce such a scheme himself for the purpose of experiment and—here I may reassure my noble friend, Lord Clitheroe—for demonstration. It has not been necessary to adopt that course owing to the sensible and timely action of the Westminster City Council.

The scheme of the Westminster City Council has been most fully examined in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Act. Incidentally, it has also received the backing of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis. After due advertisement there has been a long public inquiry conducted before Sir Hugh Dow, at which all objectors have been able to state their case, and most of the points raised by your Lordships in the course of our debates have been exhaustively examined there. The report of the public inquiry has been considered by the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. Both the inspector of the Inquiry and the Committee have advised the Minister to adopt the scheme and make the proposed Order, and copies of their reports are available in your Lordships' House. That is precisely what my right honourable friend has done, and in doing so he has fulfilled, I suggest. both the intentions of the Act and his assurances to Parliament before it was passed. Therefore, I make no apology for the Order.

My noble friend, Earl Howe, and the other noble Lords who have supported him, now claim that since the Road Traffic Act, 1956, a new factor has intervened which should make the Minister hesitate before he carries out the intention of that Act. This new factor is the introduction, in what has come to be known as the Blue Zone of Paris, of the disc system. From the very birth of the idea of parking discs in Paris, my right honourable friend made it his business to keep himself informed both of what was proposed and, later, of how it was working in practice.

He did so precisely because, like your Lordships, he wished to be satisfied that nothing had occurred which would render out of date the parking meter experiment as envisaged in the Road Traffic Act, 1956. My right honourable friend has no prejudice whatever against the disc system, as some of your Lordships seem to think, and he had a completely open mind about the scheme when he first heard of it; but as a result of preliminary reports on the Paris system, he asked Mr. Samuels to lead the small party to which the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, referred, to inspect the system. This they did in January last, and their report, of which your Lordships have had copies, amply confirmed his own preliminary conclusion that, attractive and ingenious as the disc system is, it is, on balance, less likely to solve our central London parking problem than a scheme for parking meters on the lines before your Lordships at the moment; and I must say that nothing that has been said to-day or on previous occasions has shaken that conclusion.

The essence of any system of parking control surely is that it should be enforceable. There would be no need for meters, discs, or any other device if a simple regulation that motorists may park only in particular places, and then only for a limited period of time, was enforceable. But the plain fact is that it is not, as anyone who uses street parking places where the legal limit is two hours, and unilateral waiting streets where the legal limit has been half an hour, will know. I believe it is common ground between us that if we are to have a reasonable traffic flow and some degree or order brought back to our streets, the parking of private cars on those streets must be restricted to comparatively short periods in specified places. To that point I particularly ask your Lordships' attention.

The question now before us is: what is the most effective and cheapest way in which this can be done? Some of your Lordships place your faith in parking discs. Her Majesty's Government believe that the right course lies in the judicious use of parking meters. The first essential difference between the parking meter and the parking disc lies in the scale of enforcement involved. The second is in the treatment of offending motorists. Most of the other differences in the system employed in Paris or contemplated in London, although in my view they favour the parking meter, might be overcome; but the two difficulties I have specifically mentioned seem to Her Majesty's Government insuperable.

Let me take first the scale of enforcement. There is evidence that when the number of attendants in the Paris scheme falls below one for every twenty-five car spaces, the standard of enforcement of the disc instantly falls off. That is what the Paris police tell us. We have no doubt that for the same level of enforcement at least three times as many officers or attendants are necessary to watch the disc system than are necessary to watch the meter system. As I have explained, that is where cost comes in. I explained that to your Lordships on the last occasion that we debated this matter and I will not repeat it, but it is the wages of the extra attendants to enforce the disc system which put up the cost of that system. Evasion is much easier with the discs and less easily detected. We are told that strict enforcement is necessary to ensure that the discs are set correctly and that the observation of each car must take place at the fixed time indicated on the disc.

The Dutch authorities who have also studied the disc system very closely have estimated this figure at not three times but ten times as great. I believe that that is on the high side; but even with three times as many attendants the difference in cost and effort between enforcement of the disc system and of the meter system is, I believe, very considerable. It is, in fact, a determining factor. In the long run the cost of the meters is relatively small compared with the bill for the enforcement of the disc system.


My Lords, the noble Lord has told us of the great disadvantages shown in the disc system in Paris. Can he say whether the Paris authorities are continuing with the disc system or are discarding it, after their experiment, in favour of the parking meter system?


