HL Deb 06 July 1959 vol 217 cc720-8

2.40 p.m.

THE EARL OF GOSFORD rose to move, That the Parking Places (Extension Outside London No. 1) Order, 1959, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on the 12th of May.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The effect of this Order is to apply Section 19(1) of the Road Traffic Act, 1956, to the County Boroughs of Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Salford, Sheffield and Southend-on-Sea. If this Order is approved by Parliament it will give these boroughs the same powers as those enjoyed by boroughs within the Metropolitan Police District and the City of London—namely the right to apply to the Minister for individual orders designating parking places on highways at which charges may be made.

This Order does not in itself authorise county boroughs to designate such parking places; the procedure laid down in the Third Schedule to the Road Traffic Act must first be complied with. It may be to your Lordships' convenience if I remind your Lordships of the main stages of the procedure. The normal sequences of events must be gone through; the Chief of Police must be consulted; proposals must have public advertisement; steps must be taken to bring to the knowledge of owners of properties adjacent to the proposed parking places particulars of the scheme, and so on. After this the scheme, with all objections duly made, must be referred to my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation for decision; and he may, if he wishes, hold a public inquiry.

The Ministry of Transport are preparing an explanatory circular on how to apply for controlled parking orders and copies will be sent to all local authorities. This circular will soon be issued and will explain the procedure laid down in the Third Schedule, which I have just mentioned. It will also explain the underlying general principles of a controlled parking scheme and the detailed provision of orders already made. It will be factual and will take the form of a guide rather than a manual of instruction.

Our divisional road engineers have studied the general nature of the traffic congestion in the county boroughs named in this Order, and in each case there are adequate grounds for consideration of a controlled parking scheme. I commend this enabling Order to your Lordships.

Moved, That the Parking Places (Extension outside London No. 1) Order, 1959, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on the 12th of May.—(The Earl of Gosford.)


My Lords, the noble Lord who has introduced this Motion to your Lordships' House has not so far explained the alterations which have taken place since the parking meter question first came before your Lordships' House. We were then told that parking meters were going to be installed, and that when they had been installed the money derived from them would be devoted to providing off-street parking accommodation. That was perfectly clear, and clearly understood in both Houses of Parliament, and do not think anybody questioned it. Some of us did not like the parking meter idea; we should have preferred another scheme. But we all understood what was meant by the Government.

But since then something altogether new has arisen which was never even hinted at when the Government were producing the parking meter idea: that when all these authorities the noble Earl has mentioned to-day get their parking meters, they are going to be mulcted in income tax, with the result that there will be practically no money available from the receipts from parking meters whereby off-street parking accommodation can be provided. I submit to your Lordships that this must have been known to the Government at the time. No hint was ever given by them; we were never told that this sort of situation might arise, and I feel that the motor world, which is really being mulcted of the receipts from parking meters, has a real grievance here. I would ask the noble Earl who is to reply, is it really necessary that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue should be allowed to come in and so to speak, levy a toll from the receipts of parking meters? If so, I submit that it alters the whole position, and I suggest that when the Government first came down and told both Houses about it, they did not actually tell the truth. They must have known. If my interpretation is correct, I feel that Parliament has considerable complaint against the Government in that they failed to divulge information which they must have had when this scheme was first introduced.

It may well be that the other scheme to which I have referred your Lordships—the parking disc scheme, which is working extremely well in other countries—would be much better, because the receipts from that scheme are very small indeed and would certainly not be subject to income tax. Here you have the receipts from parking meters all subject to income tax. In my submission, we should have been told about that when the scheme was first introduced, and would beg Her Majesty's Government to tell us why they kept quiet on this matter—they sat on it; they did not tell us. As that is so, are they really prepared to go ahead with a scheme which, as the noble Earl has just told us, affects some of the biggest cities in this country?