My Lords, I understand that at the moment the Paris police are going into a revision of the scheme, trying to overcome some of the difficulties now being revealed by the scheme.


Are they discarding it?


My Lords, they are certainly not discarding it.


My Lords, may I put a point to the noble Lord? He has said that it is much more expensive to have the additional men with the disc system, whereas with the parking meters it is a matter of the original cost. That is true; but this is an experiment, and if the experiment goes on for only a couple of years how is the economy of cost to work out?


My Lords, I do not want to explain in detail what I explained so elaborately last time. I believe my noble friend Lord Salisbury was not present at the last debate. But I will not weary your Lordships with that. The matter of cost is not the important one. I have mentioned it only because it has been raised in the debate. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, that it is not by any means the overriding question, for the overriding question should be: will this produce a better flow of traffic in London—not what it may do in Paris. It was also suggested that the figures which I gave last time are deceptive because under the meter system more police would be needed to patrol streets where there are no meters. I think it is clear that for the first few days after the new system is introduced an increased number of policemen may be needed on the job, for it will be essential to ensure that motorists understand the system and realise that in a meter zone they may park only where there is a meter. Once that phase is over and the system is understood and accepted here, I do not see why more policemen should be needed than are needed at present. Indeed, the police will be concerned with shorter lengths of street, since they will not be concerned where there are meters. The enforcement of "No waiting" restrictions under the parking disc system would make exactly the same demands on the police as under the meter system. The only relevant comparison is between the numbers involved in supervising the meters or the discs themselves. On this particular point the comparison is strongly in favour of meters.

My Lords, let us, if we may, consider the point that has been raised several times this afternoon—namely, the treatment of offenders. By introducing an excess charge for the second two hours, the meter system creates something very near to a penalty for over-staying. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, does not like that—he made the point fairly and clearly—but I do not think he can be surprised by it, because it was considerably canvassed at the time the Road Traffic Act was debated.


I accepted the principle in the Bill. I am quarrelling now about the amount.


My Lords, I grasp that point too; but I think that the figures in the Order were canvassed fairly widely at the time of the Bill. The noble Lord may not have approved, but I do not think he can have been surprised.


My Lords, I think we all clearly understood that the maximum charge for the first two hours would be a shilling, and not, if you were there for fifty-five minutes, sixpence, and if you over-stayed by ten minutes 10s. 6d. We never understood that. It may now well be that one is going to pay 10s. 6d. although one is there under two hours.


My Lords, it was an essential part of the meter system that motorists should have a real, financial incentive to take their cars away before the time for which they had paid according to the meter had expired. The Paris disc system does not provide any similar incentive. I would ask you to take this point for very careful consideration. In Paris, the results, in the number of prosecutions, have been really fantastic by our standards. In Paris under this disc scheme there were 47,000 prosecutions in January, and 45,000 in February.


Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord. If he will break down those figures I think he will find that 389 were for making an alteration of the time incorrectly on the disc on the windscreen.


My Lords, that does not matter. Forty-seven thousand prosecutions is a very large number. If you compare it with the total monthly number of prosecutions for a comparable area of the Metropolitan Police District for traffic offences, you will find that our figures are about 2,000. Prosecutions of the French order would, I think, be utterly beyond the capacity of our courts to handle. In the opinion of some people, the only way to get over that would be to introduce something like the American ticket system. I appreciate that in the Magistrates' Courts Act of 1957 we have adopted a simplified court procedure for minor offences; and I note also that the Samuels Report on the disc system envisages that it might be possible to legislate for the principle of an excess charge to be applied to the disc system. Nevertheless, if the number of offences committed in Paris under this disc system is any indication of the scale of infringements that is likely here, I doubt whether anything short of the American ticket system would be a really effective instrument of enforcement.

Your Lordships will recall the strong opposition to this innovation—this American ticket system—expressed in the Sharpe Report of 1956, which preceded the Magistrates' Courts Act, and I do not really think that at this juncture your Lordships would like to go back on a fundamental principle so recently and so strongly supported. As I have told your Lordships on previous occasions I am not going to stand here at this Dispatch Box and try to suggest that the disc system is wholly bad—I say it for the tenth time. Experience in Paris has proved that it is not. It has nearly eliminated the long-term parker there, and that is all to the good. But I claim that its achievement is more or less limited to that. The aims of the disc system differ from the aims of the parking-meter system embodied in this Order, and they have been bought at the cost of a level of supervision and prosecution which we in this country could not really contemplate. I also I claim, despite the views of some of your Lordships, that when parking space on the streets is in short supply it is entirely right and just that motorists should have to pay a moderate sum for the privilege of using it.

It has been alleged in this debate this afternoon that discs are on their way in and meters are on their way out. I am not certain that that is wholly true. Meters are still on the increase in America, where they began (the figures show that there was a 15 to 20 per cent. increase last year), and they are still spreading in Europe and in other countries, South Africa included. About the time that Mr. Samuels took his party to Paris a similar party were inspecting discs on behalf of the Royal Dutch Touring Club. In consultation with the chief constables of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, their report has just been published. Briefly, the report concludes that the attractions of the disc system—namely, the absence of a charge, and the fact that with no bays more cars can be parked in a given area—are far outweighed by the disadvantages. That is the point of view I am putting forward to-day. As I mentioned just now, the Dutch consider that up to ten times as many police would be required for enforcement; and they believe that enforcement would be particularly difficult in the narrow streets of their towns—which are no narrower, I venture to suggest, than many of those in London. The Dutch report concludes that parking meters will provide the best solution of parking problems in these conditions. I could hardly ask for a more thorough-going vindication from an entirely disinterested source for some of the views I have tried to put before your Lordships. I do not want to labour this argument any longer—we know the facts backwards—but I should like to recapitulate the more important ones that I have put forward on previous occasions.

My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport has by no means closed his mind to the possibility of an experiment in parking discs; but it is his opinion, which I myself entirely share, that it would be quite impracticable to consider meters and discs in the same area of the same city in the same experiment. I have been asked to give an assurance on this point. Let me, if I may, to put your Lordships' minds at rest, say that if there is any city outside London which would like to have an experiment in the disc system, and it puts forward a workable proposition, my right honourable friend will be only too glad to consider it. We cannot force a scheme on a borough or town that does not want it. There is no point in our taking up Parliament's time with legislation now for a disc Bill if nobody is going to use it.


My Lords, the noble Lord says, very cleverly, that he will undertake that his right honourable friend will consider it. Will his right honourable friend, if it is wanted by any local authority in the provinces, facilitate its passage and the necessary legislation through Parliament?


My Lords, my right honourable friend will certainly not offer any obstruction or any objection whatever to a Bill, measure or proposal, that is wanted and proves workable. That is the thing we have to make quite certain about. But nobody has come forward with such a scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, asked whether we will agree not to have another experiment with meters until a scheme has been tried out with the discs, but no scheme has so far been proposed. If some authority does come forward they will be given a very cordial and interested reception.


My Lords, the noble Lord said "If the scheme proves workable". No scheme can prove workable unless it has been tried.


My Lords, that is what I have been saying for about the last ten minutes on this parking meter business.


My Lords, I am talking about the noble Lord's answer. If any local authority wants to try it, the noble Lord said that the Minister will consider it if it is workable.


My Lords, I apologise; that was a slip of the tongue: I meant if it seems workable. So let us be quite clear about this point. The Government and my right honourable friend are not opposed to the disc system. He does not have the prejudice on it which your Lordships appear to think he has. We are solely concerned with Westminster, where we think that the disc system is inferior in promise to the meter system. If anybody wants to bring forward the disc system, to produce a scheme that looks workable, by a Private Bill or any other proper means, it will be given the most warm and cordial reception. But we cannot go on holding up this scheme while waiting for something else that nobody in this country knows about and about which nobody brings forward any plans. I do not think your Lordships would want me to elaborate the reasons why legislation is required. There are technical reasons which my legal advisers have explained on several grounds, but unless your Lordships challenge me, I would ask you to accept that position.

We have heard to-day a good deal of another argument for deferring once again this parking meter experiment—namely, that there is not enough off-street parking accommodation. In this context, it should be remembered that the Minister is required by the 1956 Road Traffic Act not simply to have regard to the extent to which off-street parking accommodation already exists, but also to the extent to which any Order is likely to encourage its provision. I feel little doubt that this scheme, both through the proceeds of parking meters, and because cars will no longer be able to park free, will provide encouragement both to public and private enterprise. Indeed. I have already told your Lordships of the plan of the Westminster City Council to create a multistorey car park for 350 to 400 cars a short distance to the south of the zone, between Audley Street and Waverton Street; and in agreement with them, private enterprise plans are progressing for a 120 to 180-car garage in Bowdon Street. These plans will continue to go ahead.