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, if I may just for a moment support what has been said, I think that we should have some opportunity of trying the disc scheme. But it is a question of the chicken and the egg. The House is very well aware that my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation said that the scheme requires rather complicated legislation but at the same time he invites local authorities to put forward a disc scheme. I should like to bring one further point to the attention of the noble Earl, namely, what was said on June 30 in another place, reported in column 410 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, where my right honourable friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation said: My personal view is that as these schemes spread and the police make enforcement effective, the demand for off-street parking by those who want to leave their cars in the centre of towns, whether London or elsewhere, will be such that private enterprise, too, will supply it. Then in column 412, when asked a question about the income tax matter, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said: If the meter revenues were used in combination with the financing of off-street garages those revenues would very rapidly be swallowed up by the losses made in operating the garages. How on earth can you say to a private enterprise, "Put these garages up, because they will make a profit", and then one and a half columns later say that the garages were going to make a loss? I just do not know what this means. Perhaps the noble Earl could explain that.


My Lords, as a Member of your Lordships' House who went into the Division Lobby with my noble friend Lord Howe in support of parking discs, I should like to say a few words, because at that time I felt that parking discs were the answer in London. But, having studied a little the trial of parking meters in tests in the Mayfair area, I feel that possibly I may have been wrong, and that for London parking meters may be the answer. I say that, having lived a number of years in Paris and having seen parking discs in operation.

The point we have to consider to-day is that ten county boroughs have made an application for powers to provide parking places. I should like to take this opportunity to ask the noble Earl who is to reply whether, in the case of these ten towns, the local authority will be able to consider parking discs and parking meters, because it may well be that for the individual towns mentioned in this Order parking discs may be more appropriate. I should like to ask the noble Earl if, in his reply, he could tell us whether these towns, in considering the provision of parking places, have to adopt the parking meter scheme, or whether they can consider the parking disc scheme.


My Lords, before the noble Earl replies can he answer one question for me which has some bearing on this issue? Supposing a local authority starts to build off-street parking garages, will the local authority be able, for tax purposes, to offset the cost of the building of off-street parking garages against the receipts from the parking meters?


My Lords, if the noble Earl can bear one more speaker before he replies, I should like to say a word or two about this idea. My noble friend Lord Howe has already pointed out that at the time when parking meters were first introduced, off-street parking was promised simultaneously with the introduction of them, and it has not been supplied. I think this is a great pity, because, quite frankly, parking meters can be an abominable nuisance to the motorist. I had my first experience of one the other day. It worked very simply and was quite easy for me. On the other hand, it is extremely irritating to go to a parking place where the spaces for cars are marked out in white lines, and there to find a solo motor-cycle occupying the entire space for one car. That is inevitable, of course, with parking meters; but with the parking disc system no car takes up more space than it requires.

I confess that I consider it a little strange that the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation has not shown himself willing even to try out the disc system, which I believe would be appropriate to London. I think it is likely to be every bit as appropriate for London as it is for Paris, for I cannot see the difference. One cannot help wondering—though naturally I do not like to make any imputations on the motives of the Ministry—whether it is not that the parking meter system brings in revenue and the disc system does not. If we are to adopt a policy of "soak the motorist" for parking purposes, I must point out that not all motorists are wealthy people. A great many of them have cars because they need them for business purposes or because they live where there is no other means of transport; and motoring expenses are not small in these days.

I feel, therefore, that the motorist should be considered to a certain degree, and there is no doubt that, from the point of view of relieving traffic congestion, the difference between the meter system and the disc system is nil. In neither case is off-street parking needed. I believe that we ought to consider these things very carefully before passing this Order, which will permit the meter system to spread much more widely over the country. Moreover, it is well known that the motoring organisations are very much set against them. So I feel that the right honourable gentleman the Minister should think twice before he asks for this Order to be approved.


My Lords, I rise only to ask a question. I do not know whether the noble Earl can answer it now, because I gave him no notice of it. If it is possible for us to be told, it would be of great interest to the House to know what sum of money has been brought in by parking meters in the area in which they have been installed in Mayfair, and what has been the cost of installing the parking meters; because certainly I, and I believe a great many in the House, understood that the profits gained from these meters were to be devoted to the provision of off-street parking. If it has turned out that there was a miscalculation the House should know of that before we proceed very much further with this proposal.


My Lords, I should like to make a suggestion with regard to motor-cycles and scooters. Is it really necessary to devote parking meters to those? Would it not be better to have a free gap every now and then in the row of parking meters with a sign up saying: "Motor-cycles or scooters only", and not to charge anything for them? That might do away with the trouble of a scooter or motorcycle taking up space that would be sufficient for a Rolls Royce.


My Lords, there is no question at all of bad faith on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I believe that all your Lordships know that any receipts by local councils are in the normal way subject to income tax, and that such receipts are no different from any others. In practice, however, only about 10 per cent. of local authorities would have to pay at the moment on receipts from any parking meter or other fee-paying parking scheme. Here I am not speaking of 10 per cent. of the local authorities affected by this Order, or of those in London who already have parking meter schemes; I mean 10 per cent. of the local authorities in the whole of the country.

The interest that most local authorities pay on loans obtained for their various functions exceeds the profits from any profitable enterprises in which they may be engaged. They are entitled to deduct income tax from this loan interest and their liability is therefore confined to paying to the Inland Revenue this deducted amount. Their income tax liability therefore increases with each new source of profit. One way of reducing liability to income tax, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said would be to finance off-street garage provision by a loan which would enable them to off-set the interest against tax on profits from parking meters. On the contrary, I believe that, by this scheme operating with normal income tax, local authorities would be encouraged to obey the law, as laid down by Parliament in 1956, to provide off-street parking.

The noble Lords, Lord Merrivale and Lord Somers[...], brought up the question of parking discs versus parking meters. In fact, of course, this Order has nothing to do with that matter—at least not directly. I should like to point out however that this Order does not necessarily mean that local councils will ask the Minister for permission to put up parking meter schemes. It allows them to ask the Minister's permission to start charging fees for parking, but not necessarily through parking meters. The parking disc system does not come under this, and as your Lordships have already been told in previous debates in this House, further legislation for such schemes would have to go through Parliament in the ordinary way before such schemes could come into force. It is quite untrue, as was suggested, I believe, by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that my right honourable friend has set his face against the disc scheme. Not only has he not done so but he has never said he had; and if a local authority is willing, or wishes, to put a disc scheme to him he will look at it, in the same way as he will look at any other scheme; but as I have said, such schemes, if proposed, would require further legislation.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl to put to him a question in that connection? Would Her Majesty's Government provide the time for such legislation?


My Lords, I think at the moment that is a hypothetical question. As to the advantages or disadvantages of disc schemes, the noble Lord, Lord Somers, gave the impression that, if anything, they were equal and that it was merely a question of "milking" the motorist. A second party under Mr. Samuels went to Paris in April and have produced a very interesting and, I would say, convincing report which has been available to your Lordships in the Library for about a week. The main points which are made are these. First and foremost, the disc scheme would require three times the number of men required under the present parking meter scheme. Secondly, there are no spaces under the disc scheme for lorries to load or unload; thirdly, the chances of evasion in the disc scheme are, I think, as probably those of your Lordships who have been to Paris know, pretty easy; and there is no financing in the disc scheme to provide off-street parking for the motorist.

But, I reiterate, my noble friend has not said that he is against the disc scheme. If any local authority choose to put to him a request that they should try such a scheme, he has already stated in Parliament that he is perfectly willing to agree. My noble friend Lord Salisbury asked about the cost. I understand that as regards the Westminster scheme the cost of installation was approximately £25,000. If the noble Marquess will forgive my pausing, because I did not have notice of the question, I will find the information which I have with me. The approximate actuals for the financial year ended March 31, 1959, were: income £24,400, expenditure £20,600, surplus £3,800. The probable outturn for a twelve-months period, based on these figures, would be £33,800 income; £24,850 expenditure; £8,950 surplus.


My Lords, does that include capital expenditure for installing the meters or not?


My Lords I understand that that includes not the capital expenditure but the interest on the capital and the repayment of the capital.


And depreciation?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl one question before he finishes? Is it intended that the cities referred to today should publish an income and expenditure account in connection with these parking meters? One of the troubles has been that we have been quite unable to get any income and expenditure account out of the so-called experimental area in Westminster.


My Lords, I would refer the noble Earl to an answer I gave to his question on the subject a few weeks ago.


You have not that account?

On Question, Motion agreed to.