I mention only these two Westminster plans, since they alone are directly relevant to the Order, but I have made some inquiries since our last debate as to the extent to which the existing parking space in the West End is not fully used at present. I think that this reflects very much on some of the arguments that have been advanced this afternoon. In garages and parking lots with a total capacity of 2,600 car spaces, an average of 1,100 are unused every day. If motorists were willing to use it, there is still much unused parking space off the highway in the West End, and I hope and trust that parking meters will persuade them to use it.

I am trying to convince your Lordships that there are good reasons for proceeding with this present Order. I have said so much on so many occasions with regard to the seriousness of our traffic problems in London, and particularly the part that excessive parking plays in them, that your Lordships cannot wish me to repeat it again. This Order empowers the Westminster City Council to conduct an experiment with the first comprehensive parking scheme ever attempted in London. It does not say in the Order that if the experiment proves a total failure it will be stopped, but I cannot imagine the Westminster City Council, which is a sane and sensible local authority, going on with an Order which proves to be a complete disaster, which I cordially hope it will not be.

The plan accompanying the Order, which the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, showed to your Lordships, indicates the limits within which parking meters may be erected. The sites have been most carefully chosen to provide the minimum interference with necessary accesses and traffic flow and to allow a reasonable allowance of curb space for loading and unloading. I cannot pretend that every syllable in the Order will prove justified and justifiable—it is an experiment.


My Lords, will the noble Lord at this point acquaint us with the answer to the question I asked him—namely, how many private residences and how many public premises are to have parking meters right outside?


I can only do that by taking the Order with the map and working through it street by street.


The noble Lord's advisers cannot tell him the number?


It will take some time to work out the figure.


It should have already been worked out.


It may have been, and I will find out for the noble Lord. It is provided in the Order exactly where the first meters are going to be. Somebody is going to be inconvenienced, most assuredly, but already many people are being inconvenienced by parking. The point is that if this plan succeeds it will achieve several things. First, it will remove long-term parking from the streets. It will also provide facilities for a reasonable number of short-term parkers and an incentive to motorists to keep their parking to short periods. It will ensure that such parking will take place only where it can be accepted without detriment to traffic flow or interference with the essential operations of loading and unloading.

My noble friend Lord Derwent asked a question about Article 8. I have taken a rapid glance at that and I am assured that his fears are ill-founded. That matter will be carefully watched, as well as some of the other points that have been raised, and if this experiment proves in need of amendment here and there, it will be amended. I am not going to pretend to your Lordships that this is an experiment brought down from the mountain and that not one single syllable will ever be altered once your Lordships have passed it.


My Lords, I am sorry to press this point. We are concerned not to make this scheme unworkable but about the actual legal position. What I am submitting makes legal nonsense of it. If any of it is to be amended, cannot an Amending Order be introduced at once?


I am sorry, but I am assured that it does not make legal nonsense at all.


Well, that is all right.


My Lords, let me conclude, because we have little fresh to say. I appreciate that the results we are seeking to achieve will not be achieved without some inconvenience and hardship but, as your Lordships know, that is true of every form of traffic regulation. We have sought, with the Westminster City Council, to keep inconvenience to a minimum, and I hope that we have succeeded. This is an experiment, as I have already said a hundred times. We shall learn by experience, and if we find the need to amend the scheme, it can be amended before we apply it elsewhere.

After all the arguments we have had in your Lordships' House, I cannot believe that it is really your Lordships' wish that once again this experiment should be postponed in the hope that some Utopian scheme may be found. If nothing is done about the parking problem, your Lordships complain. When Her Majesty's Government adopt a scheme carefully and properly proposed by the Westminster City Council, threshed out by the authorities, compared with other schemes put forward elsewhere and discussed with experts internationally, some of your Lordships complain again. I must ask your Lordships to believe that we cannot always have it both ways.

A Prayer to annul the Order has been debated in another place arid, after hearing the arguments of my right honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary, which my noble friend Lord Howe discussed in detail, the mover withdrew his Prayer. (I will not be so rash as to cross swords with the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, on the constitutional issues but I listened carefully to what he said.) I invite your Lordships to follow their excellent example. Unless we do something about the traffic in London, nothing will ever be achieved. We shall be talking about it here until I am an old, old Back-Bencher, whether over there or possibly still on this side of the House. Therefore I beg your Lordships not to follow my noble friend Lord Howe into the Lobby, if he should think fit to lead a Division, but to give your approval to this Order and let us get on. Surely after the ocean of talk, we should do something about it.


My Lords, the noble Lord is both patient and courteous, but he seems to have overlooked one question I asked him. Can the Government take steps to amend what I think every Member of your Lordships' House regards as an excessive charge and something which the House was not led to believe would be imposed—namely, the charge of 10s. 6d. for sixty-five minutes parking?


My Lords, I can do no more than bring it to the attention of my right honourable friend and ask him to look at it particularly when the experiment is tried out on the ground.

I cannot agree that the Order should be held up now for any point, because, as I say, Parliament was given full warning that this was likely to happen. I cannot say from memory that my noble friend Lord Selkirk or I stood at this Box and said that this will be written into the Order, but it certainly came as no surprise to me. If, however, it proves, as the noble Lord fears it will prove, a great hardship, then I am sure my right honourable friend will be prepared to consider an amendment.


Then may I take it that this will not be taken as a precedent for any other experiment or permanent plan of this kind? Because this cannot be accepted by the House as a standard charge for every local authority to impose.


I cannot possibly suggest that anything in this Order will be considered as a standard for anything else. This applies to Westminster, and to Westminster only. There may be a dozen different things that will apply differently when put into practice at Land's End and John o' Groats. I cannot say any more than that.

6.31 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord has said, and I only wish he had listened half as carefully to the few remarks that I made. He has altogether ignored quite a number of them. I told him that the information we get from Paris is that the speed of traffic there, as the result of the disc system, has gone up by 2 miles per hour. He paid no attention to that. I then asked him what he is going to do about unilateral parking under this scheme. My noble friend Lord Clitheroe asked him about Brook Street, and I asked about Park Street, but he has not referred to that in his reply. It is not satisfactory to put questions to a Minister which he ignores so completely as the noble Lord has ignored these two questions that really matter.


My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Earl. I hope he does not think I was discourteous in any way; that is the last thing I should want to be. I did make the point that he was making rather detailed comments at this stage of the proceedings, on matters which had already been most carefully considered before. If the noble Earl thought that I was discourteous or not paying attention to what he said, I can assure him that that was far from the case.


Of course, I accept the noble Lord's assurance. But still. I put this question about unilateral parking in a debate on April 30; I have put it to him again to-day, and he still has not answered it. Nobody can tell us whether unilateral parking can continue or is intended to continue under the parking meters scheme. If the noble Lord would like to reply now, I will give way. Apparently he does not wish to reply. The noble Lord was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, whether he would facilitate an experiment with the disc system; and I have the noble Lord's reply in Hansard. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 208 (No. 61), col. 1167]. …the disc system requires legislation, and there is frankly no room for such legislation, either in this Session or the next. So the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, can judge from that how much the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is likely to facilitate such an experiment. I asked the noble Lord three questions, to none of which have I had an answer. The principal one is whether, before extending the meter system or the experiment envisaged under this Order, he can assure us that an experiment will be carried out with the disc system. All he has said on that is what he said in the first debate, that there was no prospect of Government help with legislation. Therefore I can take it that nothing will be done, so far as the noble Lord is concerned, to facilitate a disc system.


The noble Earl must not say that. He is getting things all muddled up. I originally said that there was no point in wasting Parliamentary time by legislating in vacuo in case somebody wanted to try the disc system. If somebody wants to try the disc system, that is a different matter. In either case there must be legislation. But if somebody wants it, and produces a workable and attractive-looking scheme, that will be a different matter from suggesting, as was suggested in the last debate. that we should legislate in case anybody wanted the disc system. I can repeat to the noble Earl and reassure him on this: that if somebody wants to try the disc system, we shall be only too pleased to help in any way we can. We are not going to force the disc system on somebody who does not want it, nor are we going to legislate in vacuo in case anybody wants it.


How does the noble Lord reconcile that with what he said on April 30, to which I have just referred? He then said: Let me remind the noble Lords who suggested it that the disc system requires legislation, arid there is frankly no room for such legislation, either in this Session or the next.

Resolved in the negative and Motion disagreed to accordingly.